Module 10: Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson versus Smith and Salgado

Compare the work of Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartier-Bresson versus the work of Eugene Smith and Sebastião Salgado. They are four photojournalists with different approaches.

– What are the main differences and similarities?  

– What’s the better journalistic approach?

Similarities Differences
Andre Kertesz


Henri Cartier-Bresson

  • Black and White photografies.
  • Humanistic photographer, photo essay
  • They did not accept changes in their photos.
  • They want to tell a story with their photos.
  • They both believed that the photographer needs to be invisible to the subject for capturing the decisive moment.
  • Kertesz influenced art along with journalism
  • Bresson pioneered street photography, specialises in candid photography
Eugene Smith


Sebastiao Salgado

  • Black and White photografies.
  • Their photos are focused on sad subjects and facts, evoking emotions.
  • They want to tell a story with their photos.
  • They do not like to make changes in their pictures using the dark room.
  • Smith developed photo essay into a sophisticated visual form
  • Salgado does not believe that he is a photojournalist, but a social photographer 
  1. Andre Kertesz

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1894, Andre Kertesz worked as a clerk at the Budapest stock exchange in 1912 when he bought his first camera. Two years later, he was sent off to World War I, when he was 20 years old and picture that miserable and hard life and shared with the world.

It was in 1925 when he moved to Paris because of a lack of opportunities and started to work as a freelance photographer. (Albers, P. 2015)

In 1928 he participated in the First Independent Salon of Photography, where his pictures were notably for his blend of a romantic sensibility with modernist attitude. He was cited by critics and mentioned as a proof that photography could be considered a fine art.  

Kertesz published three books with his photographs. Immigrated to the USA in 1936 and settled in New York, where he started to work for House and Garden magazine as a professional photographer. At the age of 60, he retired and started to focus on more personal topics that he used to enjoy when an amateur photographer.

Kertesz is known for his the visual lyricism and humanism that characterized his practice. His camera angles are different, with height and depth. His photos are mostly in an urban scenario.

“I always had a small camera with me on the front line, where I made candid, informal photographs, unlike the official photographers for the War Department. They always came with a huge camera on a tripod after the battle was over to make a scenic photograph that would show the destruction” (Andre Kertesz) (Course Notes Module 9).

  1. Henri Cartier- Bresson
  • Henri Cartier- Bresson was born on August 22nd in Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne. He studied at the Lycée Condorcet, Paris. He studied painting under André Lhote. In 1926 he took his first photographs. In 1931 he saw a photograph by Martin Munkácsi in the arts magazine Arts et Métiers Graphiques and decides to focus on
  • In 1932 he bought his first Leica and travelled across Europe with his friends Leonor Fini and Pieyre de Mandiargues. First publications in Voilà and Photographies.
  • He had his first exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York in 1933. His photographs are subsequently shown at the Ateneo Club in Madrid.
  • From 1935-39 he worked for cinemas before moving to war photography in 1940. He joined the “Film and Photography” unit of the Third Army in 1940. Taken prisoner by the Germans on June 23rd. After two failed attempts successfully escaped on his third attempt in February 1943. He worked for MNPGD, a secret organization created to help prisoners and escapees.
  • He took a series of photographic portraits of writers and artists in 1944 for Editions Braun (Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Claudel, Georges Rouault).
  • In 1947 he held a photo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Creates the cooperative agency Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, David Seymour (Chim), William Vandivert, and George Rodger. From 1948 to 1950, he spent three years in the Far East: in India for the death of Gandhi, in China for the last six months of the Kuomintang and the first six months of the People’s Republic, and in Indonesia for its independence. His photographs are published all over the world.
  • 1952: His first book, Images à la Sauvette, with its cover by Matisse, is published by Tériade. The first exhibition in England, Photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
  • In 1954 he is the first photographer allowed in the USSR since the beginning of the Cold War.
  • Later he travelled to China, Mexico, India, France, the USA and USSR from 1955 to 1973.
  • In 1974 he decided to focus again on drawing and resigned from Magnum Photos. (HCB foundation )

He believed that the photographer needs to be invisible to the subject for capturing the decisive moment. He said, “life is once forever” by which he meant that once the decisive moment has passed, it can never again be repeated. Every minute occurs once and after it is over you can do nothing about it.

He had said that staging your subjects to get a perfect picture is unethical. He thought that was the basic rule of candid photography. But many of his own photographs were posed. Henri Cartier- Bresson admitted that capturing one image to depict the event is very difficult. Therefore, he practised photo essay to capture the entire event from various perspectives.

Similarities with Andre Kertesz:

They both believed that clicking the decisive moment is important. They did not care about the technical aspects of photography. They both did not think of photography as a way of reporting things.

(Lessons W Eugene Smith taught me about photography, 2013)

The Decisive Moment: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression” (Salgado, 1990, p.147).

In 2000 he set up the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation with his wife, Martine Franck, and daughter, Mélanie. The idea is to provide a permanent home for his collected works as well as an exhibition space open to other artists. And in 2002, The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation is recognized as being of public interest by the French State.

Henri Cartier-Bresson passed away in Montjustin, Provence on August 3rd, 2004. (HCB foundation )

SPAIN. Andalucia. Seville. 1933.SPAIN. Madrid. 1933.LondonPAR51460

(Magnum Photos, 2014)

  1. Eugene Smith
  • American photojournalist
  • Worked extensively and popularised photo essay
  • He was a humanitarian photographer
  • He always believed in having a purpose for clicking a photograph. This shows the focus that he had while photographing.
  • He wanted his photographs to convey an emotional resonance with his viewers.
  • He also wanted to change people’s view about war. He was ready to risk his life for clicking a photograph if people would realise the negative side of war and stop wars in the future.
  • He said that if a photographer does not know the answer to ‘why am I clicking this?’, then they should stop photographing.
  • Eugene Smith also tried to capture the reality behind the war. He photographed the lives of people who were a part of the war. This shows his humanitarian approach to photography.  
  • Eugene Smith was considered by many to be aggressive in person but he always cared deeply for his subjects. He was always respectful to them. And if he found injustice being done to anyone, then he would like to photograph it and bring that topic to light.
  • Unlike Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith thought that it was alright to stage photographs. If staging added authenticity of place to an image, then it could be used.
  • He used to print his photographs a number of times till he thought that the photograph looked fine to him. He always wanted to control the final image in post-processing. While Henri Cartier-Bresson did not post-process his images. He would get a trusted printer to do his work. He was more interested in photography.
  • He was never concerned about his finances, fame and recognition. He just wanted to do his job as best as he could.

(Lessons W Eugene Smith taught me about photography, 2013)

  • He also worked as a photojournalist war correspondent for Flying Magazine from 1943-44 and one year after that for Life magazine. He followed the American offensive against Japan when he got severely injured. He had to undergo surgeries for the next two years.
  • After recovering, he focused on making a number of photo essays that went on to become very popular.
  • His largest photo essay is of 1975 Minamata village in Japan. The entire fishing villages faced huge troubles due to mercury dumping be a chemical company.

(Howard Greenberg Gallery, 2018)

(Magnum Photos, 2014)

  • Some think that Eugene Smith was very hard on himself and sacrificed his health to concentrate on his career. He said that photography is everything for him and rest of the things do not matter that much. This lead to him passing away at the early age of 59 due to a heart stroke. He left behind $18 in his bank account and tonnes of photographs which continue to inspire photographers to this day.

(W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, 2004-2017)

4. Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado was born on February 8, 1944, in Aimorés, Brazil. A region with no access to a good education, which made him travel about 180 kilometres until Vitoria, for schooling. Salgado attended one of the best universities in Sao Paulo and got his MA in Economy. He also got married to Lelia Wanick and had two children with her. Today he is an award-winning photographer known by his arresting documentation of communities around the world.

Salgado has a monochromatic style, he believes that it forces his viewers to focus on the pictures’ topic, other than colours. His style combines complexity with a high sense of drama, and his work is dedicated to awareness of conditions of both wildlife and humans.  Salgado’s photography has often focused on the effects of hardship, poverty and oppression on people of various cultures, and with the effects of industrialization on the natural landscape. Inspired by the photojournalism of Lewis Hine, W. Eugene Smith and Walker Evans, Salgado has tackled subjects like famine, poverty and social inequality in black-and-white photos that are unsparing yet often beautiful.

Salgado has earned fame for his stark photos of people coping with the effects of poverty, famine, industrialization and political oppression. He has received numerous awards for his photojournalism and has twice been named Photographer of the Year by the International Center of Photography. He and his wife founded the photographic agency, Amazonas Images and co-founded the environmental education centre, Institutio Terra that works on the restoration of Brazilian rainforests.

“My pictures gave me 10 times more pleasure than the reports I was working on. To be a photographer was, for me, an incredible way to express myself, an incredible way to the see the world from another point.” (Sebastiao Salgado)

– What’s the better journalistic approach?

It is true that the path of these four artists was not easy and all of them are inspiring, creative and good examples of photojournalism photographers. They wanted to tell people a story and they did it very well. Despite all that, we came up to a conclusion that Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s way of working is better. They follow the code of ethics in journalism, and their pictures are exactly what the real moment was, no changes, the real life and the real fact.


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  2. BIOGRAPHY (2014, April 02). Sebastiao Salgado. Retrieved April 03, 2018, fromão-salgado-40046\
  3. Course Notes Module 10. “Presenting the moment: Eugene Smith and Sebastiao Salgado” (2018).
  4. Course Notes Module 9. “Capturing the moment: Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson” (2018).
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  6. HCB foundation . (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from henricartierbresson HCB foundation :
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  8. Kim. E. (2015, March 02). 5 Lessons Sebastião Salgado Has Taught Me About Street Photography Retrieved April 1, 2018, from
  9. Lessons W Eugene Smith taught me about photography. (2013, May 13). Retrieved from Eric Kim Photography:
  10. Magnum Photos. (2014). Henri Cartier- Bresson: Portfolio. Retrieved from Magnum Photos:
  11. Magnum Photos. (2014). Portfolio- Japan.1971.Minamata vs. the Chisso Corporation W. Eugene Smith. Retrieved from Magnum Photos :
  12. Salgado, S. (1990). In Galeano E. H., Ritchin F. and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (Eds.), An uncertain grace. New York, N.Y.: Aperture Foundation.
  13. The Art of Photography. (2015, May 14). Sebastião Salgado Photographer (Brazilian). Retrieved April 1, 2018, from
  14. W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund. (2004-2017). W. Eugene Smith legacy. Retrieved from W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund: