Lens man: Henri Cartier-Bresson award winner Patrick Faigenbaum captures life in Calcutta

Lens man: Henri Cartier-Bresson award winner Patrick Faigenbaum captures life in Calcutta

Over the course of his long life and prolific career, photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson provided a chronicle of the 20th century, capturing some of the most definitive images of an era.

Now, every two years, an award in his name supports a photographer to create a new body of work that will, in its own way, document the essence of a place and time. For the most recent cycle, awarded in 2013, the prize went to Paris-based photographer Patrick Faigenbaum to realise his project ’Kolkata/Calcutta’, for which he documented the urban surroundings of artist Shreyasi Chatterjee, who paints and uses collage and embroidery in her work. That visual record is now on view at New York’s Aperture Gallery and published as a book by Lars Müller.

The prize, supported by the Hermès Foundation in alliance with Aperture Foundation, makes space for the kind of documentary photography that Cartier-Bresson did so much to define.

Like Cartier-Bresson, Faigenbaum’s work seems to emerge from a finely tuned sense of place and time. ’Patrick’s work is immersive. He really enters the subject,’ says Catherine Tsekenis, Director of the Hermes Foundation. Over the course of his two-year award cycle, Faigenbaum made six trips to India, documenting the city in visits that lasted two weeks to one month. He had wanted to work in the region ever since a visit back in 1995.

Instead of using the word ’shoot’ to describe the action of photography, Faigenbaum treats the photograph as a slow register of a place rather than the quick action of clicking a button. ’I spend a lot of time thinking about the presence of a place,’ he says, explaining that he typically sits in place thinking about the relationships between elements of a picture. ’If the setting is silent, the picture has to reflect that,’ he says.

Once he finds the picture, he registers it with his lens. Then, as he puts it, ’I trust my camera.’

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