Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika. The photo that inspired Cartier-Bresson. By Martin Munkacsi

I like Henri Cartier-Bresson. But who was he inspired by?


HCB loved Matisse, and ultimately HCBs passion was drawing and painting. He just saw photography as “Instant sketches.” In a way, we can see HCB as a failed painter, but a very successful photographer.

HCB first saw the photo of Martin Munkacsi’s photo of naked black boys at the beach, and was inspired that indeed, photography could be art.

HCB says:

“In 1932, I saw a photograph by Martin Munkácsi of three black children running into the sea and I must say that it is that very photograph which was for me the spark that set fire to fireworks. I suddenly understood that photography can fix eternity in a moment …. [it] made me suddenly realise that photography could reach eternity through the moment. I couldn’t believe such a thing could be caught with the camera. I said damn it, I took my camera and went out into the street.”

Apparently HCB said it was, “The only photo that inspired me.”

Who inspired who?

To be more inspired, study the inspirations of people who inspire us.

Bruce Gilden was inspired by Weegee and Lisette Model and Phillip Jones Griffith.

Martin Parr and his flash macro work was inspired by Araki and his flower work.

Daido was inspired by William Klein, for black and white gritty aesthetic.

William Eggleston was initially inspired by Cartier-Bresson. So was Alex Webb, René Burri, and a bunch of Magnum Photographers.

Human society learns by copying

We should copy who inspires us. Why? We all copy from somewhere.

“Mimesis” or “Mimetics” is a field of knowledge that aims to show that humans learn by imitating, or miming one another. I agree.

We need to copy in order to learn art. Then, we are good enough at copying, we can create our own unique synthesis of artistic vision.

Go on Wikipedia and see who inspired your inspirations. Then study them.

Philosophy inspiration

Seneca was inspired by Diogenes and Epicurus.

Marcus Aurelius was inspired by Epictetus.

Steve Jobs was inspired by Zen and Bauhaus design.

Elon Musk was inspired by Lord of the Rings and Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.

Nassim Taleb was inspired by Nietzsche, Karl Popper, and many others.

Copying is good

Downtown LA, 2011 / Photo by Rinzi Ruiz
Copying Gilden. Downtown LA, 2011 / Photo by Rinzi Ruiz

To be a better artist, copy more. Then when you’re good enough, kill your master.



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