Henri Cartier-Bresson…the other coronation

“Pour voir le couronnement!” Ce Soir, 14 Mai 1937, detail, p10, collections Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris is exhibiting Bresson’s photos of King George VI’s coronation in London on May 12, 1937. Having already spent several months working for the newly founded communist newspaper “Ce Soir,” Bresson was on site to cover the big event. First appearing in “Ce Soir,” the series was reprinted in the Communist Party’s monthly magazine “Regards.” bearing the title “Those Who Watched…” (to September 3rd, 2023).

While quite naturally most reporters were attempting to photograph the coronation ceremony, the coach’s passage, or the royal family’s emergence on the balcony, that’s not what interested Bresson. Rather than the new King, he preferred to photograph the people watching him pass by. 

His photographs depict onlookers packed onto the street where the procession passed including striking portraits of people with their necks outstretched, finding high points for observation, or standing on the shoulders of other spectators. The pictures not only show Bresson’s iconic sense of timing and composition, but with the passage of time these photos are also fascinating documents of how people looked in the late thirties.

“Henri-Cartier-Bresson, the other coronation,” to September 3rd, 2023, 79, rue de Archives, 75003 Paris