December 09, 1985 12:00 PM

by Henri Cartier-Bresson

It is hard to imagine any photographer ever producing portraits that are more provocative or involving than Cartier-Bresson, now 77. As the 255 examples in this astonishing book demonstrate, his photographs often seem themselves to be living things. Part of this effect may involve his framing technique, which usually surrounds his subjects with a lot of space, as if to allow the mind to imagine movement. Perhaps it is just that he has that inexplicable sense of timing that separates those of us who take snapshots from those who take photographs. In any case this collection is equally impressive when the subjects are a group of Iranian peasants or a child under the el in Chicago as it is when the focus is Samuel Beckett, Colette, Mahatma Gandhi, C.G. Jung, Marilyn Monroe or Frank Lloyd Wright. In his preface, writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues destroys some of his credibility by lapsing into astrology, but it’s hard to argue with him when he calls the photographer’s work “no less precious or magical than that of Sergei Eisenstein, Charlie Chaplin or Pablo Picasso.” (Thames and Hudson, $50)

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