Look back on the 20th century through the lens of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and it's all there: the jazz age of the 1920s, colonial Africa, the Spanish civil war, developing human rights, capitalist expansion, two world wars, Ghandi's funeral, decolonisation, Mao, the first man in space, America booming, student protests, the collapse of the Soviet bloc – all captured in haunting blizzard of black and white.
The Centre Pompidou's exhibition embraces the reputation that precedes it: Cartier-Bresson, here, is truly the eye and the memory of the last century. From his birth in 1908 to his death in 2004, the photographer shot almost everything in his own inimitable style: he who insisted on the 'decisive moment' in photography, laying the foundation for modern photojournalism.
With more than 350 shots on display, the Pompidou underlines the reach and diversity of his images, where other retrospectives have tended to focus on the unity of the work. By placing his photography at the roots of the surrealist avant-garde – not surprising, given the location – the exhibition explores all the ramifications of this idea – from social engagement to visual experiences, from Parisian shop windows to American baseball matches and from Communist journals to Mexican alleyways.
One of the most extraordinary overviews of a photographer's career ever done. Yes, it is crowded but it's not surprising given the great love and appreciation for his work. And the Pompidou does a fine job of managing the crowds. It's worth noting that HCB was known for his unmatched patience when taking his photographs. Perhaps museum goers could learn something from him....
Probably the worst exhibition of photographs I have ever seen. Everything hung at the same height, far too close together under very poor lighting. No timed entry so horribly over crowded and so hot you just was to escape. Cartier-Bresson would be horrified.