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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 07, 1994|Michael Webb

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: A PROPOS DE PARIS (Bullfinch Press: $60; 165 pp.) In this five-decade portrait of Paris and its people, each picture captures an unguarded moment of everyday life, a surreal or tender juxtaposition of faces and forms. Even as you delight in the mystery and beauty of these moments, you wish they were frames from a film that would run on and reveal what happened next. "Photography is nothing, it's life that interests me," said Cartier-Bresson, who delighted in "roaming freely at the total disposal of the eye." He seems to have roamed everywhere, from misty quais to glittering nights at the opera, to markets and demonstrations, but chiefly among people tourists never notice. Here are kids fighting mock battles amid rubble, toothless veterans clutching their standards, a bargee's wife proudly displaying her new baby, a small boy smirking confidently as he carries home two huge bottles of wine. The images are timeless, but they also preserve a Paris that has vanished or is fast changing. Like Atget, Brassai and the Impressionist painters, Cartier-Bresson has shaped the way we see the city.

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