In this interview, photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had sex on the mind


Originally published at:


Um, he was horny, I’d wager.


Intetesting, my female painting instructor used to wax philisophical in much the same way.


the pain and the joy and we always go back. You could see it in his eyes.


Or as Edward Weston might ask, “Can one learn to see?”


Looks like early dementia to me, with “frontal release:”
If Freud’s Superego were to have an address, it’d most likely be in the prefrontal cortex.
Lose function of cells in that area, and you get disinhibition, or the inability to suppress saying or doing certain things that you would otherwise know would violate social norms, or would be offensive or otherwise unacceptable.

When he joked about sex the first time, he realized after saying it that it failed as a joke, and he asked that it be cut. But he perseverated, and despite wanting to take back the quote, he veered around and back to the same topic.
To be it looks as though, after that second time, he paused and looked off to the side, a bit perplexed at what had just come out of his mouth… Or perhaps he was having a bit of difficulty keeping track.

I’m curious to find out whether he later developed any more significant dementia.


I don’t think it’s dementia. I think he’s just french :smile:


Is that a professional opinion?

As an artist, I’d have to agree with him. I think we need to be aware of Americans’ own puritanical views about love (and sex) and not let that cloud our interpretations of what he said, which is shrouded in his own cultural view.

Someone in love embraces all aspects of their lover, and even physical flaws become endearing treasures. Artists can see others in that way as well. I think he may have meant something along those lines as opposed to “Sex! Ooops.”


Solid point.
(That could work for Italian artists, too – In Bernardo Bertolucci’s Academy Award acceptance speech for “The Last Emperor,” he said, “If New York is the Big Apple, Hollywood is the big nipple.” The audience cringed hard enough to make the theater walls creak.)


If the audience cringed it was probably american :smiling_imp: .

(Over here we yawn if it was an italian man. Probably would laugh if the speaker was french. Cultural sensitivities are interesting.)


Well, those inverted nipples and the extra toe really are just adorable.


See, that’s exactly my point. If you’re deeply in love (or hopelessly infatuated) with someone, those are prized as secrets of the body, trusted to you in confidence.

If you see an unusual nipple as a flaw… well, that says much more about you than it does about the other person’s beauty.


Eyes like camera shutters.


I briefly considered dementia at the end. Prior to that, and now, I think he’s just using a common metaphor for artistic process, especially a creative process with ethical dimensions. My field of study is poetry, and I’ve encountered erotism as a metaphor for creativity again and again. It also pops in various philosophical approaches to the other, from Sufi poetry through early Medieval mystical/romantic poetry on up through people like Levinas, not to mention all those Freudian/Lacanian people.

I also think that HCB’s distraction and returning to the metaphor was in part because he’s probably tired of being asked what is sort of a dumb question, or at least a clichéd question. I bet he’s been asked it a 1,000 times. So I read his “where are we going” at the end as something like “next question” or “is this really your A game?” I’m basing that on how many poets I’ve seen make similar faces and act similarly awkward when they’re trying to be nice when asked AGAIN “how do you learn to write (poems)?”


Seems legit. Good points.


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