vrijdag 8 maart 2013

The New Nation of Indonesia february 13 1950 Life Magazine Henri Cartier-Bresson Magnum Photography

... Henri Cartier-Bresson came upon a girl standing quietly in a shady spot, resting near a bicycle repair shop in the shopping district of Jogjakarta. He was impressed by the classic Javanese beauty of her calmly exotic, heart- shaped face...

Between October-December 1949 Henri Cartier Bresson travelled extensively throughout Indonesia, celebrating it's new found independence from the Netherlands. HCB photographed the new President Soekarno and his family. The majority of the photo-essay is dedicated to the lives of the people of Sumatra and Java, to their ancient traditions and culture.
Of the 34 HCB images Life published, 10 were in colour, and Life also used a HCB portrait on the cover.

See also 

Indonesie 1945 - 1949 Mol Poll Oorthuys Presser Fotografie 

Legendary dancer Retna, Cartier-Bresson's Indonesian influence
Kunang Helmi-Picard, Contributor, Paris
As an Indonesian student in the 1970s, I was first struck by the poetry conveyed by a Henri Cartier-Bresson print in London. Years later, in 1990, when I was asked by Tempo magazine to interview the great photographer in Paris, I tried to imagine what the man behind the photos would be like in person.
The interview, which was very difficult to arrange, took place in his studio in central Paris, home to him and his first wife. Henri Cartier-Bresson was more interested in drawing and painting rather than photography. The first impression was of piercing blue eyes behind round glasses, matching blue scarf, a slim figure and a way of discretely blending into his surroundings.
At 82, he was reputed to be very shy, yet he was clearly a sharp observer. He was unfailingly courteous, but also extremely critical and prone to defending his ideas vigorously. In short, he was (and continues to be at 93 today) a youthful and riveting personality.
Hardly anyone, apart from his fellow Magnum agency members, had ever taken his photo, or dared to. Broaching the subject of his first marriage to an Indonesian dancer and poet, as well as an exciting period of history 40 years ago, proved to be a delicate task.
Our readers were interested in what the consummate photographer remembered of the Zaman Revolusi (Revolutionary Era). The habitual Cartier-Bresson response was: ""I have no memory. The contact prints are my memory.""
Fortunately when viewing the contact prints, he did indeed recollect many details, including numerous anecdotes betraying a deep sympathy for Indonesians, as well as a wonderful sense of humor.
At a second meeting, when I asked him how he took photos because young Indonesian photographers would naturally want to follow his instructions, he was understandably impatient in his response.
As he gestured in a Parisian cafe near the Tuileries Gardens, he conveyed an unforgettable impression of fleeting, rhythmic movement. A seemingly effortless dance in pursuit of light and dark, magically transformed into countless patterns of myriad gray tones between black and white.
Suddenly he turned again to me and exclaimed: ""But why write about me, you should write about Retna! She was with me in Indonesia at the time.""
I did not know that she had recently passed away in France at the age of 84. After her death, Cartier-Bresson (they divorced in 1965) and his second wife, Martine Franck, herself an excellent photographer, published a short bilingual choice of Retna's poems titled Our festive shadows.
Thus began the passionate adventure of tracing the life of Retna Cartier-Bresson. Her career as a dancer in Europe was interrupted by World War II, but she continued to dance after the war when she accompanied the photographer to America and the newly awakened nations of Asia. Despite her profession, she was a discrete lady whom one can sometimes perceive in the background of his photos.
She also possessed a firm character, was as equally as observant as her husband, an Ibu as one would say in Indonesia, often soberly dressed in a darkkain kebaya.
Her story is intertwined with that of 20th century Indonesia. It was a century that witnessed the birth of Bung Karno in June 1901, preceding that of Carolina Jeanne de Souza -- later to be called Retna -- at Meester Cornelius (now the Jatinegara area), the ""Portuguese"" suburb of Batavia, on May 17, 1904.
Many born at the same time were the future leaders of Indonesia's elite whom Ratna was to meet while she traveled the world with Henri Cartier-Bresson, as many perhaps as the future leaders of French cultural and political circles whom she met while living in France.
Although mainly of Javanese origin, Retna was an Indo-European, and was a lively personality who mastered several languages. Her friends called her ""Eli"", short for Carolina. She attended school in Rembang, Central Java, and Surabaya, following her mother and step-father, a wealthy customs officer.
Endowed with an independent spirit, Ratna was already interested in theater and danced when young. After a brief marriage in 1932 to Willem L. Berretty, the editor of the Sukabumi Post, she continued to perfect various dance techniques.
She then left the East Indies in 1935 as the assistant of the entrepreneur Keuzenkamp and made her way to Paris. This petite and agile silhouette, with a pretty round face and lively dark eyes, made her appearance on the cosmopolitan Parisian scene of Montparnasse in 1936, a Javanese dancer destined to become a true Parisienne.
Once in Paris, she took lessons in Indian dance and met the young photographer Cartier-Bresson. Ignoring the displeasure of his family, they were married in 1937. Then they immediately left for Spain where Cartier-Bresson made a documentary film for the Republicans.
Upon returning to the French capital, she met the famous Indian dancer Ram Gopal. While together with him and her husband in India, the renowned teacher Ravunni Menon taught her the lasya style, appropriate for feminine roles in Kathakali dance. By now, also known by her stage name ""Retna Mohini"", she was according to Gopal, an extraordinarily flexible dancer, due to her training in Javanese dance and was consequently perfectly suited to his dance group.
She danced at the Salle Pleyel and the Archives de la Danse in Paris. The poet Jean Cocteau was so overcome by her talent that he kneeled down before her in homage. She was also acclaimed at the Delphi Theatre in London, which resulted in an enthusiastic article by the famous dance critic Beryl de Zoete. Retna was the Javanese dance partner of Sumitro Djojohadikusumo when the two contributed to fund-raising appeals for Republican Spain by Andre Malraux before the war.
During the war she found refuge with a family of farmers near Chambord. Once the war was over, she accompanied her husband in his photographic jaunts throughout the countries of Asia that were freeing themselves from colonial bonds. It is during this period that most of the photos in the coming Jakarta exhibition of Cartier-Bresson's works were taken. Although Retna was soon to depart yet once more, she was back in Asia after 14 eventful years in Europe.
The photo exhibition Indonesie, 1949 of works by Henri Cartier-Bresson opens at the National Archives building on Tuesday.
See also the photo-essay Asia journey ...

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