Monday's Book: Europeans by Henri Cartier-Bresson Thames & Hudson, pounds 29.95 (or pounds 19.95 from the Hayward Gallery)
Roman Catholicism emerges as a preoccupation, largely because of the unfathomable weirdness of its ceremonies: 22 priests prostrate themselves in a semicircle around a Polish archbishop for ordination; a ghostly army of veiled girls line a street in Tralee; a bevy of nuns hide round a street corner in Kerry as if lying in wait for an ecclesiastical mugging; a black- cloaked Nosferatu genuflects before an Italian altar. Yet Cartier-Bresson also reveals the humanity trapped below the priestly black. A horde of seminarists grin cheerfully while striding down a country road near Burgos; their counterparts in Kildare coyly retreat behind a roadside crucifix while changing for a football match.
The uncontrived surrealism of everyday life lies at the heart of Cartier- Bresson's serendipitous genius. In his introduction to this book, Jean Clair quotes Andre Breton on the necessity "to fish around in the rubbish of chance and the unconscious".The results are splendidly odd. A pair of feet protrudes beneath an ominously flapping black sail. A factory chimney emerges from an 18th-century carriage. An elderly man sitting on a Zurich tram holds a wooden grave-cross. A double-bass wobbles on the back of a bicycle.
The photographer's eye is repeatedly drawn to picnics, washerwomen, staircases, children and shop windows. There is a wonderful shot of a Rome barber fingering his bald dome while a wigged mannequin stares coldly at him from an adjoining window. But the subjects are always treated with the utmost respect. This even extends to the Oliver Hardy lookalikes for whom the lensman has a great fondness. Olly crops up steering a horse-powered roller in Calvados in 1960, driving a taxi in Berlin in 1931 and, somewhat the worse for wear, at a carnival in Dusseldorf in 1956.
Life & Style blogs
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers
Airline food across the classes: Ever wondered what the other half are eating?
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Huawei P8 review: best phones nobody's seen from the biggest company nobody's heard
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...