Rather than the standard thousand words, a picture, according to a recent social media meme, is now worth a mere two hundred—such is the state of the global economy. In reality, financial turmoil furnishes fine canvas for a master picture-maker. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ten months in China between December 1948 and September 1949 demonstrated this. The images captured during his improvised assignments for Life magazine helped to cement his reputation as the world’s greatest photographer.

Featuring an introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre, a selection of these images was published by Cartier-Bresson’s friend Robert Delpire in 1954, under the title D’une Chine à l’autre (From One China to Another). With the release of the collection Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958 in late 2019, followed by an exhibition of the same name at Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) that ran from June 20 to November 1, 2020, this body of work has been reexamined alongside photos from a second stint in China a decade later.

Fresh archival insights and historical perspective elucidate the “iconic importance” of the oeuvre.1 “What had seemed to be a one-off opportunity offered by Life would come to represent a cohesive and varied body of work, outstanding in its free expression, its meticulous detail and its documentary structure,”2 write Michel Frizot and Ying-lung Su, who co-curated the TFAM show. “This multifaceted reportage was certainly the most notable and most expansive in his unexpected and unplanned career as a photojournalist.”3

It is also much more than that. At a time when cross-strait relations are increasingly fraught and Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong has sparked renewed calls for reform to Taiwan’s refugee laws, Cartier-Bresson’s photographs of a China in the midst of mass human upheaval are a timely reminder of how we arrived at the current impasse.

Seven years after the scenes it depicted, the title of the Delpire volume summed things up: This was a transformation. China’s economy was in tatters, thanks to the almost inconceivable incompetence and corruption of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist (KMT) government. This had compounded two-plus decades of conflict—a civil war between the KMT and Mao Zedong’s Communists, and a resistance struggle that had seen both sides twice form an uneasy union against Japan.

With KMT forces in retreat as city after city fell to Mao’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), on November 25, 1948, while in Yangon (then Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma), Cartier-Bresson received a telegram from Magnum Photos, the collective agency he had cofounded eighteen months earlier. The correspondence confirmed an assignment for Life under the working title “The Last Time We Saw Peiping” (eventually published as “The Last Days of Peiping”) and urged him to leave immediately.

If the theme was not explicit from the provisional headline, the remit had been explained unambiguously in an earlier three-page telex to Magnum from Life in which executive editor Wilson Hicks forecast that Beijing “may soon fall behind an iron curtain.” This message had also suggested that now may be the “last chance” to capture the “architectural achievement shown by Kessel three years ago.”4

The Ukraine-born Dmitri Kessel, who had made his name as a freelancer at Life’s sister publication Fortune, joined Life as a war correspondent in 1944 and remained on board until the magazine folded in 1972. In a story from April 1946, Kessel had presented scenes of unruffled serenity centered on Beijing’s grand heritage—the kind of stuff favored by Life proprietor Henry Luce, who had established his media empire with his flagship Time magazine in 1923.

Luce had long been apologist-in-chief for the excesses of Chiang’s rotten regime, using his publications to airbrush the festering pustules from the pockmarked Nationalist countenance. Having honored Chiang with almost a dozen Time cover slots and numerous hagiographic articles over four decades, the China-born Luce was peddling a similarly fawning line in his outlets’ representation of the war: the righteous “Christian” Generalissimo as imperilled bulwark against the encroaching Red Peril.

Hicks’ telegram to Magnum appears to have made no mention of another staffer, Jack Birns, who had already been in China for a year and whom Cartier-Bresson would befriend and lodge with in Shanghai. Among his reportage from war zones, Birns had covered the Communist siege of Mukden in Manchuria almost ten months before Cartier-Bresson landed in Shanghai. Coincidentally, Birns’s photographs had appeared in the March 15, 1948, issue of Life, the same issue that had featured Cartier-Bresson’s images of Gandhi’s ashes being scattered in the Ganges. By the time Cartier-Bresson arrived, Birns’s coverage of the fall of various Nationalist strongholds was conveying a bleak picture. Many of his images gave the lie to the portrayal of Chiang as China’s only hope. It was unsurprising that only the “least dramatic” were published.5 In addition to the war photos, several controversial images did make the cut, including a photo of a bank clerk leafing through huge piles of cash on payday in Shanghai. Although the accompanying article avoided explicit reference to the factors behind the rampant inflation, the picture was hardly an endorsement of KMT fiscal policy.

Image 1.

In the Forbidden City, ten thousand recruits line up to form a new Nationalist regiment. Peking, December 1948 by Henri Cartier-Bresson; © Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.

Image 1.

In the Forbidden City, ten thousand recruits line up to form a new Nationalist regiment. Peking, December 1948 by Henri Cartier-Bresson; © Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.

However, much of Birns’s work was just “too gritty.”6 Pictures of children’s corpses stacked in a coffin, kneeling mendicants being thrashed in the street, and battered prisoners trussed up in police vans were rejected. “Pull that damn picture!”7 Luce reportedly hollered on seeing Birns’s image of the severed head of Communist guerrilla leader Ding Xishan pinioned to a city wall. Next to Ding’s decapitated body, the disembowelled cadavers of his comrades lie slumped along the riverbank. In inviting Birns to document the atrocity, the KMT commander responsible had been “keen to boast of his troops’ prowess.”8 Understandably, Luce feared that this appraisal might stick in the craw of a readership that had for so long been spoon-fed sweetened scraps.

Following Cartier-Bresson’s arrival, as it became clear that Birns’s work was “[i]n stark contrast with Luce’s pro-Nationalist ideology”9 his contributions were scaled back. Carl Mydans, one of Life’s most trusted staffers, had also been summoned from Japan, apparently because of dissatisfaction with Birns. Described by Frizot and Su as complaining “bitterly and somewhat ingenuously” and not understanding that his shots “gave a very negative impression of the Nationalists,” Birns is painted as naïve.10 This seems harsh. Birns was in China for eighteen months and surely understood Life’s agenda. In submitting images of the brutality he encountered, he was challenging the system. Unrealistic probably better describes his mindset.

Cartier-Bresson was the perfect antidote to the doom and gloom. Yet, in many ways, the commission was surprising. First and most obvious, there were Cartier-Bresson’s political sympathies. Along with Robert Capa and David “Chim” Seymour, with whom he had cofounded Magnum, Cartier-Bresson was a dyed-in-the-wool leftist. The trio had worked for French Communist publications such as the evening daily Ce Soir—edited by the poet Louis Aragon—and the monthly magazine Regards, a trailblazer in pre-World War II photojournalism. While never a card-holding party member, Cartier-Bresson made no secret of his leanings.

The final piece of the Magnum puzzle was Maria Eisner, an Italian-born, German-raised Jew who had fled Berlin for France where she had run Alliance, the progenitor to Magnum. When war broke out, she moved again to New York City, from where she essentially ran Magnum’s operations from 1948 onward. She was joined there by Magnum’s star triumvirate. “Their political views could not be expressed too openly in post-war America,” write Frizot and Su, “but they remained unchanged from 1936 to 1938 when the three photographers were strongly left-wing.”11 Another obstacle was Magnum’s self-managed, cooperative setup in which photographers were independent, owning their negatives and arranging their own commissions. “The Magnum photographers did not answer to any commercial directors or editors of a magazine like Life.”12

Image 2.

Installation view of Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958, on view June 20November 1, 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Image 2.

Installation view of Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958, on view June 20November 1, 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

A further issue was that Cartier-Bresson was, at this stage, considered more of an artist than a professional photographer. This relates in part to the second point about the Magnum ethos: Of all the agency’s photographers, Cartier-Bresson was least willing to compromise on his work. Furthermore, he rejected the formulaic picture-story approach. “Life isn’t made of stories that you can cut into slices like an apple pie,” he famously declared in a 1957 interview with Popular Photography magazine. “We have to evoke a situation, a truth. This is the poetry of life’s reality.”13

But there was also the simple fact that Cartier-Bresson was “a unique type of photographer”14 with an “unusual personality.”15 Capa referred to his friend sarcastically as “the little surrealist,”16 based on Cartier-Bresson’s early affinity with the movement. Relating to the notion of “the irrational unconscious,” which manifests itself just as the shutter snaps, Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”17 has been interpreted as coming from “an environment of surrealist thinking that dealt in the construction or capturing of dreamlike imagery.”18

Life’s understanding of Cartier-Bresson had been expressed in a three-page review of his groundbreaking exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in early 1947, in which he was praised for the artistry he demonstrated in wielding his “candid camera” and his “magical eye for composition and design.” Commenting on a well-known image taken in Spain in 1933, the article noted the “extraordinary effect” achieved by foregrounding a group of children against a high wall dotted with small black windows at irregular intervals, which “tends to turn the entire picture into an abstract pattern.”19 As Frizot and Su observe, “Life’s recognition of HCB as an artist made it more surprising that a photographer who still had little experience in news coverage should be asked to work on a report, especially in a difficult political situation.”20

For all the apparent drawbacks, there were also clear attractions for Life. In fact, Frizot’s archival research has revealed that the assignment was a preemptive strike against its competitor, the London-based magazine Illustrated. Letters to his parents indicate that Cartier-Bresson himself first proposed a side-trip to China en route to his wife’s home country of Indonesia. Magnum staffers pitched the idea to Illustrated and, having received the go-ahead, were contacted by Life the very next day. “You know the rest,” wrote Eisner.21

The political mismatch was a double-edged sword: With a Communist victory almost guaranteed, Life had optioned furthered stories from Cartier-Bresson from behind “enemy” lines. Although this ended in disappointment, with Cartier-Bresson arrested for a month in Shandong Province, it was a sign of a resigned pragmatism from Life. “Life’s newfound interest in the Communists—an attempted media coup by the editors—was made possible by the known political views of the Magnum members and by the real contacts that HCB called upon for the project,” write Frizot and Su.22 Nationality also seems to have played a role in the overtures to the Communists, with Cartier-Bresson writing to his parents, “The fact that I am French and not from across the Atlantic is apparently the best recommendation.”23

As for Cartier-Bresson’s artistic sensibilities—tempered by a tight script, these could provide exactly what was needed: a “drastic diversion”24 from the battlefield woes. Among the possible subjects listed at length by Hicks and Life managing editor Ed Thompson were traditional occupations, pastimes, and handicrafts: bird fanciers, opera lovers, traditional scholars—all reassuring stereotypes. “Go to the tea houses,” the photographer was urged, in order to “get faces of quiet old men whose hands are clasped around covered cups of jasmine tea.”25 In terms of the angle, Cartier-Bresson was happy to oblige. “Life has asked for a very good subject that has nothing to do with war,” he wrote to his parents, emphasizing that this was “a look at the beauty of Peking and its people.”26

On the need for a cohesive story, Cartier-Bresson had already been at loggerheads with Capa, who told his friend not to be “precious and mannered.”27 While some of this advice was tongue-in-cheek banter, the remonstrations sometimes took a serious turn. “I have to advise you strongly to give up your strict order against cropping,” Capa wrote in January 1948. “If you want to work and live as a professional, you should realize that a certain amount of latitude should be allowed.”28 At times, Capa lost patience. “I don’t know the exact relationship between them but reading their correspondence, I found myself thinking, ‘How can Capa speak to him in this way?,” says Frizot.29

Nadya Bair notes that Capa was “acutely aware of the importance of producing picture stories for the magazine market” and “regularly generated story ideas for his colleagues and invested much time into courting magazine editors.”30 As Magnum’s nominal president, he was constantly balancing artistic values with industry requirements. In one stockholder report, Capa “criticized the other Magnum photographers’ weak sense of journalism and their preference to shoot pretty pictures rather than document stories.”31

Despite his intransigence, Cartier-Bresson later admitted in The Decisive Moment that these formative experiences of working closely with magazine editors had helped him understand “the long and collective process of photographic production,”32 and “how to make reportage with a camera.”33 Indeed, while the directions he received “reflected the control Life wished to have over the story angle and content,” Bair contends they were “a helpful roadmap of where to go and how to make choices about what to photograph on this sudden and unexpected journey.”34 Cartier-Bresson acknowledged the benefits of teamwork, informing Life that he owed everything “to the kindness of Jim Burke and his wife.”35 Born and raised in Shanghai, James Burke had begun work as a stringer the previous year. A fluent Mandarin speaker, he served as an indispensable guide for Cartier-Bresson during his time in the city.

Image 3.

Installation view of Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958, on view June 20November 1, 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Image 3.

Installation view of Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958, on view June 20November 1, 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

While enjoying these advantages, Cartier-Bresson eschewed a storyteller mentality. In the end, he seemed to be prepared to let the network craft the narrative. “If you wish to make essays out of my pictures, that is up to you,” he told Life. “But do not ask me to be judged finally by what you do, or even by the pictures you choose.”36

For his part, Cartier-Bresson held the view that each individual picture was a microcosm of sorts, constituting an instance of reportage in its own right. To the Life team, this was a contradiction in terms; nevertheless, they found such variety within his work that forming a cohesive whole was not difficult. In any case, as Peter Galassi notes, “Even photographers who strived to edit their own work into coherent stories (as Magnum members generally did) had virtually no control once the pictures were handed over to the magazine.”37 This continued to irk Cartier-Bresson. “The words are the words of the photographer,” he wrote in the introduction to his 1955 Louvre exhibition. “But the phrasing is that of the magazine.”38

Stumbling blocks over presentation surmounted, and the fight for more concrete rights smouldered acrimoniously. Hicks was adamant that, as part of an official Life assignment, the negatives for the Beijing story belonged to the magazine. Life also insisted on exclusive rights. Eventually, it relented and in the case of the abortive Shandong assignment, it even agreed to cover costs and waive exclusivity. In the long-term, Cartier-Bresson’s importance became such that he helped rewrite the rule book. “Eventually, he won the debate,” says Frizot. “That’s why we can see these days you don’t touch or modify the photo or even the caption.”39

In the case of his best-known image, though, no wrangling was required. The Gold Rush photo, as it is known (following the use of the phrase in Cartier-Bresson’s notes), was not among the shots purchased by Life. Taken on December 23, 1948, eleven days before the Beijing story ran, the photograph became the most famous of the more than five thousand Cartier-Bresson shot during this first period in China (five hundred of which were selected by Magnum for distribution). It is, therefore, unsurprising that Gold Rush was spotlighted at the Taipei exhibition alongside images taken on the same day along with an explanation as to its circumstances and significance.

Epitomizing the economic mismanagement and confusion that precipitated the KMT collapse, the melee depicted in the photo stemmed from a series of bewildering U-turns on gold purchases. Having outlawed individual ownership and decreed that gold be exchanged for newly issued Gold Yuan, the government changed course in early November, permitting unlimited purchases. A month later, with the new currency plummeting, purchases were restricted. The ensuing run on the banks was as predictable as it was emblematic of the spiral into chaos.40

Highlighting the photo’s “eerie theatrical quality,” Alise Tīfentāle observes that “the arms of the people desperately clinging to each other appear to be choreographed to create a forceful, violent human wave running horizontally throughout the whole frame.”41 Among the various expressions captured in the heaving mass, most remarkable is surely that of a young man grinning nonchalantly while scratching the shaved side of his pristinely side-parted hair.

Intriguingly, while Cartier-Bresson provided detailed notes for most of the images of disorder he shot that day, not a word was said about the final two shots on the roll—numbers 36 and 37. The latter was to become his defining image of China, yet its ambiguity left it open to interpretation. While the initial Magnum caption described a “human accordion,” another handwritten description mentioned “the last days of the Kuomintang supremacy.”42Life ran the photo with the splash “Red Advance Brings Shanghai Panic.” The accompanying text referred to the KMT trying to “shore up confidence in its new but sick paper currency,”43 but stopped short of explicitly apportioning culpability for the debacle. The import was clear: the Commies were to blame.

For all the fanfare surrounding Gold Rush, other photos in the book and exhibition have a deeper resonance today. Aside from the tranquil scenes of old China in the Beijing reportage, and religiously themed images from Hangzhou, there is an overwhelming sense of uncertainty conveyed in much of the work. Present for the handover of the former capital of Nanking and the retreat of KMT forces, Cartier-Bresson caught scenes of confused looting: a family dragging a radiator from a former official’s residence; children clasping splintered planks of wood, only to discard them as worthless seconds later; more organized ransackers piling bags of flour onto pedicabs, wheeling them away to stash spots; stepping in to restore order after city police abandon their posts, a volunteer squad embarking on a hesitant first patrol.

Image 4.

Installation view of Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958, on view June 20November 1, 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

Image 4.

Installation view of Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958, on view June 20November 1, 2020, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The Generalissimo’s forces are no more. The far-off despondency of one Nationalist soldier clasping his bundled infant brings to mind the rueful veterans depicted in diaspora literature, the eponymous “bronze faces”44 of an essay by writer Sun Wei-mang, men with stories to tell and be retold, “severed from a traditional past and burdened with unfulfilled promises and uncertain futures.”45

As the vanquished traipse off, the first trickle of PLA troops arrives. Clad in shabby mustard sackcloth and scrutinized with “impassive curiosity”46 by the bemused populace lining the streets, they appear no more enthusiastic than their erstwhile foes. Everywhere, the theme of displacement pervades: a tide of humanity, ebbing and flowing, trapped in perpetual flux; forever departing, never to arrive. Exit points chock-a-block: rivers with sampans, train stations with overloaded handcarts. Refugees of every stripe are represented: While most are average citizens, the privileged classes also feature.

Clustered around a thatched parasol outside old Shanghai North station, a group of defence ministry officers awaits evacuation. Purse-lipped and rancorous, as he perches on his jumbled luggage, a foregrounded soldier projects defiance. At a Nanjing airfield, the peeved sidelong glance of a legislator47 who clutches a tennis racket as he awaits a flight to Canton offers another perspective. These contrasting expressions stem from the same emotion: humiliation at an abject retreat.

Elsewhere, Cartier-Bresson’s portraits of the KMT’s beleaguered power brokers are revealing in their intimacy. Holding a cigarette, Yan Xishan, whose brief spell as Republic of China premier bridged the Nationalist flight from China to Taiwan, displays weary irreverence. Dressed in a loose changshan, Yan, who was to die in relative obscurity in Taiwan, gazes sardonically at the camera.

Seated in an armchair beneath calligraphy scrolls, Yan’s fellow warlord Ma Hongkui props up his double chin with a pudgy paw as he stares into the distance from behind tinted glasses, perhaps contemplating an army that would soon abandon him. Like most of the elder generation among the million-plus Chinese migrants to Taiwan, these once formidable rulers never saw their homeland again.

The time and place of this first exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s China photographs could not have been better. Three kilometers southwest of TFAM at the snug Minim Photographic Studio + Gallery in Taipei’s historical Dadaocheng district, an exhibition on refugees titled Together—Voices Across Borders opened the same weekend. The issue of Taiwan’s refugee law is making waves again, with activists calling for reform to better facilitate political asylum for Hong Kong dissidents. Interestingly, one of the objections raised by opponents is the possibility of Chinese “spies” slipping into the country, which mirrors KMT claims of Communist infiltration in the postwar era.48

Yet for all the good work of NGOs and activists, the lack of historical parallels has been striking. The relevance of “one of the largest and least understood instances of out-migration in twentieth-century China”49 to Taiwan’s current situation remains relatively unexplored. The recent publication of The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan (2020) by Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang has helped make the connections explicit.

Image 5.

Installation view of Together—Voices Across Borders, on view June 20–26, 2020, at the Minim Photographic Studio + Gallery, Taipei; photograph by Chu Hsiao-chi.

Image 5.

Installation view of Together—Voices Across Borders, on view June 20–26, 2020, at the Minim Photographic Studio + Gallery, Taipei; photograph by Chu Hsiao-chi.

Yang’s harrowing descriptions of young men press-ganged into service in the Zhoushan Islands in May 1950 while “local folks could only watch as soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets herded their flesh and blood onto boats like livestock” and “women knelt on the side of the road, wailing and pleading loudly”50 echo Cartier-Bresson’s photos of the KMT “recruitment” drive in Beijing in December 1948. “Worried families gather to look for husbands or sons, conscripted so fast that they could not notify their families,”51 reads one caption. A photo of a distraught mother begging a soldier for information was an anomalous counterpoint to the positive presentation of the Beijing piece. When a former official is “adamant about his 1949 relocation being a ‘migration,’ not an involuntary exile,” Meng reflects that the KMT loss of China was “a painful and humiliating event that negated the entire life’s work that he and people like him had undertaken.”52

In one of those bizarre twists that history throws up, the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party are, if not quite bosom buddies, now fond acquaintances. While Cartier-Bresson could not have foreseen such an eventuality, his vision proved spookily prescient. In this regard, one pair of images stands out: a Shanghai portrait painter’s store before and after the Communist entrance. In December 1948, Chiang Kai-shek’s cheerful mug hangs in the shopfront; the following summer, it has been replaced by a beatific Mao Zedong.

Juxtaposed, the portraits form a grotesque double act. The sense of charade is reinforced by a painting of another duo, which can be seen in both photographs. The pair are probably exponents of crosstalk, a comic dialogue involving word play. Like the smiling despots, they express silent mirth at the fates of the impotent millions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait who have been the butt of the joke in this comédie humaine. Never overly concerned with the plot, Cartier-Bresson’s genius lay in conveying the unifying themes of the performance.

Image 6.

Portrait painter's shop in the Nan-Tao district. He works either from life or from a photograph. Shanghai, August 1949 by Henri Cartier-Bresson; © Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.

Image 6.

Portrait painter's shop in the Nan-Tao district. He works either from life or from a photograph. Shanghai, August 1949 by Henri Cartier-Bresson; © Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.


Michel Frizot and Ying-lung Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948–1949/1958 (London: Thames & Hudson, 2019), 9.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 13.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 12.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 14, 283.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16.


John Gittings, review of Assignment: Shanghai: Photographs on the Eve of Revolution—Photographs by Jack Birns, ed. Carloyn Wakeman and Ken Light, China Quarterly 178 (June 2004): 528.


Carolyn Wakeman and Ken Light, eds., Assignment: Shanghai: Photographs on the Eve of Revolution—Photographs by Jack Birns, Introduction.


Gittings, review of Assignment: Shanghai, 529.


Dolores Flamiano, review of Assignment: Shanghai: Photographs on the Eve of Revolution—Photographs by Jack Birns, ed. Carloyn Wakeman and Ken Light, American Journalism 21, no. 1 (Winter 2004): 96.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16, fn 41.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 11.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 11.


“History of Magnum,” Magnum Photos, accessed August 15, 2020, https://pro.magnumphotos.com/CS.aspx? VP3=CMS3&VF=MAX_2&FRM=Frame: MAX_5.


Michel Frizot, interview by author, Taipei, August 9, 2020.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 4.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 11.


Laura Havlin, “A Surreal Friendship,” Magnum Photos, November 18, 2016, www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/art/surreal-friendship-henri-cartier-bresson.


Frizot and Su stress that, rather than being a maxim, the oft-cited “decisive moment” referred to “a political moment” and was borrowed from the memoirs of the French clergymen and writer Cardinal de Retz. See Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 9.


“Speaking of Pictures…Cartier-Bresson Shows his Eloquent Camera Work,” Life, March 3, 1947, 14.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 14.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 14, 283.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 16.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 11.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 18.


Michel Frizot, interview by author, Taipei, August 9, 2020.


Nadya Bair, “Never Alone: Photo Editing and Collaboration” in Getting the Picture: The Visual Culture of the News, ed. Jason E. Hill and Vanessa R. Schwartz (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 233.


Bair, “Never Alone: Photo Editing and Collaboration,” 233.


Bair, “The Decisive Network: Producing Henri Cartier-Bresson at Mid-Century,” History of Photography 40, no. 2 (2016): 150.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1952), quoted in Bair, “The Decisive Network,” 150.


Bair, “The Decisive Network,” 151.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 12.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 24.


Peter Galassi, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century (London: Thames & Hudson, 2010), 48.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, exhibition text for his 1955 solo exhibition at the Louvre, from the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson archive, quoted in Bair, “Never Alone: Photo Editing and Collaboration,” 233.


Exhibition lecture, Q&A session, Taipei, August 9, 2020.


For a detailed look at the financial fiasco, see Suzanne Pepper, Civil War in China: The Political Struggle, 19451949 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978). For the issue of economic mismanagement in general, see p. 95–131; for the events in Shanghai that culminated in the “Gold Rush,” see pp. 121–26.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 169.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 170.


Sun Wei-mang “Prologue: Faces, Bronze Faces,” in Last of the Whampoa Breed: Stories of the Chinese Diaspora, ed. Pang-yuan Chi and David Der-wei Wang, Last of the Whampoa Breed: Stories of the Chinese Diaspora (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 1–3.


Pang-yuan Chi, foreword to Pang Yuan-Chi and David Der-wei Wang, eds., Last of the Whampoa Breed: Stories of the Chinese Diaspora (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), ix.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 179.


The figures in this photo are described as members of the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s legislature). Having held its first session in Nanjing in May 1948, it was due for elections in 1951. When the collapse of the Nationalist government prevented this, the KMT granted these lawmakers lifelong seats by maintaining the pretence that they still represented their constituencies in China. Known as the “old thieves,” they came to symbolize the corrupt, inefficient, and undemocratic KMT rule to many Taiwanese.


As Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang points out, it is little acknowledged fact that many of the individuals targeted as “Reds” in the early years of the White Terror in Taiwan were recent immigrants from China.


Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang, The Great Exodus from China: Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Modern Taiwan (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020), ii.


Yang, The Great Exodus from China, 170.


Frizot and Su, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 162.


Yang, The Great Exodus from China, 87.