Ara Güler was named the “Master of Leica” in 1962, he shot this photograph of his friend Cartier-Bresson – as unexceptional as it is symbolic – two years later, using a M3 Chrome: “This portrait speaks volumes. I took it unexpectedly, just when his eye was distracted by a subject he was interested in shooting himself. The camera – a Leica of course – is at hand, ready for use.” This is the same Leica M3, which Cartier-Bresson used to photograph Marilyn Monroe on the film set for The Misfits (1961), among other personalities.
“A portrait is not simply the picture of a face,” says Ara Güler, one of Turkey’s most renowned photographers, “it is the entirety of a life.” 86 years old today, Güler remembers Henri Cartier-Bresson: “He was like a big brother to me. He was 20 years older than me and taught me a lot. For me, he’s the greatest.” Through Cartier-Bresson, the doyen of the “decisive moment” and co-founder of Magnum, Güler joined the legendary agency in the early 1960s. Using perspectives reminiscent of his French role model, the “Eye of Istanbul” portrayed not only 20th-century artists, writers and thinkers, but also his native city as it was undergoing transformation: “Our work on Paris and Istanbul was similar in some ways: we both seized the moment when a world was disappearing – a world of artisans giving way to a world of mechanics.”
Reference: Ara Güler, Creating the 20th Century, 100 Artists, Writers and Thinkers, Singapore 2011, p. 59.