Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


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Follow link for an enlarged image"Faceless:" The Most Famous Photographer in the World (2001) / view images from this book

From the book jacket text:
He has been called the phantom of photography, but sees himself as a "non-violent anarchist" — with a Leica, film, and geometric vision — letting others find what they wish in his work.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the most acclaimed candid photographer in the world, is revered as a demigod by legions of miniature camera enthusiasts, who have almost never seen a picture of him. After half-a-century of shooting everybody nearly everywhere, he has no rival in his role as the ultimate enigma — repulsing all shots of himself.

Former Life photographer David Douglas Duncan is a retired Marine Lt. Colonel and war photographer. His images of a fabled artist-neighbor and friend in the South of France, Pablo Picasso, are now history.
DDD and HC-B have been camera colleagues for most of their professional lives, having met in Egypt when Duncan covered the Middle East after WWII. Cartier-Bresson was returning to France from China and Indonesia, with Communism just beginning its foray across Asia, as European empires collapsed.

Cartier-Bresson published The Decisive Moment. It became the Holy Script for many photographers. Duncan published This Is War! upon his return from Korea. Edward Steichen described it as "the highest tide achieved in combat photography."

Although HC-B’s and DDD's lives and paths crisscrossed repeatedly during the subsequent decades, they never photographed each other — before Paris, late afternoon, the 25th of May, 2000.

An American editor had assigned Cartier-Bresson to shoot portraits of a covey of camera oldtimers for an essay on the eyes of 20th-Century history. With a Picasso Museum painting for background, he took closeups of Duncan, who arrived without a camera or film, or assignment himself. He borrowed a Leica as a prop from his host, but shot nothing, not a picture . . . until a few minutes later.

Seeing his wife's empty little zoom-lens camera on the museum café table, DDD asked for a roll of film from HC-B. Within five minutes and not a word between them, only kaleidoscopic changes in moods, reality emerged from his mythic world.

Henri Cartier-Bresson — himself.

This multi-print portrait of Henri Cartier-Bresson — as unauthorized as his candid street images — has been designed in a simplistic photo-album style replicating typeface and design of Duncan's original work-manuscript. It is printed on the best art-grade paper by one of the most expert photo-book production teams anywhere — all friends of the author. He delivered his master photographs in September. They delivered the finished books for Thanksgiving, and the 2000th Christmas. Royalties from "Faceless" will be donated to the DDD Photojournalism Fund, University of Texas.