Over the past year, I've noticed an increasing number of articles and advertisements circulating the internet implying that Henri Cartier-Bresson etched the Dynamic Symmetry grid into the ground glass of his camera to create his masterful compositions. After ten years of experience in design and analyzing hundreds of Cartier-Bresson’s images, I can say with absolute certainty that these ads, articles, and implications are 100% false.
In several interviews, Henri Cartier-Bresson has mentioned unequivocally that the use of camera design grids is not a professional practice for a master photographer and is firmly against using any design grid apparatus to create compositions while in the act of taking pictures. He states "I hope we will never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders, and the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass."
The fact is, photographers that use a Leica rangefinder or M series camera know it's virtually impossible to carve the armature of the rectangle in the viewfinder with any degree of accuracy nor can I imagine any sane person doing such a ridiculous act.
Creating masterful art, whether you draw, paint or photograph requires years of training and knowledge across many disciplines. And even though taping (or etching) camera design grids on your camera might seem like a quick and easy approach for creating "Bresson-like" images, implying that Henri Cartier-Bresson used this beginner level technique to create his lifetime body of work would be no different than stating Leonardo da Vinci painted "The Last Supper" using paint-by-number.
And while I would never argue the fact that camera grids can be beneficial for the beginner student that wants to familiarize themselves with the armature of the rectangle, photographers that think they are going to create a masterful portfolio by using plastic visual aids on their viewfinder are only fooling themselves. History has already proven that camera grids are entirely unnecessary for becoming a highly skilled photographer, and despite any slick advertising or misleading articles, a little common sense goes a long way.
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