Henri Cartier-Bresson Harlem, New York, 1947. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour

A free photography exhibition at Somerset House: 8 November 2012 - 27 January 2013

Positive View Foundation announces its inaugural exhibition Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour, to be held at Somerset House, 8 November 2012 – 27 January 2013. Curated by William A. Ewing, the exhibition will feature 10 Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs never before exhibited in the UK alongside over 75 works by 15 international contemporary photographers, including: Karl Baden (US), Carolyn Drake (US), Melanie Einzig (US), Andy Freeberg (US), Harry Gruyaert (Belgium), Ernst Haas (Austrian), Fred Herzog (Canadian), Saul Leiter (US), Helen Levitt (US), Jeff Mermelstein (US), Joel Meyerowitz (US), Trent Parke (Australian), Boris Savelev (Ukranian), Robert Walker (Canadian), and Alex Webb (US).

The extensive showcase will illustrate how photographers working in Europe and North America adopted and adapted the master's ethos famously known as  ‘the decisive moment' to their work in colour. Though they often departed from the concept in significant ways, something of that challenge remained: how to seize something that happens and capture it in the very moment that it takes place.

It is well-known that Cartier-Bresson was disparaging towards colour photography, which in the 1950s was in its early years of development, and his reasoning was based both on the technical and aesthetic limitations of the medium at the time.  

Curator William E. Ewing has conceived the exhibition in terms of, as he puts it, 'challenge and response'. “This exhibition will show how Henri Cartier-Bresson, in spite of his skeptical attitude regarding the artistic value of colour photography, nevertheless exerted a powerful influence over photographers who took up the new medium and who were determined to put a personal stamp on it. In effect, his criticisms of colour spurred on a new generation, determined to overcome the obstacles and prove him wrong. A Question of Colour simultaneously pays homage to a master who felt that black and white photography was the ideal medium, and could not be bettered, and to a group of photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries who chose the path of colour and made, and continue to make, great strides.”

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour will feature a selection of photographers whose commitment to expression in colour was – or is – wholehearted and highly sophisticated, and which measured up to Cartier-Bresson’s essential requirement that content and form were in perfect balance. Some of these artists were Cartier-Bresson’s contemporaries, like Helen Levitt, or even, as with Ernst Haas, his friends; others, such as Fred Herzog in Vancouver, knew the artist's seminal work across vast distances; others were junior colleagues, such as Harry Gruyaert, who found himself debating colour ferociously with the master; and others still, like Andy Freeberg or Carolyn Drake, never knew the man first-hand, but were deeply influenced by his example.

Gwyn Miles, Director of Somerset House Trust says: ‘‘we are pleased to be working together with Positive View Foundation and to help launch this inaugural exhibition with works by Cartier-Bresson alongside a range of other internationally important artists. Positive View will present the very best in contemporary photography from across the globe and this exhibition will be no exception. We are excited to host dynamic, thought-provoking and intelligent shows in our galleries here at Somerset House that will bring in many difference audiences and who can contribute to the thriving cultural scene here.”

Running alongside the exhibition will be a series of events, talks and workshops designed for a broad range of ages and interest groups, demonstrating the Foundation’s commitment to its ongoing education programme. Further details regarding the Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour education programme will be announced in due course.

Andrew Page, Founder and CEO of Positive View Foundation states “We are delighted to bring so many different people together to make this exceptional exhibition of Cartier-Bresson at Somerset House possible. The aim of the Foundation is to ensure that the very best in contemporary photography is made available to a wider audience and that quality photographic works from a range of international artists and a host of different minds can discuss, debate and comment on photography. We are very pleased and excited to see this inaugural show realised at Somerset House.We wish to thank the Fondation Cartier-Bresson, Paris, for their advice and invaluable support.




Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour

8 November 2012 – 27 January 2013

Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm daily

Address: Terrace Rooms & Courtyard Rooms, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Admission: Free

Further Information: +44 (0)20 7845 4600 www.somersethouse.org.uk

Transport: Nearest Underground Stations are: Temple, Covent Garden, Charing Cross and Embankment


Notes to Editors:

List of Exhibiting Artists:

Karl Baden (US), Carolyn Drake (US), Melanie Einzig (US), Andy Freeberg (US), Harry Gruyaert (Belgium), Ernst Haas (Austrian), Fred Herzog (Canadian), Saul Leiter (US), Helen Levitt (US), Jeff Mermelstein (US), Joel Meyerowitz (US), Trent Parke (Australian), Boris Savelev (Ukranian), Robert Walker (Canadian), and Alex Webb (US)

Curator, William A. Ewing

William A. Ewing is an internationally acclaimed specialist in photography with many books and exhibitions to his credit. From 1996 to 2010 he directed the Musée de l'Elysée, the renowned Swiss museum of photography. His exhibitions have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography and the Museum of the Fashion Institute, New York; the Jeu de Paume, la Maison Européenne de la Photographie, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Serpentine, Barbican, and Hayward Galleries, London; and many other museums worldwide. He is the author of a number of books, many published by Thames & Hudson where he holds the Director of Curatorial Projects position. More recently, he has published the book Arnold Newman: Masterclass and he contributed to the catalogue text for the upcoming exhibition of photography, Out of Focus at the Saatchi Gallery. Mr Ewing lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Positive View Foundation:

The Positive View Foundation was founded in 2011 and launched on 16 April 2012, presenting a unique approach to both philanthropy and the arts. The Foundation will regularly stage exhibitions of works and international photographers of the highest calibre. At the same time, the Foundation will support innovative education projects that use photography to support disadvantaged young people through effective personal development and training programmes.

This concept has been refined over sixteen years. A Positive View began as a personal philanthropic photography project hosted by the Saatchi Gallery in 1994 from which all donated works were later sold by Sotheby's in support of the Chickenshed Theatre Company for children with learning difficulties. Diana, Princess of Wales, was the Royal Patron of this project, and in 2010 her son Prince William became Royal Patron in his turn. On this occasion, through media partnerships and a charity auction at Christie's, over £500,000 was raised to fund an innovative photography project at Crisis, the UK's leading charity for homelessness.

By focusing on international contemporary photography of the highest level, each exhibition and gala auction attracted major media coverage and gathered high acclaim from critics. On this base of impressive global brand awareness, the Positive View Foundation is now formally launched as a charity in its own right.

For each show held at Somerset House, the Positive View Foundation will organise workshops within the exhibition space through which they can work directly with disadvantaged individuals through their partner organisations. Groups will be invited to attend dedicated tours hosted by the Curator of the exhibition and individuals will be able to book time slots to be part of small tours. Schools located in lower income boroughs of London will also have the opportunity of enjoying this unique insight.

In addition to its exhibition programme, the Foundation will hold further events throughout the year in keeping with its objectives to encourage discussion and debate. Whether drawing on the issues raised through individual exhibitions or questioning the future direction of contemporary photography itself, these events aim to engage wider audiences across the full spectrum of society.


Founding Patrons:

Sir David Tang

Sir David Tang is a Hong Kong businessman best known as Founder of the Shanghai Tang chain. Sir David is also Founder of the China Clubs (Hong Kong, Peking and Singapore), the Shanghai Tang stores, Havana House and Pacific Co Ltd, the exclusive distributor for all Havana brands in Canada, Asia and Australia. More recently Sir David opened the Cipriani in Hong Kong and the China Tang restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel. Tang is also a director and advisor to a number of boards extending across both commerce and the arts. Sir David Tang was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 2008 and is also Chevelier de I’Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

Lady Foster

In 1996 Elena Foster founded Ivorypress, devoted to producing international artist's books and other publications related to contemporary art, photography, design and architecture.  Currently she is the Chairman and CEO of Ivorypress and Art Commissioners.

Elena’s curatorial experience is extensive, with exhibitions including: the Italian Pavilion at the 10th Venice Biennale, 2006, Italy; ‘New York C’ at Phillips de Pury, 2007, New York, USA; ‘Blood on Paper’ at the Victoria and the Albert Museum, 2008, London, UK; ‘Mind Your Mind’ at the Hay Festival Segovia, 2009, Spain and ‘Real Venice’ at the Venice Biennale, 2011. Lady Foster was Chairman of the Tate International Council and Trustee of the Tate Foundation for five years. Currently, she is Trustee of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and the Chief Advisor and Trustee of the Art Trust Foundation, among other institutions and Foundations.  Lady Foster is also a film producer focussed on art documentaries.

Somerset House

Somerset House is a spectacular neo-classical building in the heart of London, sitting between the Strand and the River Thames. Since opening to the public in 2000, Somerset House has produced a distinctive public programme that annually draws over 2 million visitors to the site, providing a stimulating environment for exploration and relaxation. The varied, year-round programme includes an open air film and concert season and ice rink, as well as temporary exhibitions focusing on contemporary fashion, design, art and architecture, family workshops and free guided tours. In September 2009, Somerset House became the new home of London Fashion Week.

Barclays (Positive View Foundation Sponsor):

Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for customers and clients worldwide.  With over 300 years of history and expertise in banking, we operate in over 50 countries and employ over 140,000 people.

Our customers and clients benefit from access to the breadth of expertise across Barclays.  We’re one of the largest financial services providers in the world, engaged in retail banking, credit cards, corporate and investment banking, and wealth and investment management.

We are a leading global wealth and investment manager providing international and private banking, wealth planning, trust and fiduciary services, investment management, brokerage services and research to private and intermediary clients around the world.


For media inquiries, please contact:   

Meredith Nichols                                  

Sutton PR                                


+44 (0) 207 183 3577                


For Somerset House media inquiries, please contact:

Josephine Rodrigues or Stephanie Lilley


+44 (0) 20 7845 4638


For more information visit the Positive View Foundation website:



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Positive View Foundation is supported by Barclays

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October 2016
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