The unusual photographic essay on baseball in this issue is the work of one of the world's great photographers. Born in France 49 years ago, he is Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had never seen a baseball game until he went to Milwaukee on his SPORTS ILLUSTRATED assignment.
"Photography," he has said, "is like keeping a journal. It's the little incidents that tell the story, and you have to watch for them. Reality is what we want and we know when we have it. It's like garlic—you can smell it."
To get close enough to smell it, Cartier-Bresson follows a studiously casual procedure. Correspondent Rod Van Every, who accompanied him on the story, wrote us: "He is unobtrusive, quiet, and carries a minimum of equipment—two Leicas, an exposure meter and a couple of extra lenses. Hatless, dressed in an old leather jacket and tieless dress shirt open at the throat, he appears to his subjects, if they notice him at all, as a slightly incompetent, wandering amateur. He carries his ready camera in the crook of his right arm and shields it from prying eyes as if he were protecting a baby. Henri positively will not pose a picture, nor will he shoot it if the subject is conscious of a camera. When spotted, he turns away, looking innocent and maybe just a little guilty. In a moment the subject forgets Henri and Henri is suddenly stalking him again. This delicate game may happen many times. Eventually Henri becomes a part of the scene—and his shutter begins clicking. It was not unusual to find him smack in the middle of a kids' pickup game and the kids unaware of his presence.
"He never did understand why a crowd screamed at some plays and not at others but quickly grasped the basic concept of baseball. Watching the Braves play the Cubs, he continued to compare the spectacle with Spanish bullfighting but noted a difference: 'Less blood; more beer.' "
July 7, 1957
Cartier-Bresson's work in the past has brought to Americans moments of rare insight into the lives and problems of fellow men in many foreign lands—the people of Moscow, of China, India, and Spain in the Civil War. Now he lets us see our own national game, as if with new eyes and with a full heart.