But the most difficult thing for me is not street photography. It’s a portrait. The difference between a portrait and a snapshot is that in a portrait, a person agreed to be photographed. But certainly it’s like a biologist and his microscope. When you study the thing, it doesn’t react as when it’s not studied. And you have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt, which is not an easy thing, because you steal something. The strange thing is that you see people naked through your viewfinder. And it’s sometimes very embarrassing.
I’m always nervous when I go to take a portrait, because it’s a new experience. Usually when taking a portrait, I feel like putting a few questions just to get the reaction of a person. It’s difficult to talk at the same time that you observe with intensity the face of somebody.
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Living and Looking
from a recently discovered 1971 interview by Sheila Turner-Seed