Remembering Bruno Barbey
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Magnum photographer Bruno Barbey.
Six years ago, I spent two weeks with Bruno in and around Cape Town, South Africa. The agency my company was working with hired him to shoot a corporate campaign for us. My company was building up our image library and needed a multitude of photos from around the world.
But rather than traveling around the world, and to get better usage rights, we decided to shoot in South Africa, and found all the “global” locations in and around Cape Town. My department was flush with some budget money at the time to build up this image gallery and we put it to good use.
I was the corporate flack on the shoot, but having a love and understanding of photography helped.
Bruno was one of three short-listed photographers for the this project David Allen Harvey was another and Marcus Bleasdale, a British photojournalist, was the third. I wanted Joe McNally but he wasn’t available.
I’ll be honest, except for Harvey, I wasn’t really familiar with Bruno or Marcus. My ignornace of great photojournalists goes back to 1999 when I first met Joe…then I was like “Eh, who’s this guy?”
But I did do my research on Bruno and knew his career went back a long way. But it wasn’t until a couple of days later that, in the course of a conversation at breakfast, Bruno casually dropped chatting with “Henry”.
Henry, I asked. Who’s that?
“Cartier-Bresson. He and I worked together,” Bruno said.
Bruno was great work with for those two weeks He knew what we needed him to shoot, but was very cool about accepting some art direction from the corporate guy on the set. I’d toss out an idea, or a different set up/location and he’d very open to it.
One day after lunch, but before we had to get to our later-afternoon shoot on the beach at Camps Bay, we had lunch, he said to me “Let’s walk around shoot some.” There I am, doing street photography with a Magnum legend.
While I was looking for my shots, I had my eye on him, hoping to see what he saw. I doubt he ever did anything with these photos, but it was fun to see him “in the field.”
Bruno and I kept in touch for a bit after that shoot. I made some prints of him “at work” and sent them to his villa in France as a little remembrance. A few days later, a book came for me.
And so, 2020 takes another legend from us. I’m very fortunate I got the chance to know Bruno just a little bit, as well as his wife, Caroline, who also was with us in Cape Town.
Rest in peace, Bruno, February 13, 1941 – November 9, 2020.
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