Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography defined and reflected the twentieth century’s hopes and dreams. Collector and gallery owner Peter Fetterman spent more than 40 years pursuing and amassing images from the iconic photographer. On the occasion of the auction of his Cartier-Bresson collection facilitated by Phillips, Cultured caught up with Fetterman to discuss his love for the photographer, the rationale behind his multi-decade obsession and his reasons for putting the photos for sale. “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Eye of the Century Personal Photographs from the Collection of Peter Fetterman” will be on display at Phillips in New York from December 4 through 12 with the auction taking place on December 12.
Why are you selling this collection of one of the 20th century’s most renowned photographers now?
I have always felt that as a collector we are only the temporary custodians of the objects we cherish and acquire. As I get older and have learnt so much from this collection I felt it was the “right” time to let go so a new generation can have the opportunity to enjoy the images and learn from them as much as I have. The proceeds from the sale will help support the younger generation of photographers we work with which I know Henri and his late wife Martine Franck would approve of- a continuum of his dedication.
Why did you choose Phillips to conduct the auction?
We have worked successfully with Phillips for many years now. They have the best team in the photography business. They are collaborative, professional and innovative and Vanessa Hallett is a real joy to work with.
What initially drew you to Cartier-Bresson’s photography?
I was moved by his humanity and the sheer breath of his world vision.
What is your favorite photograph from the collection?
It is very hard to name a favorite as it is hard to say who is your favorite child. If I were to choose a favorite it would be the first image I ever purchased, the Praying Women in Srinagar.
How has Cartier-Bresson inspired you?
I was always inspired by his child-like curiosity about everything and his deep intellect and his lust for travel. We also shared a love for classical music especially Bach. I remember sitting with him once listening to a Bach “Fugue” and him telling me “Peter, all of life is in this music,” how right he was.
Images courtesy of Phillips / Phillips.com