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Shanghai, 1949

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Shanghai (made)

  • Date:

    1949 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cartier-Bresson, Henri, born 1908 - died 2004 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin silver print

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 918, box V

The Victoria and Albert Museum has over 440 photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), a French photographer who is considered to be one of the fathers of photojournalism and masters of candid photography. He sought to capture the 'everyday' in his photographs and took great interest in recording human activity. He wrote, "For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to 'give a meaning' to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression."

As a reporter and co-founder of the Magnum photography agency, Cartier-Bresson accepted his responsibility to supply information to a world in a hurry. He documented the liberation of Paris, the collapse of the Nationalist regime in China, Gandhi's funeral and the partitioning of Berlin. Cartier-Bresson helped develop the street photography style that has influenced generations of photographers that followed.

Physical description

Black and white photograph of a mass of people pushing and shoving one another. With the hyperinflation in 1949 in China and the devaluation of paper money, the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) opted to distribute 40 grams of gold per person. Many thousands of people queued in line for hours. The police, accompanied by the remainder of the International Concession army personnel, were put in place to maintain order. However around a dozen people were reportedly crushed to death.

Place of Origin

Shanghai (made)


1949 (made)


Cartier-Bresson, Henri, born 1908 - died 2004 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin silver print


Height: 39 cm, Length: 58.7 cm

Descriptive line

Gelatin-silver print photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson depicting a mass of people pushing and shoving one another in a queue for gold in Shanghai during a peak of hyperinflation. China, 1949.




Silver; Photography

Subjects depicted

Crowds; Money; Policy; People




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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