WHAT: "Henri Cartier-Bresson" at the National Galleries of Scotland's Dean Gallery in Edinburgh.
WHEN: Aug. 6-Oct. 23.
HOW MUCH: $9, 12 years and under free.
WHY GO: This major retrospective of Cartier-Bresson's work, the first since his death last August at age 95, is made up of about 250 photographs and a selection of drawings that he produced in his later years. It is the largest retrospective of his work ever displayed in Britain.
Cartier-Bresson never staged his photographs, preferring to capture on film what he regarded as the "decisive moment," that unplanned point in time defining a moment of joy, wit or drama. The Frenchman was responsible for photography being accepted as a fine art medium, although he dismissed using the term "art" for his pictures.
The retrospective covers his entire 70-year career (he acquired the legendary 35mm Leica camera in 1932, which he used for the rest of his life) and includes some of the most memorable images of the 20th century from his travels in Europe, West Africa and America.
DON'T MISS . . . the many famous images on display, including 1932's "Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare," featuring a shadowy image of a man skipping through a puddle, and 1938's "Sunday on the Banks of the Marne," which captures two French couples happily drinking wine along the French river. Both should be familiar to anyone who has even a casual interest in photography. Cartier-Bresson is also remembered for introducing the Western world to other cultures, so look for works from two of his books: 1955's "The People of Moscow" and 1956's "China in Transition," which gave Westerners a glimpse of life in those then-veiled countries.
EXTRAS: Cartier-Bresson's close friend Pierre Assouline, who will release a comprehensive biography of the photographer next month, gives a free talk at 12:45 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Weston Link Theatre located underground between the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy Building (on The Mound off Princes Street). Patrick Elliott, senior curator of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, gives a tour of the exhibit Aug. 8 beginning at 12:45 p.m. No special tickets are needed.
British photographer Martin Parr, an acclaimed clicker whose work can be found in London's Tate Gallery, talks about Cartier-Bresson in a lecture at 12:45 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Weston Link. Parr is considered the British version of Cartier-Bresson. "While Cartier-Bresson seeks out those quintessentially French moments of drinking wine, Martin Parr seeks out the rather more British things, like the rubbish lying around in streets," Elliott says.
For a contrast in styles, check out the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (75 Belford Rd.) running until Sept. 4; it's right across the street from the Cartier-Bresson exhibit. According to Elliott, "Cartier-Bresson looked at the positive sides of life and Bacon looks at the seamier sides of life."
EATS: The Dean Gallery and nearby Gallery of Modern Art have cafes that are destinations in their own right. Serving tea, coffee, pastries, snacks and light meals, they're open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. William Street and Queensferry Street are close by and offer a good selection of cafes and bars.
It's "BYOW" (Bring Your Own Wine) at A Room in the West End (26 William St., 011-44-131-226-1036), an informal restaurant in the basement of a former Spanish bistro that specializes in tweaked Scottish cooking. So expect some haggis with your cod fillet. A three-course meal runs about $23. For a more upscale feel at slightly higher prices, visit the Bonham (35 Drumsheugh Gardens, 011-44-131-274-7400), which boasts an excellent reputation among the locals. A three-course meal, whose starter includes an open creamed Scottish chanterelle omelet with lamb lettuce, costs about $30.
SLEEPS: Those with money to spend who are looking for a familiar brand name can check in at the Caledonian Hilton Hotel (Princes Street, 800-HILTONS or 011-44-131-222-8888, www.hilton.com; doubles from $325 to $500 a night). Built in 1903, the pricey hotel overlooks scenic Edinburgh Castle.
More moderately priced options can be found at the quaint Greens Hotel (Eglinton Crescent, Haymarket, 011-44-131-337-1565, www.british-trust-hotels.com; about $170), which offers discount tickets to plays and musicals in Edinburgh's theater district. The modern Apex European (90 Haymarket Terrace, 011-44-131-666-5124, www.apexhotels.co.uk; from about $225) is just a short stroll from the city's shopping and entertainment areas.
INFO: The Dean Gallery is at 73 Belford Rd. Details: 011-44-131-624-6200 or 011-44-131-332-2266 (for recorded information), www.natgalscot.ac.uk.
-- John Maynard