Ezra Pound

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Henri Cartier-Bresson took many portrait pictures during his life, but his wife, Martine Franck accompanied him to just one — probably atypical — portrait session. It was that of the poet Ezra Pound in Venice in 1971, a year before his death at 87.

“There was a tremendous, heavy silence,” recalled Ms. Franck, herself a photographer. “Pound didn’t say a word. He just seemed to condemn the world with his eyes. We were there for about 20 minutes. I stayed to one side. I huddled in a corner. Henri took seven pictures.”

What Pound felt is impossible to know. Years earlier, he had been interned for mental illness, and in 1960, he lapsed into long periods of depressive silence and stopped writing. And yet, in the image selected by Cartier-Bresson, Pound’s wild hair, burning eyes and tense hands seem to speak volumes about an old man raging against the dying of the light.

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