The late photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s nephew is now deeply embroiled in one of the most mysterious groups in the world – the Church of Scientology. Guillaume Lesevre, the son of Cartier-Bresson’s sister, rose through the church’s ranks and at one point was the Executive Director International for the entire church. As one of the highest-ranking officials in Scientology, he often made public appearances and did interviews. However, it seems that Lesevre has fallen out of favor in his faith. A November 2009 issue of Scientology magazine Impact ran a photograph of Lesevre at a Church event. To a non-Scientologist reader, there would be nothing unusual about the photograph (which appears at left) – although they might notice Lesevre’s resemblance to his famous relative.
To a Scientologist or person familiar with Scientology, however, there are two key things to note in Lesevre’s picture. First, he is wearing a suit and tie. A member of Scientology’s elite Sea Org group, like Lesevre, is required to wear their naval-inspired uniform at all times. Second, Leserve is identified as merely “International Scientology Management,” without a specific title. While these two details may not seem particularly interesting, they are clues toward what many ex-Scientologists believe is now Lesevre’s life: he, along with other current and former church executives who happened to gain too much power or run afoul of the Church’s notoriously quixotic leader, David Miscavige, is being held prisoner at a Scientology base in the California desert and kept under close watch. This small, cramped area, known as “The Hole,” is where many former Scientology executives are being held, according to former members.
“I know for a fact that Henri Cartier-Bresson was Guillaume’s uncle,” one former Church executive who worked closely with Lesevre confirmed. The source noted that Leserve spoke on many occasions about his uncle and told stories about visiting Cartier-Bresson’s beautiful apartment in Paris. Additionally, while the former executive could not confirm whether Leserve is in The Hole at this moment, he could confirm that Lesevre was there as recently as 18 months ago.
While an employee at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris confirmed to TheGloss that Lesevre is Cartier-Bresson’s nephew, they were not forthcoming with additional information. It is possible that their reluctance springs from the fact that Scientology is under harsh scrutiny in France. Last year, the story of a young Norwegian woman named Kaja Ballo, who took her own life after getting a devastating result from a Scientology “personality test” was covered extensively in French and Norwegian media. Additionally, a public suit against Scientology by a French woman who claimed the Church had bilked her out of money resulted in the Church almost losing their status as a sect.
A retrospective of Cartier-Bresson’s work is on display through June 28 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Messages left for Lesevre with the Church of Scientology have not been returned.