Henri Cartier-Bresson French, 1908-2004
Henri Cartier-Bresson (born in Chanteloup) has achieved fame for his work as a pioneering photojournalist and for his ability to capture the "decisive moment" in candid images of people and events around the world. After studying painting in the 1920s (including one year with cubist André Lhote), Cartier-Bresson became interested in photography while recuperating from illness in 1930-31. Working first with a box camera and then with a 35mm Leica camera, he began to take pictures for magazines and newspapers. In the early 1930s his photographs were featured in exhibitions at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York and the Club Atheneo in Madrid. During this period he traveled and photographed in France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Mexico.
In 1935 Cartier-Bresson studied cinematography with Paul Strand in New York City, returning to France the following year to work as an assistant on Jean Renoir's films La vie est à nous and Une partie de campagne. In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, Cartier-Bresson made Victorie de la vie, a film documenting conditions in Spanish hospitals. Three years later, while serving in the French army during World War II, he was captured by the Germans. He escaped from prison in 1943 and joined the French resistance. Following the war his work was featured in a major one-artist exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1946), and in 1947 he joined Ropert Capa, George Rodger, and David Seymour in founding magnum Photos, the well-known cooperative agency for photojournalism.
Over the next two decades Cartier-Bresson traveled the world as a freelance photojournalist. His work appeared in a number of exhibitions during this time (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, International Center of Photography, New York, and others) as well as in numerous magazine articles and more than a dozen books, including Images à la sauvette (The Decisive Moment, 1952), D'une Chine à l'autre (1954; From One China to Another, U.S. publication, 1956), Les Européens (The Europeans, 1955), Mouscou, vu par Henri Cartier-Bresson (People of Moscow, 1955), and the Face of Asia (1972). In 1966 Cartier-Bresson left magnum, retiring from photojournalism to concentrate on his drawing. M.M.