French legend Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered one of the great photographers of the 20th century and a major proponent of modern photojournalism. He was also a founding member of Magnum in 1947. When he died, French President Jacques Chirac said, "France has lost a photographer of genius, a true master, one of the most gifted artists of his generation and one of the most respected in the world"
Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in Chanteloup, near Paris, on August 22, 1908. He began taking pictures with a simple box camera in the 1930s. In World War II he spent three years in a German prison camp, escaped three times (was caught twice, and then escaped again). After he escaped, he joined the French resistance and eventually photographed the Liberation.
The publication in 1952 of "Images a la Sauvette'' (''The Decisive Moment'') was a sensation and was a book that was perfect for showing off of his considerable photographic skills, although he continued publishing many other collections in books, such as "China in Transition,'' "The People of Moscow,'' "Balinese Dancers'', "The Face of Asia" and "The Europeans.''
Cartier-Bresson spent over 30 years on assignment for Life Magazine and many other prominent publications. He traveled extensively while providing images of some of the great upheavals, challenges and events of the 20th century--the Spanish civil war, the 1945 liberation of Paris, the fall of the Kuomintang in China to the communists, the 1968 student rebellion in Paris, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and the building and fall of the Berlin Wall. He also photographed many of the most important people of his generation, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Picasso, Colette, Matisse, Ezra Pound and Alberto Giacometti.
But his concern for people always took his eye back to the everyday moments that--frozen by his camera--revealed something crucial about the human condition: its momentary fragility.
Cartier-Bresson quit Magnum in 1966, but continued to take photographs, living in Paris with his second wife, photographer Martine Franck. Later he abandoned the camera for his favorite medium--drawing. In April of 2003 he set up the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, or The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, which is located at 2 Impasse Lebouis, Paris in the 14th arrondissement. The five-story atelier of glass and steel houses the Cartier-Bresson archive. Open to researchers, the foundation runs a program of conferences, debates and lectures, thus assuring Cartier-Bresson's legacy.
Cartier-Bresson died in the south of France at Céreste in August 2004, and was buried in a quiet family ceremony at Monjustin, in the Provence region. He was 95 at the time of his death.