Born on August 22, 1908, Henri Cartier-Bresson is the father of photojournalism and an early adopter of the 35 mm format. He is a master of candid photography and developed the street photography style that is called The Decisive Moment.
Bresson grew up in a wealthy family and they had the means to support his photography and sketching habits. Bresson studied painting with the Cubist painter Andre Lhote and society portraitist Jacques Emile Blanche. In 1931 Bresson deepened his relationships with the Surrealists. He was inspired by a photography from photojournalist Martin Munkasci. Munkacsi's photo Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika gave Bresson the impetus to start photographing real life. He purchased a Leica camera that he used for many years. One of Bresson's friends, Robert Capa told Bresson not to be a surrealist photographer. Be a photojournalist. Get moving. Bresson's first photojournalist photos were in 1937. He covered the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for Regards. He focused on the adoring subjects lining the London streets and neglected to take pictures of the king.
During WWII Bresson was captured by German soldiers and spent 35 months as a prison of war. He attempted to escape three times and was finally successful. In 1943 he found his Leica camera and was asked to make a documentary Le Retour (The Return) about French prisoners and displaced persons.
In 1952 Bresson published his book Images a la sauvette or the Decisive Moment. It included 126 photos from the East and West and the cover was drawn by Henri Matisse. He held his first exhibition in France at Pavilion de Marsan in the Louvre in 1955. Bresson travelled extensively around the world and was the first Western photographer allowed to photograph whatever he wanted in Post-war Soviet Union. He visited Sardinia in 1962 on behalf of Vogue Magazine.
He 1970 Bresson retired from photography and only took the occasional private portrait. He kept his camera in a safe at his house and returned to painting and drawing. His first exhibition of drawing was held at the Carlton Gallery in New York in 1975.
Bresson died at the age of 95 o August 3, 2004 in Montjustin France. He was survived by his wife Martine Franck and their daughter Melanie. He created the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in 2003 to preserve his legacy.