Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photo, by Jane Bown
Born in Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne, Henri Cartier-Bresson established a solid fascination with painting early on, and specifically with Surrealism. In 1932, after spending a year in the Ivory Coast, he met the Leica; his favorite camera, and began a long interest for the art of photography. In 1933 he had his very first exhibition in New York City at the Julien Levy Gallery. He later on made films with Jean Renoir.
Henri Cartier-Bresson during World War 2
Taken prisoner during WW2 in 1940, he escaped on his 3rd attempt in 1943. He signed up with a secret organization to help escapees and prisoners. After the war he photographed the freedom of Paris with a team of expert reporters and then filmed the documentary “Le Retour”.
In 1947, with George Rodger, William Vandivert, David ‘Chim’ Seymour and Robert Capa he established Magnum Photos. In 1952, after three years of traveling around the world, he returned to Europe, where he released his very first publication: “Images A La Sauvette”.
Henri Cartier-Bresson said about photography:
“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.”
From 1968 Henri Cartier-Bresson started to slow down his photographic activities, prefering drawing and painting. In 2003, with his spouse and daughter, he made the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris for the conservation of his work.
Cartier-Bresson obtained a phenomenal number of rewards, awards and honorary doctorates. He passed away at his house in Provence on the 3rd of August in 2004; he was almost 96 years old.