The famous French photographer who was the master of street photography and changed photography with his ‘decisive moment’ was born in 1908 in Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne. He was educated in Paris at the Lycée Condorcet. While studying painting under André Lhote in 1926 he took his first photographs. In 1931 he decided to focus on photography after discovering a photograph by Martin Munkacsi in an arts magazine. One year later Cartier-Bresson bought his first Leica and started traveling.
In more than 40 years as a photographer, Cartier-Bresson wandered continually around the world. But there was nothing compulsive about his travels, and he explicitly expressed a desire to move slowly, to “live on proper terms” in each country, to take his time, so that he became totally immersed in the environment.
In 1940, during World War II, Cartier-Bresson was taken prisoner by the Germans. He escaped in 1943 and the following year participated in a French underground photographic unit assigned to record the German occupation and retreat. In 1945 he made a film for the U.S. Office of War Information, Le Retour, which dealt with the return to France of released prisoners of war and deportees.
Cartier-Bresson founded the cooperative agency Magnum Photos in 1947, together with Robert Capa, David Seymour (Chimp), William Vandivert and George Rodger. In the 1970s Cartier-Bresson stopped working with Magnum Photos and concentrated on drawing.
In 1965 Cartier-Bressons spent several months travelling in Japan. This body of work in which Cartier-Bresson explored the visual contradictions at the heart of a modern Japan were published in the magazine Look.
After a long very successful and productive life Cartier-Bresson died peacefully in Montjustin, Provence in 2004.