Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in Chanteloup, France, on 22 August 1908. He has been one of the most dominant figures in photography, not only because of the unique quality of his work but also because of his tremendous influence on the medium. He studied painting and then took up photography seriously in 1931.
Cartier-Bresson’s approach is that of a purist. He uses the most basic equipment and never resorts to the contrivance of unusual viewpoints or exaggerated perspectives. He insists that his pictures are not cropped and is at pains to preserve his anonymity. Yet in spite of, or may be because of, this his pictures are immediately identifiable as Cartier-Bressons. Most of his pictures are taken on the 50mm lens of his Leica. The impact and visual quality of his photographs rest on his unerring ability to be able to select the precise moment at which the individual elements of an image fleetingly combine to create the most telling effect. Indeed, at times it almost appears that he is able to will things to happen ‘fortuitously’.
Henri Cartier Bresson is the undoubted guru of those photographers who believe that the most valuable quality of the medium is its ability to isolate and encapsulate a brief moment of time. The phrase that he coined to explain his own approach, ‘the decisive moment’, has become a watchword for many thousands of photographers. There are essentially two types of photographer, one who previsualizes a photograph and strives to create it, and one who prefers to discovers pictures by chance. Heri Cartier Bresson is the master of the latter.