Legendary photographer dies

Veteran French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who has died at the age of 95, was universally seen as one of the most influential image-makers of the 20th century.

    Cartier-Bresson is considered the father of photojournalism

    The co-founder of the Magnum photo agency, a pioneer in

    photographic reportage, died on Monday in Provence in southern France,

    and was buried on Wednesday.

    Born on 22 August 1908 to a bourgeois family in a small town east

    of Paris, Cartier-Bresson took up photography in the 1930s after

    first studying painting.

    Shooting only black-and-white film, shunning artificial light

    and refusing to crop his pictures, he is seen by critics as one of

    the generation of photographers responsible for elevating what had

    been a hobby or a profession into a fully fledged art form.

    His personal contribution was to combine the notion of the

    "decisive moment" - the name he gave to a major collection of his

    work in 1952 - with the meticulous eye for design and proportion

    that he learned from his studies with painter Andre Lhote in the

    1920s.

    The "decisive moment", he said in an oft-quoted line, "is the

    simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the

    significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of

    forms which give that event its proper expression".

    Rebellious nature

    In other words, being at the right place at the right time, of

    course with his trusted Leica at the ready.

    A student of the Surrealists, a movement at its height in the

    Paris of the 1920s, Cartier-Bresson shared their view of the

    unpredictability of significance.

    "A genius photographer,

    a real master, one of the most talented artists of his generation

    and one of the most respected in the world"

    Jacques Chirac,
    French president

    With the unobtrusive and fast-shooting cameras that became

    available from the 1930s, he was permanently on the look-out for

    arresting images, blazing the trail for generations of

    photojournalists to come.

    Rebellious by nature, Cartier-Bresson left his studies in 1931

    for colonial Africa where he spent a year as a hunter and took his

    first photographs, few of which have survived.

    Returning to France he came to realise the possibilities of the

    camera, acquired the Leica and began - in his words - "prowling

    the streets ... determined to trap life, to preserve life in the act

    of living".

    Before the war he worked in eastern Europe, Spain and Mexico and

    collaborated with film director Jean Renoir. Imprisoned by the

    Germans in 1940, he escaped three years later and was on hand for

    the liberation of Paris, 60 years ago this month.

    Magnum Photos

    In 1947 he joined two colleagues at the newspaper Ce Soir,

    Robert Capa and David Seymour, to found Magnum Photos, which for

    decades set the standard for photographic reportage around the

    world.

    Cartier-Bresson was there at the birth of communism in China

    and the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in India.

    Cartier-Bresson set the standard
    for photographic excellence

    Among the famous names who have sat for him are Jean-Paul

    Sartre, Henri Matisse, Edith Piaf and the Duke and Duchess of

    Windsor.

    He left Magnum in 1966 to concentrate on portraiture,

    landscapes and drawing.

    Last year the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation opened in Paris,

    housing more than 1000 original prints as well as contact sheets,

    films, manuscripts and correspondence.

    At the same time a retrospective show of his work at the

    National Library drew tens of thousands of visitors.

    Celebrated images

    Among the images on display were the moustachioed,

    bowler-hatted man caught peeping through the canvas at a sporting

    event in Brussels in 1932; a female prisoner denouncing a Gestapo

    informer in 1945; a boyish Truman Capote in 1947 and children

    playing near the Berlin Wall in 1962.

    French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday said

    Cartier-Bresson's passing meant the loss of a "genius photographer,

    a real master, one of the most talented artists of his generation

    and one of the most respected in the world".

    In one of his last interviews as the exhibit opened in April

    2003, Cartier-Bresson reflected on death, and how Asian or Latin

    cultures treat the issue in contrast to many in the West.

    "We French don't think about it [death]. We don't want to think

    about it," he said.

    "But in India people think about it all the time. In Mexico,

    too. What I like about that country is that death is very much

    alive."

    SOURCE: AFP


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