Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004) was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography, and an early user of 35 mm film. He pioneered the genre of street photography, and viewed photography as capturing a decisive moment. His work has influenced many photographers and he has been said to be the father of photojournalism as well as the founder of modern photography.
Candidly capturing fleeting moments of beauty among the seemingly ordinary happenings of daily life, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work is intuitive and observational. Initially influenced by the Surrealists’ “aimless walks of discovery,” he began shooting on his Leica while traveling through Europe in 1932, revealing the hidden drama and idiosyncrasy in the everyday and mundane. The hand-held Leica allowed him ease of movement while attracting minimal notice as he wandered in foreign lands, taking images that matched his bohemian spontaneity with his painterly sense of composition.
Cartier-Bresson did not plan or arrange his photographs. His practice was to release the shutter at the moment his instincts told him the scene before him was in perfect balance. This he later famously titled “the decisive moment” — a concept that would influence photographers throughout the twentieth century.