Henri Cartier-Bresson on Photography

Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004) was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He was an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the “street photography” or “real life reportage” style that has influenced generations of photographers who followed.

Cartier-Bresson achieved international recognition for his coverage of Gandhi’s funeral in India in 1948 and the last (1949) stage of the Chinese Civil War. He covered the last six months of the Kuomintang administration and the first six months of the Maoist People’s Republic. He also photographed the last surviving Imperial eunuchs in Beijing, as the city was falling to the communists. From China, he went on to Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), where he documented the gaining of independence from the Dutch.

“Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”