Henri Cartier Bresson was born to a well off family in Chantaloup, France in 1908. He originally studied painting and only became interested in photography after a years hunting trip in 1931. The following year his first surviving work was published and then exhibited in New York and Madrid.
He continued to travel and take photographs for the next four years until his return to France in 1936, where he became involved in filmmaking, including a documentary on the Spanish Civil war.
His reputation continued to grow as a photographer during the 40's and was only interrupted during the period 1940-43, where he was a prisoner of war in a German camp.
His escape saw his return to photography and the set up of the Magnum photographic agency in 1947, which he co founded along with other eminent photographers such as Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Rodger.
During the 1950's Henri Cartier Bresson continued to travel the world and document the peoples and their environments. His first major book Images a la Sauvette, (The Decisive Moment) was published in 1952 and was followed by several other volumes concentrating on different peoples of the world.
In his book The Decisive Moment Henri gave an account of his practice. He emphasized the importance of being in the middle of the action or the scene and being fully involved in the events around him.
He believed that it is the events happening around us that create the rhythm of an image and that the photographer has to work in harmony with that rhythm to be able to capture the moment when the form fits the subject matter.
Henri predominately used a light weight Leica camera, which he believed helped him to be a part of the action and would not separate him from the scene as he tried to capture that decisive moment.
Taken from his book The Decisive Moment.
"Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression."
"Through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us, which can mold us, by which can also be affected by us".
"Photographers work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment of the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it".
A four minute video highlighting some of Henri's work.