Legendary photojournalist Cartier-Bresson dies at 95

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the legendary French photojournalist who traveled the world and coined the idea of “the decisive moment,” died Tuesday, 3 August 2004. He was 95.

Magnum Photos, the elite photographer-centric agency Cartier-Bresson founded with fellow legend Robert Capa, said in a statement that the photographer had died at his home in Luberon, France.

Born 22 August 1908, Cartier-Bresson took an early interest in painting, turning his attention toward photography with a simple box camera in the 1930s.

Cartier-Bresson became best known for his idea of “the decisive moment,” exemplified most notably by “Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare.” The B&W image, which became an icon of perfect timing and inspired legions of 20th century photojournalists, depicted a man attempting to leap over a puddle and was hailed as Cartier-Bresson’s finest image.

Often it was the quiet, subtle details of a Cartier-Bresson photograph, the perfect balance between timing, composition and je ne sais quoi that defined the images he made for more than half a century.

Not surprisingly, his reportage around the world and his unstaged portraits of such newsmakers as Marilyn Monroe, Henri Matisse and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. landed him prominent assignments for the likes of Life and Vogue magazines.

“He made an image in Spain of a band of children playing on a street, a heavyset man in a suit and fedora walking through their midst and, in the background, a constellation of windows scattered across the wall of a building,” photojournalist

James Nachtwey wrote in Time magazine. “It wasn’t a picture about anything. It was a moment most of us would never notice, but in his eyes it became an enigma, so full of suspense, you could almost hear the click of a detonator.

Fellow photographer Richard Avedon told Le Monde newspaper of France: “He was the Tolstoy of photography. With his profound humanity he was the witness of the 20th century.”

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