The Twentieth Century was that of the image, and the legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, born in 1908, was the eye of the century. His life story and the interpretation of his work reveal first an foremost the history of the vision.
As he traversed the century, his eclectic eye focused on the fascination of Africa in the 1920’s, the tragic fate of the Spanish republicans, the liberation of Paris, the weariness of Gandhi a few hours before his assassination, and the victory of the Chinese communists. Cartier-Bresson was always on the spot, the great opportunist, seizing life’s historic events as they happened.
He was also assistant to Jean Renoir on three major films. He was an artist who wanted to be an artisan, and he was one of the founders of Magnum, the most famous of all photographers’ agencies. It was he who forever in our minds the feature of famous contemporaries: Mauriac mysteriously levitating; Giacometti and Sartre as characters from their own works; Camus and countless others, their portraits captured for the eternity at the decisive moment.
An intensely private individual, Cartier-Bresson nonetheless took Pierre Assouline into his confidence over a number of years, discussing such subjects as his youthful devotion to serrealism, his lifelong passion for drawing, his experience of war and the prison camps, his friends and the women in his life. He even opened up his invaluable archives. This sensitive biography is the result of the meeting of two minds, revealed in much the same way and with the same truth as one of Cartier-Bresson’s outstanding, inimitable photographs.