Henri Cartier-Bresson is widely credited as being the father of modern photojournalism. The son of a wealthy textile manufacturer he was born in France in 1908. He began an interest in photography at an early age, taking holiday snapshots on a Box Brownie given to him by his parents. He was brought up in the traditional French bourgeois fashion and was set to carry on the family textile business. However, the rebellious youth had other plans.
In 1927, at the age of 20 he attended the Lhote Academy, the Parisian studio of the Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote. It was during this period of rigorous theoretical training under Lhorte that Cartier-Bresson’s passion for modern art developed. He later described Lhote as his teacher of ‘photography, without a camera’. During this time a photography revolution was taking place, schools of photographic realism were emerging through-out Europe, the catalyst being the Surrealist movement which Cartier-Bresson readily embraced.
Cartier-Bresson turned away from painting after a spending a year at the University of Cambridge, where he studied English, art and literature, and a stint in the French army, completing his national service. The tipping point was seeing a picture by Hungarian sports photographer, Martin Munkacsi. The picture, Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika, inspired him to take up photography with his newly acquired Leica camera.
ASX CHANNEL: HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON