Veteran French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who has died at the age of 95, was universally hailed as one of the most influential image-makers of the last century.
A genius at capturing human drama on his lens
Born in August 1908 to a bourgeois family in a small town east of Paris, Cartier-Bresson took up photography in the 1930s after first studying painting.
After the Second World War, he co-founded the Magnum photo agency, and his pictures now hang in art galleries all over the world. Shooting only black-and-white film, shunning artificial light and refusing to crop his pictures, he is seen by critics as one of the generation of photographers responsible for elevating what had been a hobby or a profession into a full-fledged art form.
The "Decisive Moment"
His personal contribution was to combine the notion of the "Decisive Moment" -- the name he gave to a major collection of his work in 1952 -- with the meticulous eye for design and proportion that he learned from his studies with painter Andre Lhote in the 1920s.
The "Decisive Moment," Cartier-Bresson said in an oft-quoted line, "is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression."
A student of the Surrealists, a movement at its height in the Paris of the 1920s, Cartier-Bresson shared their view of the unpredictability of significance.
A man looks at images, including "Harlem,1947 (Easter Sunday)" by Cartier-Bresson at the opening of a Magnum photo agency exhibit in New York.
With the unobtrusive and fast-shooting cameras that became available from the 1930s, he was permanently on the look-out for arresting images, blazing the trail for generations of photojournalists to come.
Determined to "trap life"
Rebellious by nature, Cartier-Bresson left his studies in 1931 for colonial Africa where he spent a year as a hunter and took his first photographs, few of which have survived.
Returning to France he came to realize the possibilities of the camera, acquired the Leica which became his trademark and began -- in his words -- "prowling the streets... determined to trap life, to preserve life in the act of living."
Before the war he worked in eastern Europe, Spain and Mexico and collaborated with the film director Jean Renoir. Imprisoned by the Germans in 1940, he escaped three years later and witnessed the liberation of Paris and the return of prisoners-of-war.
In 1947 he joined two colleagues at the newspaper Ce Soir, Robert Capa and David Seymour, to found Magnum Photos, which for decades set the standard for photographic reportage around the world.
Cartier-Bresson was on the scene at the start of Communism in China and the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in India. Among the famous names who have sat for him are Jean-Paul Sartre, Carson McCullers, Barbara Hepworth, Henri Matisse, Edith Piaf and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
He left Magnum in 1966 to concentrate on portraiture, landscapes and drawing.
Last year the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation was opened in the Montparnasse district of Paris, housing more than 1,000 original prints as well as contact sheets, films, manuscripts and correspondence. It also offers exhibition space for up-and-coming photographers.
At the same time a retrospective show of his work at the National Library drew tens of thousands of visitors.
A visitor looks at Cartier-Bresson's photographas at the "Kunstverein Duesseldorf" museum
Among the celebrated images on display were the mustachioed, bowler-hatted man caught peeping through the canvas surround at a sporting event in Brussels in 1932; a female prisoner denouncing a Gestapo informer in 1945; a boyish Truman Capote in 1947 and children playing near the Berlin Wall in 1962.
There were also a recent self-portrait in his flat overlooking the capital's Tuileries gardens, snaps taken with his parents or in
captivity in Germany in the war, and a poster from his first exhibition -- in New York City 71 years ago.