Cartier-Bresson was one of the great portraitists of the 20th century. Throughout his far-flung travels, he was alert to every opportunity to add to his pantheon of photographs of notable people—mostly artists and writers—which eventually numbered nearly one thousand. He preferred to capture his sitters at home. When asked how long a session would take, he liked to answer, “Longer than the dentist but shorter than the psychoanalyst.”
Cartier-Bresson’s essential subject was social life, but he also had a keen eye for beauty—especially in women—and cultivated photography’s capacity to produce lovely images from whatever is at hand, no matter how banal or ugly.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Irène and Frédèric Joliot-Curie, Paris, 1945. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer. — 2010 Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.