Henri Cartier-Bresson was eldest of five children born to a wealthy textile manufacturer. The family lived in Paris and spent part of the year in Normandy. His parents supported his interest in photography, though they assumed he would later join the family business. He attended École Fénelon, and the Lycée Condorcet, before entering art school. In 1928-1929, he attended the University of Cambridge, where he studied English, art and literature, and became bilingual. Eventually, he turned from painting to photography as a career and became the father of modern photojournalism. He was an early adopter of the 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the street photography or life reportage style that influenced most subsequent professional photographers. His 1952 book Images à la sauvette, whose English title was The Decisive Moment, contains the quote that gave its name to this style of photography: "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment." The book included 126 of his photos, and had a cover drawn by Henri Matisse. Cartier-Bresson's work took him all across the globe, and he became the first Western photographer to photograph freely in the post-war Soviet Union. He was a principal of the Magnum photo agency, worked for Vogue, and also produced portraiture and landscapes.
In the early 1970s, he retired from photography and returned to his earlier passion for drawing and painting.