Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography, and an early user of 35mm film. He pioneered the genre of street photography, and viewed photography as capturing a decisive moment. He socialized with the Surrealists at the Café Cyrano in Paris and learnt from their urge to access the subconscious by seeking the uncanny within the everyday.
In early 1947, he co-founded Magnum Photos, a cooperative picture agency owned by its members. The team split photo assignments amongst themselves and their mission was to "feel the pulse" of the times. Cartier-Bresson had travelled widely on assignments, most productively to India and China.
In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published his book Images à la sauvette, whose English-language edition was titled The Decisive Moment, although the French language title actually translates as "images on the run", Images à la sauvette included a portfolio of 126 of his photos from the East and the West. The book's cover was drawn by Henri Matisse who was famous for his paper gouache cut out technique. In addition to Matisse, Cartier-Bresson was also friends with Jean Cocteau and Joan Miró, who designed the cover for his book “The Europeans” three years later.
For his 4,500-word philosophical preface, Cartier-Bresson took his keynote text from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz, "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment". Cartier-Bresson applied this to his photographic style. He said: "To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.".
Cartier-Bresson was always searching for equilibrium and geometry. A rare original document by Tabard which was shown at the Chicago exhibition in 1948 constructs and discusses a photograph by Cartier-Bresson ("Mariage à Joinville-le-Pont, France", 1938) showing the geometric structure of his photographs. Tabard argues that they are not only humanitarian documents but also geometric constructions. “If the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless.”