Cartier-Bresson was 36 years old at the time the photo was taken and had been taking photographs since 1931. He had also worked in filmmaking and had assisted the celebrated French director Jean Renoir on two of his films.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Cartier-Bresson joined the French Army’s film and photo unit. His work involved filming and photographing artillery fire, road bombardments and troop movements. However, in June 1940, he was taken prisoner by the German army and was held for more than three years, most of which were spent doing hard manual labour.
He tried to escape three times and succeeded at the third attempt, returning to France with forged papers. Before being captured, Cartier-Bresson had buried his beloved Leica in farmland in France. One of the first things he did after escaping was to return to the farm and dig it up. He later photographed the liberation of Paris in the summer of 1944 while working as a war correspondent. Continue reading Henri Cartier-Bresson: Gestapo Informer Identified, Dessau, Germany, April, 1945