Born in 1908, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson came of age when small, handheld cameras were giving artists and adventurers unprecedented access to the entire world.
Cartier-Bresson began to travel at age 22 and didn't stop for nearly half a century, always with camera in hand.
The Museum of Modern Art - which like Cartier-Bresson did so much to define visual art in the 20th century - has launched a retrospective of six decades of work by whom curator Peter Galassi calls "one of the most talented photographers who ever lived."
The retrospective - the first since his death in 2004 at age 95 - features 300 black-and-white prints from 1929 to 1989, a fifth of which have never been seen before by the public.
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As a founder of the Magnum photo agency, Cartier-Bresson made it a point to witness the epic events of the last century - among them, the liberation of the Nazi death camps, the Communist revolution in China, Gandhi's funeral.
But he always strove to do more than record the news.
His photos, Galassi says, reveal an attention to unfamiliar angles, extreme close-ups and patterns of light and shade.
From the chaos around him, Cartier-Bresson extracted timeless images of clarity - what he famously referred in his influential 1952 book as the "decisive moment."
The wide range of material is brilliantly organized into 13 thematic sections - although the thrills begin at the entrance to the exhibit, where the museum has charted his journeys across the globe.
Despite Cartier-Bresson's access to people of power, some of the most affecting images are of everyday life beginning in the 1930s when, "I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to 'trap' life - to preserve life in the act of living."
One photo from that time was taken from the top of a stairway in Hyeres, France. It captures a bicyclist careering down a cobblestone street, the curve of the road echoed by a curve in the railing.
He was also an accomplished portraitist, photographing artists and intellectuals, including Matisse, William Faulkner and George Balanchine. When sitters would ask how long the session would take, he would reply: "Longer than the dentist but shorter than the psychoanalyst."
One of the best things about this great show is the chance to see so many images that were unavailable to the public, thanks to a loan of 220 prints from the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris.
Although the negatives are decades old, they are remarkably fresh and vital - a lasting tribute to the genius of the man who made them.