Wife of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martine Franck, dies at 74

Paris, 20 August 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Belgian photographer Martine Franck, former wife of renowned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), died last week of cancer in Paris at age 74.

Member of the Magnum Photos agency since 1983, she was co-founder and president of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation. The Minister of Culture, Aurélie Filippetti, paid homage to Franck saying she had “a very beautiful and lucid vision of the world, one of a witness who is also an artist”, as reported by the Libération newspaper.

Born in Antwerp in 1938, Franck grew up in the US and England before studying art history in Madrid and then at the École du Louvre. Starting off with a job working for the photo lab Time-Life, she became an independent photographer in 1965 and sold her photos to diverse publications such as Life, Fortune, and Vogue. In 2010, she told The Times, that the “photographer’s life suits my curiosity about people and human situations”. Joining Vu Photo Agency in 1970, she co-founded Viva agency soon after.

Producing primarily portraits of artists, writers and humanitarian documentaries, she also worked as photographer for the Theatre du Soleil since its establishment in 1964 and collaborated with the non-profit International Federation of Little Brothers of the Poor since 1985.

Participating in Magnum group projects since 2004, she has also published several books, including Martine Franck: One Day to the Next (Aperture, 2005); Martine Franck (Actes Sud, 2007), and Women/Femmes (Steidl, 2010).

Founding the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in 2002, currently located near Montparnasse in Paris, she made the decision to sell a hundred of his works to Christie’s France for €2 million to finance the move of the Foundation into a bigger location.

Her work was featured recently in exhibitions in Galerie Claude Bernard and at the Maison européénne de la photographie in Paris.

Chris Boot, Executive Director of Aperture Foundation, who worked for Magnum Photos from 1990 to 1998, remembers Franck as “a wonderful, elegant, generous woman, of great taste and culture, who always seemed to put other people’s interests before her own.” He added, “She will be sorely missed by many of us in the photo community, especially of course in Magnum.”