Henri Cartier-Bresson was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940. After two unsuccessful attempts, he managed to escape in 1943. During this time, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, assuming that the photographer had died in the war, started preparing what they thought was a posthumous exhibition of his work.
When he reappeared, Cartier-Bresson was delighted to learn of the exhibition, and decided to review his entire work and curate it himself. In 1946 he travelled to New York with about 300 prints in his suitcase, bought a scrapbook, glued each one in, and brought that album to MoMA’s curators. His first exhibition, a celebration of his survival, opened on 4 February 1947.
In the 1990s, Cartier-Bresson once again returned to this scrapbook. Following his death in 2004, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, the present owner of the prints, finished restoring them, making it possible to bring a large body of extraordinary, hitherto unpublished work to the public, images that have finally become a memorial collection after all.