Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the 20th Century's most important photographers, has died just weeks before he would have celebrated his 96th birthday.
Cartier-Bresson was regarded as a pioneering photojournalist
Friends said the photographer, who became known for his ground-breaking street photography, died in the town of Cereste, south-east France.
He was buried in a private ceremony in the town, reports said.
The publicity-shy photographer was a founding member of the Magnum picture agency in 1947.
Regarded as one of the pioneers of photojournalism, his pictures now hang in art galleries around the world.
Friend and fellow photographer Lord Snowdon paid tribute to him on Wednesday.
"He was brilliant, I will miss him very much," he told BBC News 24.
"I don't think he'd like his work to be called art, he would like to be remembered as an anonymous figure. His books record moments that can't be captured again."
French President Jacques Chirac said his death was a major loss to his country.
"With him, France loses a genius photographer, a true
master, and one of the most gifted artists of his
generation and most respected in the world," he said.
Born in 1908 in Chanteloup, near Paris, Cartier-Bresson initially studied art before taking to photography in the 1930s.
His photography for Magnum was world-renowned
He helped transform what had been regarded as little more than a gentlemanly hobby into a bona fide profession.
He also coined the phrase "decisive moment" in photography, referring to the split second of timing that helped transform a picture into an iconic image.
He called it "the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression".
He was a student of Surrealist art before becoming interested in photography. In 1931 he moved to Africa, where he lived as a hunter for a year.
On his return to Paris he revolutionised street photography with his images taken with the Leica rangefinder, the first 35mm camera.
He worked across Europe, but in 1940 was imprisoned by the Germans after the occupation of France. He escaped three years later and witnessed the liberation of Paris.
In 1947 he set up the Magnum agency with two other ground-breaking photojournalists, Robert Capa and David Seymour.
The agency forged a name for hard-hitting news photography. Cartier-Bresson spent almost 20 years there, covering Mao Zedong's victory in China and the death in India of nationalist movement leader Mahatma Gandhi.
Celebrities who sat for him included artist Henri Matisse, singer Edith Piaf and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.