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Remembering Martine Franck

Martine Franck, a Belgian photographer known for understatement and elegance in her work, died at age 74 after a long battle with cancer on Thursday.

Photographer Elliott Erwitt, a good friend and colleague of Franck’s at Magnum Photos, said what characterized her the most was the modesty and intellect not usually found in photographers.

“She was the classic kind of photographer,” Erwitt said. “The old guard."

She joined the French photography agency Vu in 1970, helped found Viva agency two years later and joined Magnum Photos, one of the first photo cooperatives, in 1980. She married Henri Cartier-Bresson, a fellow world-renowned photographer and one of the co-founders of Magnum, and together they started the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation two years before he passed in 2004.

Franck took portraits of artists and writers but mainly focused on humanitarian projects. Erwitt said she spoke many languages and called her an activist.

“She had her hand on the pulse of many things," he said.

Before launching her photography career, Franck studied art history at the University of Madrid and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. She got her foot in the door of the photography world as the assistant to Eliot Elisofon and Gjon Mili at Life magazine.

“I was very shy as a young girl and photography gave me a function in any situation,” Franck told The New York Times in a 2010 interview. “The way of life also suits my curiosity about people and human situations.”

Alex Majoli, president of Magnum Photos, wrote: “Magnum has lost a point of reference, a lighthouse, and one of our most influential and beloved members with her death.”

- Lauren Russell, CNN