Jean-Philippe Charbonnier was born in 1921 in Paris. He received his baccalaureate degree in Philosophy from the lycée Condorcet in Paris in 1939. A self-taught photographer, Mr Charbonnier apprenticed under cinema portraitist Sam Lévin before going to work for the Parisian newspaper Libération in 1944. From 1950 to 1975, he worked for Réalités magazine, after which he worked as a freelance photographer. Mr Charbonnier taught photography in Paris at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Graphiques and also in England. In 1983, he was given the Vermeil Medal by the city of Paris. He died in 2004 in Grasse, France.
Mr Charbonnier worked as a freelance photographer for WHO in the 1960s. He was tasked in 1964 to document the facilities and personalities of the Organization's headquarters in Geneva. These photographs were published in the summer 1966 issue of World Health, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new headquarters building.
"It took me 30 years and a lot of pain to discover the truth of what Henri Cartier-Bresson always said. One should only use one camera with one lens that coincides with your angle of vision, with the same film at its normal speed. The rest is just gimmick and hardware."
-- Jean-Philippe Charbonnier. In: Colin Naylor, ed. Contemporary Photographers, Chicago and London, St. James, 1998.