French cinematographer Henri Alekan first studied optics before becoming an assistant cameraman in 1925. Three years later he was promoted to camera operator. During the early years of WWII, he was captured and imprisoned while fighting. Upon his escape from the POW camp in 1940, he became a French Resistance fighter. The next year, he began working as a full-fledged cinematographer, but did not shoot his first major film until late 1945. The film, Le Bataille du Rail, was a documentary directed by René Clément. Alekan was a versatile lighting director able to shoot a wide variety of styles with a deceptive ease ranging from costume fantasies to serious contemporary drama. In the late '50s, Alekan began directing short films.