He’s the ultimate amateur’s amateur; a pure photographer apparently born to take pictures. (And born, I might add with a silver spoon in his mouth to a wealthy French family in 1894 that could finance his photographic habit, but it’s impossible to hold that against him considering the incredible body of work.) He started at the age of seven and never stopped; he was discovered when he was well past 60 and has since become a photograph icon himself.
Very simply, he shot photographs for himself. In the end they made other people happy, too. He essentially documented a century. Early aviation and auto-racing history, fashionable turn of the century French society, his family being silly for his camera.
Perhaps no one has ever taken photographs more lovingly. And he turned his love into something we can all see and treasure. Photography was in his genes.
Here’s one of my favorite things ever written by a photographer about another photographer. Richard Avedon, another photographic god, wrote this about his friend, Jacques-Henri Lartigue. (The photograph of the two of them was taken by Lartigue’s wife, Florette.)From the earliest possible age Lartigue kept a little diary. At the top of each page there was always a little drawing of the sun or a cloud…and some initials: T.B., B., T.T.B. They stood for Trés beau. Beau. Trés trés beau… That was the weather. It was always a good day. It almost never rained. Ever… And then there would be a quick description of what he did that day. Who visited the house. Where they went… And half the page devoted to drawings of what he’d photographed, because developing was a very risky process and often the pictures didn’t come out. So, afraid that he might never see the pictures that he’d taken, he would draw from memory what he’d photographed. And in the diaries, which went on for many years, you can see the photographs that have since become masterpieces…drawn. And the miracle of these little drawings is that he had captured exactly the way a scarf had been caught by the wind the moment he clicked the shutter. And they’re accurate. Absolutely accurate. Which means a perfect memory…and a complete sense of what he wanted. And this obsessiveness went on every year of his life. The files. The scrapbooks. They’re all over the apartment. The perfection of those files. In a second, he can find any glass negative…1911- neatly kept in perfect condition.
Jacque-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was a French photograph best known for his personal photographs of the early 20th century.