French photographer and painter known for his photographs of the first airplanes, fast car races and Parisian women at the turn of the 20th Century.
At the turn of the 20th century, the camera had a special fascination for certain people who were young and privileged.
Photography was a hobby only for the rich in those days. It was expensive and the equipment was rare.
Most of these amateurs began taking pictures of their family and friends that was the extent of their photography.
But some were either sufficiently driven or sufficiently talented to carry their cameras beyond their immediate environment and into the world at large.
Jacques-Henri Lartigue was one of them.
Lartigue began photographing and keeping a journal when he was eight years old.
The pictures in his first journal were from his daily life; family picnics, birthday parties and most importantly photographing his father’s passion, automobiles.
The sense of power that acceleration in the family’s Hispano Sulza (astounding 80 kilometers per hour) inspired little Lartigue to photograph the automobile races.
As he grew older, he became more interested in girls. In his journal he wrote “a new idea: that I should go to the park to photograph those women who have the most eccentric and beautiful hats.”
Within a year he added a new note saying “instead of drawing racing autos, lions and palm trees, I now draw women” Women.. everything about them fascinates me – their dresses, their scent, the way they walk, the make-up on their faces, their hands full of rings and, above all, their hats”.
“She: the well dressed, eccentric, elegant, ridiculous or beautiful woman I’m waiting for… There she comes! I am timid… I tremble a little… twenty meters… ten meters… five meters… click!.. My camera makes such a noise that the lady jumps… almost as much as I do. That doesn’t matter, except when she’s in the company of a big man who is furious and starts to scold me as if I were a naughty child. That really makes me very angry, but I try to smile. The pleasure of having taken another photograph makes up for everything!.. The gentleman I’ll forget. The picture I will keep”.
While glowering men appear in a number of his photographs, it is really the women who terrified him the most. Still, he persists ”there comes a very, very beautiful one, with a little girl and another lady. She comes closer. I focus… and click! I hope the photo will be sharp, it was all so fast”.
His journal together with his early photographs were discovered in 1963 when he was 69.
In 1970, some excerpts of both his journals and pictures were collected under the title Diary of a Century which became one the most popular photography books of the day.
Jacques Henri Latrigue is regarded as one of the forefathers of Street Photography as well as one of the forefathers of fashion photography.
His photographs inspired famous photographers like Henri Cartier Bresson.
He left behind the photographs of elegantly dressed women on the Paris streets that gives us an idea about the fashion at the turn of the twentieth century.