Henri-Jacques Lartigue, born in Courbevoie near Paris on June 13, 1894, was a pioneer of snapshot photography and at the same time a chronicler of life in France from the "Belle Époque" through "Art Deco" and into the 1980’s.
Lartigue grew up in a wealthy family in Paris, and at eight years of age he received a camera as a gift. With it, Lartigue wanted to document the happy moments of his life. The free-time activities of the affluent family were diverse: auto racing, tobogganing, kite-flying, butterfly chasing – Lartigue experienced a happy, idyllic childhood and youth. He organized his photographs carefully in his diaries, which were kept at the same time.
In this way, he filled album after album until the end of his life, and he produced a photographic autobiography as well as a chronicle of the noisy life of the upper layer of society. His pictures are snapshots, fleeting moments captured – some of them distinguished by the blur of movement (for example "Grand Prix des Automobile-Club de France").
From 1908-10, Lartigue captured many aviation pioneers as a member of the Air Team. In addition, he photographed fine Parisian society – elegant gentlemen, ladies with wide-brimmed hats, at the races, at extravagant amusements. After 1910, he also shot a few short films with a movie camera.
Henri-Jacques Lartigue wanted to become a painter, and after 1915 he studied at the Académie Julian. He became friends with Van Dongen, Cocteau and Picasso, of whom he also took camera portraits. In general, he remained true to photography even as a rather successful painter.
In addition he worked for a time as an editorial assistant and still photographer in film. In 1950, Lartigue’s photographic work was discovered. Journals published his pictures; his portraits in particular of Picasso and Cocteau drew international attention. His breakthrough came in 1963 with an exhibit in the MoMA and a report in Life, followed by a large retrospective in France (1975). Lartigue signed over his entire photographic oeuvre to the French state – in all approximately 130 albums, thousands of prints, and hundreds of thousands of negatives.
Henri-Jacques Lartigue died in Nice on September 12, 1986.