Perhaps the best way for artists to live creatively is to push themselves further and further, until something special happens. Such was the case for Jacques-Henri Lartigue, who went from taking documentary-style shots of sporting events, to making abstract paintings, and eventually to developing photographs with a deep surrealistic quality.

The images that Lartigue captured were oftentimes fleeting moments, sometimes never to be seen again. Though posed, his photographs have a sense of motion and energy about them. Like a snapshot in time, his images captured individuals at their most carefree and happy.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue, or Jacques-Henri-Charles-Auguste Lartigue, was born on June 13, 1894 in Courbevoie, France, near Paris. He is a painter and photographer best known for the spontaneous and joyful photographs he took as a youngster and throughout his life.

Lartigue was born into an affluent French family. He was introduced to photography as early as the year 1900 by his father, Henri Lartigue, who gave him his first camera in 1902.

Lartigue also studied painting at the Académie Julian in Paris from 1915 to 1916 and considered himself, first and foremost, a painter. But he eventually established a reputation as a photographer.

Photographs by Jacques-Henri Lartigue have captured a collective memory of the sporting events they memorialize. These photographs have evolved from simple images of sporting events to symbols of greatness and mythological representations.

Moreover, his photographs offer a unique window into sports, particularly the burgeoning automobile and aviation industries. His images capture a time when France dominated in these fields, revealing the hopes, desires, and ambitions surrounding this era.

More than just a photographer, Lartigue took many artistic risks throughout his career that left behind a legacy of works that spoke to not only his photographic techniques but also the world around him. In a short period of time, he used his camera to capture key events and personalities that defined him as an artist, and contributed to a significant chapter in the history of photography.

The way Jacques-Henri Lartigue viewed the world was different than any other. He had the ability to view objects and events as three-dimensional, not only through their physical form, but also with a sense of motion to them. This approach ultimately led him to document many of the great technological advances during the early twentieth century, including cars, planes, and fashion photography.

Lartigue’s work was revolutionary in its time, and his approach to capturing motion was decades ahead of his photographic contemporaries. He profoundly impacted the art of photography, and future generations will be forever grateful for the images he left behind.

Throughout his career, Lartigue experimented with the limits of each medium. For many years he worked in platinum print, which suited his brightly lit subject matter ideally. Lartigue had a highly social lifestyle and an outgoing personality, traits that likely affected his output as a photographer. Many of his photographs were candid shots, and he was known to follow friends and family around taking pictures. This did not stop him from trying new things, however.

Ultimately, Lartigue’s work is a testament to the photographer’s ability to transcend the limitations of the technology of his time to capture what was meaningful to him. His body of work is characterized by spontaneity, humor, and creativity—a rare combination that transforms his works into meaningful images.

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