The word “Amateur” has 2 meanings in itself. The first being the antonym to professional and refers to those who pursue something based on love instead of reward. In this sense, it identifies the most sophisticated in a particular field. Many of photography’s great names can be found in this, notably the French photographer and painter Jacques Henri – Lartigue.
Jacques – Henri Lartigue’s work was hardly known beyond a small circle of associates until the 1960’s, yet he produced a huge body of work, exciting photographs between 1902 and 1940’s. His work was made for purely private reasons: his wives and lovers all carefully assembled in journals and albums.
Lartigue was a child when he began to make impressive images with a large format plate camera in 1902, when he was 8 years old. Despite the apparent limitations of the medium, his pictures delight in movement and capture the spirit of play and simple domestic pleasures.
Lartigue did little more than photograph his life and his work encapsulates his obsession with happiness. Whether illustrating his brother’s fascination with flying machines, elegant women in the Bois de Boulogne, a day at the French Grand Prix in 1912 or delighting in the languorous form of kids on the beach at Biarritz. Lartigue photographed the pleasures of a gilded lifestyle. Egoistic, certainly but intriguing nonetheless for its effortless composition and delight in pleasure for its own sake. Even though his style seems free of technical considerations, Lartigue had fully mastered the medium to the point where art and craft meet seamlessly.
Here are a few of my favourite images by Lartigue.