In front of the lens are Lartigue’s family and friends. Much of the charm surrounding his photographs come from their spontaneous feel – as if he is capturing a light-hearted moment of joy or excitement with those he is closest to rather than a meticulously staged piece. His subjects are running and jumping, they, and the photographs, exude an irrepressible spirit and joie de vivre.
Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was given a camera at the age of 8 and from then on documented every aspect of his life. However, Lartigue thought of himself primarily as a painter and began painting to earn a living in 1918. It was not until 1963, at the age of 69, that he was ‘discovered’ as a photographer. A selection of his work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1974 he was commissioned by the President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, to take his official portrait. Yet, perhaps most valuable are his amazing body of photographs that filled numerous albums which documented the beauty and spontaneity of those that surrounded him, and the beauty and spontaneity of life itself. In 1979 he donated his work to the French nation, becoming the first living photographer to do so.
Jacques-Henri Lartigue continued his work as a photographer, painter and writer until his death in Nice on September 12 1986, he was 92 years old. He left behind more than 100,000 photographs, 7,000 pages of diary and 1,500 paintings.