What do you say about a man who lived 92 years photographing, chronicling and presenting exceptional living on film? Brilliant? That’ll work.
He got his first camera when he was 7. He hung out with Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, worked on film sets with François Truffaut and Federico Fellini, and still inspires Wes Anderson. He had three wives and a mistress whom he photographed constantly and beautifully. He was born into privilege where he took unstudied, joy-filled snapshots of friends, family and their life of seaside jaunts, going to sporting events and picnics in the park that exude a casual, unspoiled delight for living life to the fullest that was counter to the portraiture of the era.
He was a painter by profession, a photographer by passion. He was “discovered” at the age of 69 and had his first show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He took a photograph of Bette Davis that is so glamorous, yet so hauntingly accessible you feel as if the two of you will be sharing a martini and a smoke at any moment.
He was able to separate the painter from the photographer in his work, realizing how the “pose” in all its classic glory played flawlessly on canvas while showing the movement of his subjects and even landscapes at their most real and most alive through the camera made what he shot more divine. He began working with autochrome color when it was still so new, so fresh, that his hued stills seem to be richer, more authentic because of what the painter in him was experiencing as a photographer in his time.
He discovered that a picture may be worth a thousand words, but writing his perspectives on each snapshot brought them alive in a way that made experiencing them more meaningful and, well, perfect. And in his lifetime, he created over 100,000 photographs, 7000 pages of diary, and 1500 paintings.
He is Jacques-Henri Lartigue, born in Courbevoie, France, on June 13, 1894 and died in Nice, France, on September 12th, 92 years later. And in all that time, the child that had been wooed and inspired by a camera so large he had to stand on a stool to use it kept his wide-eyed exuberance alive in every frame captured in countless shutter clicks.
Jacques-Henri’s art lives forever in all of its delicious whimsy through his distinctive photographs. And as such, so does he, if you believe such things.
And, yes. We believe such things.