06 February 2008

Lartigue: Album of a Century

14. Lartigue: Album of a Century by Jacques Henri Lartigue. Edited by Martine d'Astier, Quentin Bajac, and Alain Sayag; with essays by Clément Cheroux, Maryse Cordesse, and Kevin Moore; translated from the French by David Wharry. (4/5)

The essays take up a small portion of the hefty 400 page coffee table book, but they give a sense of Lartigue's life. Some references within them are redundant. The photos and reproductions of his photo album pages are arranged chronologically. Lartigue's body of photography spans from 1900 (when he was six) to his death in 1986.

For most of his life he was an amateur photographer (a mighty prolific one) until he was "discovered" in the early 1960s when he was almost seventy. Friends and family frozen mid-air, early planes attempting to take off, race cars with bicycle-like tires, women of high fashion during the Belle Epoque and of the 1960s, life at the Riviera, and more: Lartigue shot it all hoping to concretize his memories. He made up 110 photo albums throughout his life.

Though my high school French was good enough to read most of Lartigue's notations and captions in the diary and album page reproductions, they are all translated in the timeline at the back of the book and referenced by page number. Further biographical information and photographic details are also included there. That bit's well worth reading.

The photos are the real essence of the book though, and Lartigue: Album of a Century is beautifully made to show them off.

Two years ago on TTaT: Rude, moi?
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  1. Sometimes I'm nostalgic for that time (which is before my time) when there wasn't an obvious line between amateurs and professionals in the arts. Here's to just slinging a camera over your shoulder and not worrying about the MFA.

  2. Absolutely, but then maybe that time never existed... Lartigue spent a huge chunk of his life (aside from his man-of-leisure days afforded by his family's affluence) painting because that was an accepted, prestigious art form. Photography wasn't considered legit for a long time.