The paradox of photography, its unpredictable generosity and democratic inclusiveness is exemplified in the story of Jacques-Henri Lartigue. Late in his life, Lartigue would be hailed as one of the founders of modern photography. In reality, he was the ultimate amateur, who in a remarkable series of family albums assembled a portrait of turn-of-the-century France, as it appeared to the eyes of a fun-loving boy, from the age of 8 to 18.
"He is essentially the gifted amateur. He has got access to all the best equipment, the state art equipment, he has a father who is passionate about photography, he is a subscriber to all of these magazines – he's just got all the advantages. But he is also, throughout his entire life, you understand this about him - that he understands the look of the world at any given moment; he understands how things look; how women look at a certain period in time; and how to capture the essence of that moment, whatever form that's in."
Kevin Moore (Lartigue biographer)
Striking though they are, Lartigue's pictures are not without precedent. Instant photography, which arrested movement for humorous effect, was a cliché of the amateur repertoire. Lartique simply did what everyone else was doing, but with more flair and more daring.
"All the jumping and flying in Lartigue's photographs, it looks like the whole world at the turn of the century is on springs or something. There's a kind of spirit of liberation that's happening at the time and Lartigue matches that up with what stop action photography can do at the time, so you get these really dynamic pictures. And for Lartigue part of the joke, most of the time, is that these people look elegant but they are doing these crazy stunts." Kevin Moore (Lartigue biographer)