Jacques-Henry Lartigue: Frozen in Time

Jacques-Henri Lartigue was born in Courbevoie, France, on 13 June 1894. After receiving his first camera at the age of seven, Lartigue’s photographs, mostly taken as a child or young adult, document the activities of the European leisured classes before the First World War with singular wit and style. In 1911, his family moved to Paris, and he began photographing the fashionable people of the Bois de Boulogne, so recording the urban sophistication of Europe’s most glamorous city.

This photograph, taken of Suzanne Lenglen in 1915 in Nice, France, illustrates Lartigue’s principal photographic interest: the camera’s ability to freeze time. By the early 20th century, portable cameras had become commonplace, thanks in part to Kodak’s famous, hand-held ‘Brownie’ camera. Although he did not use a Brownie himself, Lartique, and other photographers of his time, took advantage of the faster shutter-speeds that enabled these cameras to be hand-held, and used them to make images that had not been possible before. They were suddenly able to become masters of time and movement. In 1963, the photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, John Szarkowski, rediscovered Lartigue’s works, and held him a retrospective exhibition.

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