Discuss a Jacques-Henri Lartigue Photograph

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by Kino, Aug 13, 2006.

  1. Kino

    Kino Member

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    (sorry, I have no way to host this now, so click below)

    Sure, it is probably a cliche to say you like this photograph, but it is one of my most favorite images of all times.

    The photograph screams speed and the distortion of space by velocity. For that alone, I find it... wonderful.

    Not the greatest critique in the World.


    "Car Trip, Papa at 80 kilometers an hour" (1913)


    "Scan courtesy of Masters of Photography "
     

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  2. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    IMO one of the 10 greatest photographs ever made. According to what he later told St. Ansel, Lartigue, (who was still in his teens when me made it), know the result he would get by panning his camera as its vertical focal-plane shutter descended across the film plane. Thus, everything from the oval wheels to the leaning spectators was intentional. I don't believe that anyone else has ever done anything like it (although, of course, all racing cars photographed at speed with a Graflex or Zeiss Contax have oval wheels).
     
  3. tim atherton

    tim atherton Inactive

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    I love that he took this when he wa sonly 16 or 17 and that his best and most influential photographs comes from the years he was still just a "youth"
     
  4. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    It's one of the few really superb examples in the medium of the confluence between technology and aesthetic...!

    (i.e. - an early focal plane shutter creating a distortion that really makes for a communicative and transcendent image)
     
  5. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Lartigue is a unique figure in photography. He came from a well-to-do family, all of whose members seemed to have been obsessed with technology, he himself seem to have had an intuitive understanding of how a camera worked (as Bill Mitchell mentions), and he took to photography like a duck to water but without having his imagination cramped in any way by any ideas of the "right" way to take "proper" photographs. The results I think have an undiluted enthusiasm and energy and a strength of personal vision which I really can't recall seeing anywhere else.
     
  6. Kino

    Kino Member

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  7. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Your post spurred me to grab a book off the shelf that has a number of his images. Looking at those pictures makes me think of someone who always seemed to have a child's sense of wonder of the world around him.
     
  8. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    yeah - don't they all!!! Bastards.

    LOL
     
  9. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Really agree with the view that this image is probably one of the best photos ever made. Simply fantastic usage of available gear at the time, and fully intentional in rendering. It would be tough to criticize the image at all, except maybe that it remained relatively unknown for such a long time.

    What amazes me is the relative lack of progress of so many photographers after the time of this image. While we obviously have many great photographs that come after this time period, there are rare exceptions that express a scene in a uniquely photographic way. What I mean by that is had an illustrator or painter been near that seen at that same moment, the resulting image would have very likely been quite different.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
    http://www.allgstudio.com
     
  10. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hard to dislike Lartigue! Full of life, and as someone said, childlike wonder.
     
  11. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    This photograph is one of my all time favourites, too. One of those photographs which can be distilled into one word: Speed!

    I think what JHL said (reportedly when he was 7 or 8 years old) also sums up something essential: “It's marvellous, marvellous! Nothing will ever be as much fun. I'm going to photograph everything, everything!”

    I still get a kick out of that photograph and those words. The wonder of the world still lies in front of us.
     
  12. Timothy

    Timothy Member

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    What I like about all of the work from Lartigue that I have seen, is that it succeeds so wonderfully at being both an interesting/amusing artistic expression (to me it seems like poetry), while at the same time being a truly revealing "documentary" glimpse of the times that he lived in and of the social class he lived in. It is obvious that he was not worried about the mundane details of how to pay his bills because there is so much playfulness and beauty in his images. This might be because he was well off, financially, or just because he was playful and carefree by nature. I prefer to think the latter (for no real reason). It makes me think of Doisneau who also worked in Paris but a little bit later than Lartigue. The other important difference is of course that Doisneau was a professional photojournalist who very much needed to keep the bills paid. But still, when you look at lots of his work you see a real sense of humour and love of life. The difference is that the world of Doisneau is working class, and the world of Lartigue is aristocratic. To find someone with the skills and motivation of Doisneau in the working class is to be expected, really. But, to find someone like that in the aristocratic world is unique. That could be a whole other discussion itself.
    The thing that matters, I think, is that all of these people succeeded so well at giving us a "window" on their world. I am including the work of Lee Friedlander here, which is actually discussed in a separate thread. The thing is that many people have said they do not find the Friedlander stuff to be artistically interesting, or something like that. Well, fair enough, but you can not deny that he susseeded in showing us what his world was like - not just what it looked like, but what it looked like to him - and perhaps his "poetic vision" is just not as appealing to many people as that of Lartigue.

    Tim R
     
  13. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
    "He came from a well-to-do family."
    Adams: wealthy family on the way down, married heir to concession in Yosemite who supported them. Arbus and Avedon: Fathers owned high-class clothing stores in NYC. Bourke-White: wealthy family. Cartier-Bresson: one of the "Great Families of France." Eisenstadt: poor immigrant, well-to-do family lost everything in post WW1 German inflation. Walker Evans: Father was successful stockbroker. Karsh: penniless immigrant. Kertesz: Banking family, came to America broke, wife developed wildly successful cosmetic business. Dorothea Lange: mother was social worker, father deserted them, she married tenured professor. Gene Smith: father made fortune in grain elevators, lost everything, committed suicide for the life insurance. Steichen: self-made, had very poor immigrant parents. Stieglitz: Rich father, married successful painter O'Keefe. Strand: Father was wealthy importer. Weston: family were upper-middle class professionals, he married one of the land-owning California Chandler family who raised the children and partially supported him until his second marriage.
    Several of these people lived in abject poverty, but had family resources to fall back on.
     
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  15. GraemeMitchell

    GraemeMitchell Member

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    money still doesn't buy talent, vision, work ethic, personality, charm, style, and so on and so forth. all qualities the greats had and have in droves.
     
  16. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    It would seem almost a given that many (most?) early photographers would come from families with "means". Who else would have had the resources to purchase cameras, equipment, chemicals, film/plates etc.? [Same could probably said for many painters etc.]

    Only after Kodak (and others) came out with the simple box camera did it become an instrument available to the middle and working classes - and even then there was the cost of film and developing etc.
     
  17. mark

    mark Member

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    But it buys you the ability to chase a dream. What most folks back then were not able to do. Sure is a different world now.

    About the image-First time ever heard of the guy. Great image, great feeling. Thanks for posting.
     
  18. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I love his work.

    The car/speed photograph always brings a smile to my face in the cartoon type look of the wheels and the sort of hunched over huddled intensity of the drivers.

    A lot of his work is a fantasy time in the affluent carefree days of the 30s (for some) that is so classy and elegant. Like the Fred Astaire movies like Top Hat and the great Art Deco period. Before WW2 and everything came crashing down.

    Great stuff.


    Michael
     
  19. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    It works so well because it reminds you of a time when speed was visual and thrilling in a way it isn't today. Stirling Moss summed it up for me when he said that grand prix racing lost something when spectators could no longer see the driver's arms and his facial expression as he fought with the wheel.

    pentaxuser
     
  20. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    Well here's a photographer's work that you can just pour over. There's something in every photograph that speaks in volumes. I really enjoy his work. Interesting that although he was a young man this image stands up with any great photographer of any age.
     
  21. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Lartique was a master at laughing at the pretensions of the wealthy society about him, the Victorian women in elegant clothing, the scenes he and his brother Zissou set up, the world falling in love with automobiles and airplanes. He documented many of the early European flying machines. Later he and his model girlfriend Renee were great friends of Jean Bugatti and the wealthy racing crowd.

    John Powers
     
  22. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    To be honest I'd forgotten about him.

    I went to Borders and tried to find a book but they had only one and it wasn't the one I'd seen before so I'm going to order one.

    For some reason I'm drawn to the period between the wars although he did a lot more than that. Also I'm drawn to the elite of the time. I watch Peroit on BBC or Biography Channel every week and and love the period.

    I think the 1920-1930s were one of the most interesting times of that century. Don't know why but a lot of great writers and artists came out of that time.


    Michael
     
  23. Kino

    Kino Member

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    I guess the server migration stripped the image out of the original posting... bummer.
     
  24. Kino

    Kino Member

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    A final observation; I find his work totally refreshing in that I cannot detect a hint of cynicism in any of his photos. I don't recall a time I EVER totally free of cynicism in my life; its like looking into paradise lost, something I'll never know but can truly appreciate.

    Its all wide eyed wonder, playfulness and what appears (to me) to be a person intently aware of living in the eternal present, not gathering wool in the past or planning for the future.
     
  25. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I agree about the between war years. I found a Christies auction catalogue at a used bookstore from a sale back in the 80s. It was an auction of a huge private collection of photography from those years. Mostly European, but some vintage American (Evans, Abbott, Sheeler). Absolutely fascinating work by a lot of people I never heard of. Also a lot of what is considered modern or post modern art has its roots (for good or bad) in the dadists and surrealists whose work was a response to the traumas of WWI. Also the zenith of a lot of the robber barons, Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc. Add to all that acceptance and growth on a broad scale automobiles, airplanes, radio, movies, recording of music and first mass produced consumer goods.
     
  26. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Books - I appear to have 2. The larger one is "Jacques Henri Lartigue Photographer" edited by Vicki Goldberg, ISBN 0-500-54226-0. This has all the best-known shots including the lady with the vast fox fur walking her dog. It also has a number of interesting shots showing a bold use of the panoramic format (I think JHL had a stereo camera which had the option of shooting single-shot panoramas as well).
    The other book is called "Boy With A Camera - The Story of Jacques Henri Lartigue" by John Cecil, ISBN 1-85793-600-0. This is far less comprehensive and the repro quality is not as good, but it contains some great shots of family activities such as half a dozen people testing their (self-built) amphibious bicycle in their swimming pool, another family member testing his self-designed inflatable rubber trousers, also in the pool, and the quite well-known shot of a female family member taking a flying leap down a stone staircase to allow JHL to practise his speed photography technique. Never a dull moment chez Lartigue, to be sure!

    Best regards,

    David

    PS: Amazon is showing these 2 books and others as being in stock!