Friday, July 06, 2007

Lartigue - The Invention of an Artist

I've been reading an interesting book called Jacques Henri Lartigue: The Invention of an Artist by Kevin Moore.

I've always liked a few of the "classic" photographs by Lartigue, but I've never been entirely wowed by his work (in the way I have by, say, Kertesz). But I came across this book in the Library and have found it quite interesting. Lartigue certainly had an "eye" - the results of which can often be quite telling. But he was not perhaps quite as unique as we have generally been led to believe.

Basically Moore makes a fairly strong case that Lartigue as the "naïve primative" child of Modern photography, as a sort of savant, is pretty much a myth.

He goes into quite a lot of intriguing detail setting out how Lartigue was actually very much a person of his time, part of a wider grouping of similar photographers and that he grew up in a home atmosphere which was saturatd with photography and "amateur" scientific tinkering and that by the time he was a young man - when most of his better known pictures were taken - he had a thorough understanding and training in photogrpahy at the hands of his father. (For example, the famous racing car with the "oval" wheel was a not uncommon style of image at the time)

The book then goes on to argue how, when he was "discovered" by the MoMA in his 60's, he was essentially co-opted in order to be one of the foundations of their mission to develop an authentic history for Modern Photography.

Fascinating stuff, included some interesting sections on photography at the beginning of the 20th century as well as the whole myth-making process around Lartigue's first exhibition in New York - indeed some widely accepted "facts" about Lartigue do indeed appear to be pure myth...
PS - A story comes to mind - a photographer friend of mine once had Lartigue to stay when he was across in his 80's for an exhibition - apparently he was a delightful house guest. The old man took some photos of the sons of the family and prints were duly sent back bearing the Lartigue signature -however, they were it seems, rather ordinary.

No comments: