Born near Paris into an inventive, fashionable, prosperous family, Jacques-Henri Lartigue began taking pictures when he was seven years old. He had received a handheld camera for Christmas and immediately put this new invention to use. Its rapid lens and shutter gave him the freedom to capture the fleeting sights of the world of the French upper-middle classes that particularly drew his sharp eye: stylish women, automobiles, flying inventions, speed, and games. Lartigue called his new camera the “trap of images.”
By the time Lartigue turned 10, he had made hundreds of remarkably direct images reflecting his skill with framing and timing. At 17, he took this photograph of a finely dressed woman walking her dogs along the Avenue des Acacias, a tree-lined thoroughfare in Paris. Though this and his other images may seem lighthearted or informal, and were originally intended for his and his family’s amusement, they capture the changing fashions, culture, and street life of Paris in the early 20th century.