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Rise of the Modern City

Discover the ways in which artists, photographers, and architects changed the landscape of modern cities.

Avenue des Acacias, Paris

Jacques-Henri Lartigue
(French, 1894–1986)

1911. Gelatin silver print, 11 9/16 x 15 11/16" (29.4 x 39.8 cm)

Lartigue took this photo, of a fashionable lady walking her dogs along a tree-lined avenue in Paris, when he was 17 years old. Lartigue began participating in the popular pastime of making snapshots at the age of seven, and throughout his career he photographed daily life in Paris, often focusing on the leisure activities of the upper-middle classes, of which he was a member. Although his images may seem lighthearted and informal, and were originally intended for his and his family’s amusement, they capture the changing fashions, attitudes, and street life of Paris in the early 20th century.

In the early 1900s, the ability to capture a focused image of a moving object, known as stop-action photography, was new to handheld cameras. Lartigue made good use of the new equipment and technique, capturing this bustling crowd mid-stride.

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

Did You Know?
Between 1850 and 1870, following periods of revolution, the streets of Paris were transformed by city planner Baron Georges Haussmann. Many of the densely crowded and winding streets were destroyed to make way for broad avenues, including the street depicted here, Avenue des Acacias. The goal was to eradicate overcrowding, create better traffic flow, and improve the government’s chances at quelling future uprisings. Some praised Haussmann’s attempts to modernize Paris, while others accused him of destroying the city’s character.