25 Jacques-Henri Lartigue Quotes on the Magic of Photography

Jacques Henri-Lartigue (1894-1986) was one of the most well-known and admired amateur photographers in the late twentieth century. Yet, his success and acclaim came much later in his life.

Lartigue was a painter by profession, a photographer by passion. He was discovered at the age of 69 and had his first show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1963.

In his lifetime, Lartigue took over 100,000 photographs, wrote 7000 pages of notes, and completed 1500 paintings. When he was in his 80s, he donated his work to the nation of France.

Lartigue’s great talent was his uncanny ability to capture an image at the best possible moment and to preserve it forever. Another photography great, Henri Cartier-Bresson once said that out of all photographers, he admired Lartigue the most.

Below we have listed 25 from the master photographer to inspire, motivate and help your photography to the next level. If you enjoy these Jacques-Henri Lartigue Quotes, then please share them with other photographers.

Vera, Villepion, Arlette and Bibi. Cannes, 1927© Jacques-Henri Lartigue Foundation

Jacques-Henri Lartigue Quotes

Photography is something you learn to love very quickly. I know that many, many things are going to ask me to have their pictures taken and I will take them all.

I have never taken a picture for any other reason than that at that moment it made me happy to do so.

It’s marvelous, marvelous! Nothing will ever be as much fun. I’m going to photograph everything, everything!

Photography is a magic thing. A thing that has mysterious odors, a little strange and frightening, something one quickly grows to love.

As a whole, I am interested in the symbolic, rather than the literal use of the camera.

One of my basic feelings is that the mind, and the heart alike, of the photographer must be dedicated to the glory, the magic, and the mystery of light. The mystery of time, the magic of light, the enigma of reality – and their interrelationships – are my constant themes and preoccupations.

The mystery of light [and] the enigma of time form the twin pivots around which all my work revolves. In addition… my work attempts to create a mythology for our contemporary world.

Photography to me is catching a moment which is passing, and which is true.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue Quotes 1

Jacques-Henri Lartigue on Art

Photography and writing are marvelous distractions from painting. I might even have found movies more interesting than photography. I tried it a bit, but not enough.

What’s so incredibly amusing with photography is that while seemingly an art of the surface, it catches things I haven’t even noticed. And it pains me not to have seen things in all their depth.

I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I make them for myself first and foremost- that is important. If they are art objects at the same time, that’s fine with me.

..dissatisfaction with one’s self and dissatisfaction with the world – is necessary – it is one of the prime things that keeps the artist going on – that drives him – happiness, as such, must come in between times, as best it can.

I frequently attempt to show in my work, in various ways, the unreality of the “real” and the reality of the “unreal.” This may result, at times, in some disturbing effects. But art should be disturbing; it should make us both think and feel; it should infect the subconscious as well as the conscious mind; it should never allow complacency nor condone the status quo.

I have two pairs of eyes – one to paint and one to take photographs.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Self-Portrait
Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Self-Portrait, 1923 © Jacques-Henri Lartigue Foundation

Lartigue Quotes for Better Photography

One shouldn’t be only two photographers but thousands.

I did not start out as a photographer but, instead, as a writer. Whether for good or ill, this fact has inspired and colored many of my concepts … Through photography I have also tried to tie together and further my active interests in painting, in poetry, in psychology, and in architecture. Whatever value my photography has, it is only because of these other interests.

I attempt, through much of my work, to animate all things – even so-called “inanimate” objects – with the spirit of man. The creative photographer sets free the human contents of objects; and imparts humanity to the inhuman world around him.

In all my work I have been animated with three convictions:

1) That there is no essential reason why the creative imagination cannot work with a ray of light acting upon a sensitized surface as effectively as it can with a brush laden with pigment.

2) That photography is one of the most authentic and integral modes of expression possible in the particular kind of world in which we live.

3) That in photography, as in the other arts, the quality of a man’s imagination is the only thing that counts – technique and technical proficiency mean nothing in themselves.

How can one not be moved by the harmony of colours nature offers us? As long as neither is too harsh nor too sharp, colour photography seems to me, because of a certain blurriness, to best be able to express charm and poetry – a poetry that can very well accommodate a touch of humour.

I think just about everything has been tackled, but it may be that things will be done again, only better and differently.

[Lartigue’s advice to Photographers:]

1) Never, never be lazy.
2) Know how to eat well; the right foods in small quantities.
3) Know how to sleep well; the sleep that comes after a good day’s work.
4) Know how to appreciate, really appreciate, any good art.
5) Know how to enjoy silence, as well as good music.
6) Open your ears to the ideas and suggestions of God.
7) Love God.

The golden rule is “work fast.” As for framing, composition, focus – this is no time to start asking yourself questions: you just have to trust your intuition and the sharpness of your reflexes.

Storm, Nice
Storm, Promenade des Anglais, Nice, 1925 © Jacques-Henri Lartigue Foundation

Learning to Look and Imagination

Learn how to look, how to love. It’s the same with painting and writing.

I quite agree with you that the photographer who produces a photograph which is merely technically good, owes more to the discoveries of the laboratory technicians than to himself. However, the imagination transcends all technical perfection, and sometimes even converts a technical disadvantage to a further advantage.

Everything that I see must become personal; otherwise, it is dead and mechanical. Our only chance to escape the blight of mechanization, of acting and thinking alike, of the huge machine which society is becoming, is to restore life to all things through the saving and beneficent power of the human imagination.

You don’t go out to accidentally find something that’s going to make a good picture, but [instead you find it] in yourself, knowing already what you want to do… at least subconsciously if not consciously; you find the thing in so-called nature or so-called reality which corresponds to this preconceived, this pre-sensitized, concept, which is hidden somewhere in your imagination or your subconscious… You go out and find what you are prepared to see.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue
© Jacques-Henri Lartigue Foundation

What’s your Favorite Jacques-Henri Lartigue Quote?

Have a favorite Jacques-Henri Lartigue quote from the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page, or print it out, and refer to it next time you need some inspiration. If you’ve found the article helpful, then we would be grateful if you could share it with other photographers.

To learn more about Lartigue’s photography and to look at his remarkable photo albums, visit the Lartigue Foundation website.

Looking for more words of wisdom from master photographers? Check out the quotes section of Photogpedia for more great photography quotes.

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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