Lucien Clergue was born in Arles. From the age of 7, he learned to play the violin. Several years later, his teacher revealed to him that he had nothing more to teach him. From a family of shopkeepers, he could not pursue further studies in a conservatory. In 1949, he learned the rudiments of photography. Four years later, at a corrida in Arles, he showed his photographs to Pablo Picasso who, though subdued, demanded to see others. Within a year and a half, young Clergue worked with the goal of sending photos to Picasso. During this period, he worked on a series of photographs of traveling entertainers, acrobats and harlequins, the « Saltimbanques ». He also worked on a series whose subject was carrion.
On 4 November 1955, Lucien Clergue visited Picasso in Cannes. Their friendship lasted near 30 years until the death of the Master. The book, Picasso my friend retraces the important moments of their relation.
Clergue has taken many photographs of the gypsies of southern France, and he was instrumental in propelling the guitarist Manitas de Plata to fame. In 1968 he founded, along with his friend Michel Tournier the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival which is held in Arles in July.
Clergue has illustrated books, among these a book by writer Yves Navarre.
In 2007, the city of Arles honored Lucien Clergue and dedicated a retrospective collection of 360 of his photographs dating from 1953 to 2007. He also received the 2007 Lucie Award.
He is named knight of the Légion d'honneur in 2003 and elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institute of France on the 31 May 2006, on the creation of a new section dedicated to photography. Clergue is the first photographer to enter the Academy to a seat devoted to photography. (read more wikipedia)