Monday 30 June 2008

Profile: Robert Doisneau

Kiss by the Hotel de Ville 1950 - Image by Robert Doisneau

French photographers have had an immense influence over photography, producing a number of photographers who have revolutionised the visual and philosophical areas of the medium. Many also took stylish image that remain truly iconic images of the era they were taken in. One of the most iconic photographer of the 20th century was French photographer Robert Doisneau whose work from the 1930's onwards captured the spirit of French society at that time.

Born in 1912, Doisneau originally trained as a lithographer before taking up photography in 1929. Wandering around Paris, the photographer would take images of the everyday life of Parisians which over the years built into a formidable collection of images. His career as a professional photographer became in 1934 when he was employed by the Renault car company as an industrial and advertising photographer. This position lasted until 1939 when Doisneau decided to become a freelance photographer - sadly the war got in the way of this new career move, with the photographer serving in the French army until 1940.

During the occupation of France by the German army, Doisneau worked for the Resistance helping to make false identification papers using his lithographer training. Even during this dark period of French history, Doisneau managed to create images that reflected a resistance to the German controlling influence over France. The images also focus on the look of the city and how people lived with the barbed wire and uncertainty. My favourite image from that period is of a couple, obviously in love, who hold each other with a barb wire fence barrier in front of them. It's as though the wire represents how they have divided themselves off from what is going on around them. During the liberation of Paris, Doisneau photographed the resistance at work creating underground newspapers and erecting barricades. The images of the resistance people themselves are even more fascinating. Most are young and have a look of fierce determination on their faces.

After the war, Robert Doisneau continued to work for various magazines including Vogue who he worked for until 1952. During the day he would photograph fashion and the prosperous and at night he would turn his camera on the basement jazz clubs and there habitues. The subject were worlds apart. It is during this early post war period that Robert Doisneau produces some of his best work. France like many countries was trying to understand its role in this new world - the ways of the pre-war world seemed outdated and irrelevant. No photographer has ever managed to capture the spirit and character of a nation as much as Doisneau's images do. Each photograph has so much detail in it that you can look at an image several times and see something new each time. Humour is often a key ingredient in the images with the shop window photographs being a prime example of Doisneau's talent to capture life's humorous moments.

By 1953 Robert Dosineau had left Vogue and become a freelance photographer. He would remain a freelancer for the rest of his life. The 1950's were the last great decade for photography. After that, a slow but visible decline in the magazine market started to take affect having a detrimental effect many photographers who couldn't get work published. The human interest story was also on the decline as decorative commercial photography started to become popular. Television also started to take its toll on photography preferring more neutral images to the human interest kind. Exhibitions were getting fewer and fewer and a new breed of younger photographer started to enter the scene. Doisneau decided to return his favourite subject matter - the streets of Paris; the people and the scenery.

In 1975 a retrospective of his work started to build Doisneau reputation again and by the beginning of the 1980's Robert Doisneau had become a media star. Distinctions, exhibitions and a range of books and postcards helped the photographer reach new audiences, but by the start of the 1990's a degree of disillusionment had started to creep in. Doisneau believed that Paris had changed beyond recognition; the people and places....HIS places..... were no longer the same. "Photographers have become suspect" Doisneau commented in 1992, "The magic has gone, its the end of 'wild' photography, of those who unearthed hidden treasures" In 1994 Robert Doisneau died but his legacy remains in the terrific images he took. The Kiss image, seen at the top of this post, is his most famous image but Doisneau's collection of work remains remarkably varied. His photographic work was unique, as was his ability to capture the day to day way of life with so much passion and character.

All Images by Robert Doisneau
  • Top left - Robert Doisneau
  • Middle right - Love and barbed wire, 1944
  • Middle left - The sidelong glance (Romi's shop), 1948
  • bottom right - The Pack, 1969

Saturday 28 June 2008

Country lane

A typical Norfolk country lane

One of the reasons that i picked Norfolk as a county to photograph was due to its unspoilt nature. For those of you unfamiliar with Norfolk, its an English county that has very few large roads running into it from other areas of Britain. You have to work a little harder to get to the places along the coast using roads that are usually rather narrow.

This lane is typical of the smaller lanes that link up the villages throughout the county. Many of these roads (although not this one) were put in by the USAAF during world war II so that bomb dumps and airfields could be easily supplied. The bomb dumps and airfields faded into memory but the small access roads became part of Britain's road infrastructure.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

sea light

Looking across the Wash towards Lincolnshire

All photographers have a 'haunt'; somewhere that they go to get their photographs. With me ..... It's the sea. I just love the light and freshness of the landscape (or should that be seascape) as the tides and winds change the look of the land.

This splendid view was captured at Hunstanton in Norfolk during a particularly spectacular light show caused by a break in the clouds. These shafts of lights shone down and lit certain patches of sea. It only lasted a few minutes but fortunately i managed to capture it with the digital camera.

Monday 23 June 2008

Surfs up !

This image was taken at a busy Brancaster beach in Norfolk last year where a collection of kite surfers had gathered to enjoy the brisk sea wind.

The speeds that these kite surfers could go was breathtaking and every now and again, the kite surfer would hit a large wave and JUMP twenty or thirty feet in the air! Brilliant to watch and to photograph.

Saturday 21 June 2008

Ye olde market

Norwich market

I just love taking photographs in the street. Capturing the people and places that make up urban life in Britain in the 21st century. It's never been a particularly fashionable type of photography but it does produce fascinating images that show how we interact with each other.

The market in Norwich has a long history dating back to Saxon times and it currently has over 190 stalls. Markets are what made many British towns thrive and prosper to become centres of trade, so its refreshing to see a strong market in an era when many are dying out due to lack of interest or investment

A market is an experience. Sights, smells and maybe a bargain plus its a place to bump into a friend or neighbour and have a chat... just like those two ladies in the forefront of this photograph.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Not nice !

Now don't take this as a moan, but i really find the phrase 'nice photo' a bit lacking in detail. I put some new images on my MySpace page just recently and got two comments. The first was brilliant, commenting on the contrast and textures contained in the image. Super! A comment with some detail. The second comment?.....well it was just 'nice photo'.

Am i just being overly sensitive when i say that it doesn't seem to say that much? It was great for that person to say something but 'nice', for me, doesn't say anything really. I once remember one of my lecturers saying that very thing many years ago. It didn't register then, actually i thought he was being rather fussy, but now i think he may have had a valid point.

Nice? What exactly does that mean !!!

Sunday 15 June 2008

Creative process

I must admit that i wish that i could paint; that i could just grab a canvas, a brush, some paint and create a landscape or portrait. Unfortunately i can't paint for toffee, nor sculpt, nor draw or anything remotely like that. As i go about places, i occasionally bump into other artists who either paint or sculpt, and i always come away feeling that photography is a bit of a cheat when it comes to creating something visual.

Let me just explain. With the other art forms you usually start off with a completely blank set of materials, whether it be a canvas or a piece of clay . Then you start working on the piece of work that will hopefully will be a brilliant piece of art. It can take a long time or a short time but usually it's an intense process of creativity. Some photographers work that way too but for me its always been in the blink of an eye. Click ! got it !

OK, it may seem unfair to photography but the click of a shutter button seems a little too easy, a little too quick. I've always like working in the 5x4 format because you end up having to take time setting up shots but it still comes down to a shutter firing.....or does it? Maybe I'm forgetting the focusing, the exposing, the composition, the developing, the printing, the Photoshop work, the framing and many other things as well. Hmmm you have to do all that too !

Saturday 14 June 2008

Red Bubble

A selection of Richard Flint Photography images are available to purchase as prints and greeting cards at More images will be uploaded during the summer months and plans are underway to launch an RFP 2009 calendar (plus a few other products) via the redbubble site.

The Richard Flint Photography page at is located at :-

Monday 9 June 2008

Film mix

Beach break sign - Hunstanton beach, Norfolk

The film has been ordered and I'm getting ready for shooting images in Norfolk. The ratio of Ilford Fp4 to HP5 is 2:1 as this year i want to shoot finer grain film. The mix last year was about 50:50. I wasn't disappointed with the results last year from the HP5, but on the other hand, i did start shooting HP5 at 400asa rather than my usual speed of 800asa - so there must have been something that i didn't like.

The one thing i hope to avoid is the repetition of images; you know, that sudden realisation that you've taken this image probably four or five times before. Hopefully i can stay clear of that and produce some photographs that add to the my photographic view of the county.

The colour images taken this year are going to be a mixture of digital and medium format 645 & 6x6 transparency. I did consider taking some colour negative film but decided against it. Digital will easily do everything i want...and more. I will probably take too much equipment, some of which i won't use, but that's just part of photography. Leave that piece of kit behind and you can guarantee that you'll need it for a shot! :-)

Friday 6 June 2008

Photographer's rights

Here are three rather useful links concerning the rights of photographers and the law.

If you would like to know the current law regarding image taking in the UK, USA and Australia then a series of PDF downloads has been made available with the details of the law and photography in those countries. They are not definitive guides to the law but they do give a good idea of your legal rights when taking images.

Click HERE for the UK version

Click HERE for the U.S version

Click HERE for the Australia version

Deep red

This year's poppy photograph taken just a few days ago . No matter how much i see those red flowers.... i just love seeing that deep red colour set against the green background of the foliage.

The poppy is a symbol of remembrance in the UK so I'd like to dedicate this post to the men (especially my great uncle Norman Davison who was badly injured) who took part in Operation OVERLORD; the D-Day invasion that took place on 6th June 1944 - sixty four years ago today.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Circus show

I always carry a camera with me. It sounds like an obvious thing for a photographer to do but you'd be surprised how many don't. I think this 'habit' has come from studying documentary photography - i just live in fear of missing the shot of a lifetime.

This shot was a quick grab. One of those point and shoot moments where you hope that the camera is set to get an OK photo. The Billy Smart's Circus truck has been driving around the town for the last few days, drumming up trade and giving the Circus a noticeable presence.

In days long ago they would arrive and parade through the town with the exotic animals, acrobats and clowns being centre of attention. I suppose this advert truck is the 21st century version of a parade.

Monday 2 June 2008

Trained eye

8th June 1968 - Americans pay their respects to Robert Kennedy

A few years ago i saw a set of images on the TV that really caught my attention. Unfortunately i never noted the name of the photographer at the time but thankfully a recent post on the blog 'The Year in pictures' featured the photographer Paul Fusco, who took these fantastic images.

On the 8th June 1968, the body of Robert Kennedy was taken from New York to Washington so that he could be buried beside his brother at Arlington. Paul Fusco accompanied the train as the photographer for LOOK magazine and was surprised and fascinated to see vast numbers of people, who had spontaneously come out to pay their respects to a man who had been one of the most inspirational politicians in American history. During the slow eight hour journey, Fusco took over 2000 images documenting the estimated one million people who had turned out on the unusually hot Saturday.

Paul Fusco believes that the event and images represent the end of hope but for me, the images show the real respect that many Americans felt for Robert Kennedy- they also show that unshakeable American spirit. My favourite image is of a family, all lined up as if they were on a parade ground, honouring the man as the train goes by. That image seems to stand out from among the other fantastic photographs; each one a valuable record of the USA at the end of the 1960's. The images are like a mass portrait of America in 1968, the faces, fashions, cars, streets captured as they really were. They not only document the event -they also document the USA and, best of all, its people.

A book by Paul Fusco called 'RFK' will be published in September by Aperture.

The New York Times has a great audio visual piece that can be viewed HERE

A superb NYT article about the event and images that can be viewed HERE

The Year in Pictures/ Pictures from a train