A photographer is an acrobat treading the high wire of chance, trying to capture shooting stars
Guy Le Querrec
Where does one begin with the role chance plays in every photographer’s life and career? It is so essential to success and of course so utterly out of ones control. However there is the famous quote by Louis Pasteur: ‘Chance favours the prepared mind’. So for sure one may use experience and careful planning to place oneself where the opportunity for something truly great and wonderful might happen. Whether you are a wildlife photographer studying the natural habitat of your subject to improve the chances of getting a better shot or a wedding photographer strategically placing yourself to get the right shot of Great Aunt Maud getting hit on the head with a flying bouquet, experience and preparation comes into play. You may be a celebrated sports photographer who can read the game and predict what will happen and then be in the right place and the right time. Experience and planning all contributing to improve ones chance of a successful and unique image. Any good photographer will do this regardless of which discipline they work in.
But as the world spins and nature carries on regardless of the shoot plan and as much as the animals and the rest of the general public didn’t get the memo that you would be shooting that day…things happen well and truly out of your control. Reading photographers biographies are so revealing to discover the background stories to many famous images. Stories of what went right during a shoot that enhanced the image and then of course what went wrong on a shoot. Something going wrong on a shoot may in fact improve the image in some circumstances. A rainy day could provide the dramatic sky that gives the shoot a whole new drama. When I was an assistant I used to enjoy listening to some of the photographer’s stories and I hope I have created a few of my own along the way.
Then there is the discussion around the authenticity of certain great images. One that springs to mind that is so widely seen that you don’t need to be a photography fan to have seen this photo. That being the incredible image of the romantic kissing couple taken by French photographer Robert Doisneau. Known as Le Baiser de L’Hotel de Ville (The kiss by the Hotel de Ville). For many years it was debated as to whether or not this image was staged with models or a caught moment. A true candid image of spontaneous affection on the Parisian streets. It is a truly magnificent photograph and no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I am drawn in and continue to study it again and again. It’s an image that has adorned café walls, student bedsits and in keeping with the times I’m sure it’s a screensaver for many. If you haven’t noticed the obvious I am a fan of quotes and here is one from Doisneau.
“People like my photos because they see in them what they would see if they stopped rushing around and took the time to enjoy the city”.
This famous and utterly brilliant image was taken at the corner of Rue Du Renard and Rue de Rivoli and I wonder how many people have returned to replicate this photo. I would be surprised if that has not happened. I can picture camera clubs booking the Eurostar tickets now! The image later appeared in Life Magazine and incredibly Doisneau didn’t think the image was particularly great.
Well I have my own homage to this image and my shot is well and truly a spur of the moment candid shot. I was leaving Paris standing at the Eurostar terminal. I was standing shaking hands with my client after spending 3 days shooting a magnificent birthday party in various wonderful Paris locations. As I stood there I saw this beautiful couple a few metres away. Were they saying hello or was it a tearful goodbye? A reunion or a parting? I had my camera round my neck and in an instant pulled away from my client, turned and took this photo. The couple are both so beautiful and there is such tenderness in the way she is touching his cheek and neck. I love the way she is standing slightly on her toes to reach up to kiss him. They both have on cool boots and are dressed in similar clothes. An urban chic vibe and they stand as if posed by a fashion photographer. They of course may not be French but I can’t help think that they just have to be French. I mean just look at them…so dam French! An image such as this could make me pack up and move to The Marais in the hope that I may eventually find a similarly intense romance and connection and live my life emulating iconic fashion images.
If anyone knows this gorgeous couple please get in touch! I sincerely hope that they are still together and still snogging at various busy European transport hubs. So my kissing image was certainly not staged and how about Doisneau’s Le Baiser de L’Hotel de Ville? I will leave that for you to ponder and research.
Talking of love and romance this blog celebrates another wonderful summer wedding. Barney Lewis and Marina Graham tied the knot at St. Peter’s Church, Eaton Sq. followed by a reception at Wrotham Park. The marquee in the gardens of Wrotham Park was breath taking with stunning flowers throughout including the nightclub section.
On this occasion I was second shooter to my good friend Alex Lloyd. We have known each other for many years and work well as a team. My duties included the coverage of the ushers lunch, guests arriving, décor and interiors images and then reportage onwards particularly the dancing. So if you are wondering why there are no bridal preparation shots and intimate portraits of the Barney and Marina, well Alex shot those. Trying to shoot a wedding of this scale all alone would be extremely tough indeed. Its essential to find a second shooter that also compliments the style of the main photographer. It does not work at all well if the styles contrast and this can be a real issue if not paid due attention. Thankfully Alex and I do actually shoot a similar style and the images fall into place well on the final edit.
I don’t think I captured Marina and Barney in such sweet loving embrace as my Parisian lovers and I have no doubt that Alex certainly did when shooting the couple during the portrait session. But for sure I feel I have captured the wonderful energy and hilarity of what was a fabulous wedding.