Rites of Passage


Last Wednesday marked my penultimate photo-journee in the Passages. I expected Paris to be a bit quiet – everyone knows that Parisians take their holidays in August – but it seems that tourists do now, too! Many shops and cafés were closed. The vast majority of shops in the Passages are laissez-faire, sole-owner outfits, and the hand-written notices were everywhere: Fermé au 2 Septembre.

In some ways, the emptiness of the Passages was not all bad news. Of course, the sheer nature of my photography requires a human element: I need people in my shots. But they need to be the “right” people, and in just the “right” amounts – too many figures and the image can become over complicated. Hence the hanging around that is involved, waiting for just the right moment.

And then you need a bit of luck. As I approached the entrance to Galerie Vivienne, I noticed a taxi pulling up, and out stepped a newly married couple with a photographer – the bride complete with white dress and bouquet; the groom in a smart suit. These were to be the post-wedding photographs taken in a picturesque location. So I hot-footed after them, (hopefully) capturing the bizarre scene of the newly-weds posing among the few tourists, diners, and shoppers, as the tranquilty of the Passage was shattered by the whirring of the photographer's motor-drive, hammering out its digital frames.

I hope I shot some good frames too, though obviously I don't have the benefit of “chimping” the back of my camera to check, as he did!  I await the development of my negatives in anticipation...

Photo:  Charlie Gardner

Photo: Charlie Gardner


A Dynamic Duo


Next week I’m off to Paris again for the day, on what will be my penultimate trip before my exhibition. I know that, currently, I have over 30 prints (maybe 35) that I could hang, but I’m now at the point when I’m starting to think about what images I've got – and, more to the point, what I haven’t!

In my opinion, an exhibition needs pace or dynamics. By dynamics, I mean that the photographs on show will need to vary, and not just in content: vary in composition and in style; vary in depth of field, in shape and form, in light and shade... the list is a long one.

So the prime purpose of my next two trips is to try to complete the exhibition dynamic by filling the visual and/or photographic “gaps”. The trouble is, of course, I’m taking candid photographs with a human content. Despite my best intentions, and perseverance, nothing is guaranteed.

There is one shot that I know I want to try to capture, as it would complement a photo I’ve already taken: namely, Audrey Again, Passage Vendôme. The “Audrey” referred to is the well-known Audrey Hepburn canvas print, sold by IKEA.

A very similar “Audrey” print is on the wall in Little Séoul, a Korean café in Passage Choiseul – just a few shops along from where my exhibition will be. Will the café still be there...? Will it be open...? Will the print still be on the wall...? And even if those answers are in the affirmative, will the other required components of the shot be there? 

Required components??? The truth is I simply won't know until I get there and start waiting for everything and/or anything else to fall into place around the Audrey print, with me poised to click the shutter.

And that might be a very... long... wait...

Audrey Hepburn. Pjätteryd canvas print by Phil Handley/IKEA

Audrey Hepburn. Pjätteryd canvas print by Phil Handley/IKEA

In the Footsteps of Doisneau...


Spent some time reading my Robert Doisneau book about his experiences photographing the Passages from 1975–1980. He said:

“In this aquarium of light, all of these people were preserved as if under glass ...”  and “The magical side of things is invisible for people who are in a hurry, more interested in mechanical things.”

My aim is to capture the ‘magical side of things’ in the Passages, albeit in the 21st century. There is too much to look at for me to be in a hurry – using my 1979 camera!

To think that I bought my Nikon FE that I still use, when Doisneau was shooting his project.

Hotel Chopin, Passage Jouffroy . Robert Doisneau, 1976.

Hotel Chopin, Passage Jouffroy. Robert Doisneau, 1976.

Real Photography...


Reviewed some of my prints and decided to print two of the best at 20 x 16ins – the largest I can in my darkroom. From a 35mm neg they have enlarged beautifully, though of course all my enlarging notes from the smaller prints were useless. However, that's the joy of film and darkroom. It is REAL PHOTOGRAPHY!

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