Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Reporters Associés

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

The Eye of Photography has just published a series of articles by Louis Le Roux (in English translation) about the Paris photo agency Reporters Associés, founded in 1953. Le Roux joined them as a lab worker a few months later and eventually became the head of the agency, one of first generation which pioneered the “French photojournalism” of the second part of the 20th century, serving the rise of magazines such as Paris Match, Stern, Jours de France…

In part one of the five part series he brings to life some of the problems of working at the time, starting with a primitive darkroom around the same size as my own boxroom darkroom at home, and with the same lack of facilities, without running water or sink, though in a much grander house on Avenue Frochot.  

The second part looks in detail at Lova de Vaysse, real name was Vladimir-Lev Rychkoff-Taroussky (1921- 1983), the boss of the agency.

Part 3, The Fifties of the Rolleiflex, looks at the change from the press cameras using glass plates to film-based photography and some of the reportages carried out by the agency as well as giving some details about materials and storage of negatives and prints.

The fourth part of the series looks at the Agency’s peak in the 1960s when it covered all major events and a rapid change to 35mm took place, at first with Leicas and then Pentax, Canon and Nikon SLRs. While the square format of the Rollei meant that virtually all images were cropped in the darkroom, Le Roux comments “There will be less and less need to crop photos. The framing will be done directly by the photographers thanks to the change of lens. Besides, photographers don’t really like having their shots cropped.” And finally the agency got a proper modern darkroom and had to begin to cope with the move to colour.

In the final part Le Roux talks about some of the photographers who worked with the agency in the 1960s, and about the loss of their contract with Stern. Many of the best photographers were leaving to join newer agencies such as Gamma, and Le Roux, seeing the agency had no future he resigned. Two months later it was bankrupt.

It’s a well illustrated insider’s story into a period of great change in photojournalism, and well worth reading.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


My old slides

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

I took my first colour pictures years before I was a photographer. I’d long had an interest in photography, assiduously reading Amateur Photographer from cover to cover in the local library each week and around the age of 13 had saved pennies from my very limited pocket money each week, finally managing to buy a Halina 35x, which looked like a real camera. But it was around 4 years later that I could afford to buy my first film and send it away for processing, an Ilford black and white film which was returned with 36 postcard-size deckle-edge lustre prints, mainly of ancient oak trees in Richmond Park, though one of my father in our back garden in tie and cardigan uneasily holding a garden fork still adorns an oval hole in one of those family composites put together by my wife on our landing.

But the second film I took, I think the following year, was Agfa colour transparency. Most or all of it was taken of a girlfriend, an aspiring model, sitting in a blossom covered peach tree (grown from a stone) again in our back garden. I’m not sure if any have survived and the romance certainly didn’t, perhaps largely because as a penniless student I didn’t have a sports car and couldn’t take her to clubs, restaurants and pubs like the older men she met.

For the next few years I was a film a year man, a roll of colour transparencies taken on holidays and outings. I did take a couple of rolls of black and white when still a penniless student, but my photography was rather more curtailed when I dropped the camera in the lake at Versailles on my first overseas holiday, a week in a student hostel on the outskirts of Paris with my future wife. Fished out after some minutes underwater it never worked reliably again, the leaf shutter closing when it felt like it rather than following the set speed.

Around five years later I could afford to replace it with a cheap Russian SLR, and by then I’d also taken a short darkroom course and was living in a flat where I could set up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen to develop film and make black and white prints and my photography really began. But I continued to take the occasional colour slide film, mainly still for holidays. And by the time I really began photography seriously I was usually carrying two camera bodies, one with black and white and the second colour film.

Until 1985, all of that colour film was transparency film, partly because at that time most publications would only accept slides, and I aspired to have my pictures published event if they seldom where. Most of it, largely on cost grounds, was in those early years taken on film which used the E3 process, and it hasn’t aged well. E4 which replaced it towards the end of the ’70s has done better and what little Kodachrome I took (it was more expensive) best of all. Of course my slides have been stored in far from ideal conditions at home which will have accelerated their ageing.

Thanks to the Covid lockdown, I have managed to complete the scanning of all those slides which I can find which seem worth scanning. A few in the past were scanned on a proper film scanner at around 20 minutes per image; a few years ago I found I could get acceptable results from my Epson 750PRO flatbed (though only by not using its automatic location which crops unacceptably) but have now found a bellows and macro-lens much faster and better. Retouching to remove spots and mould can still be time-consuming, and I’ll only do this when I need to use the images. I’ve found little if any gain in cleaning the slides other than with an air blower – and using cleaning fluids and cloths seems to make those in card mounts even dirtier.

At the end of last month I wrote a little about a cycle ride up the Loire valley with some pictures on Kodachrome from 1975. The pictures in this post are from Paris in 1973 and have survived better than most I took in the early years. You can see them larger by right-clicking and choosing to open them in a new tab.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


My Own Atget

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

I already have one Atget print hanging on my wall in my front room, not an original print made by the man himself, but an excellent high quality reproduction which was a special supplement to a US photographic magazine back I think in the 1970s, printed by a much higher quality process than the normal magazine. I also have another rather fine image by Josef Sudek framed and on the opposite wall; I think they are sheet-fed lithographs and they certainly have a remarkable quality.

I don’t think anyone who has seen them framed on the wall has ever taken them to be anything other than a normal photographic print, and certainly in many of the books on my bookshelves there are some fine examples of the printer’s craft, duotone and quadtone reproductions that are often equal and sometimes superior to the darkroom prints that are shown in exhibitions and sold for high prices by photography dealers.

Not all photographic prints are particularly good prints, and some ‘vintage prints’ that make their way into the hands of dealers were never intended to be so. Some are prints that were rapidly made with little consideration to be printed in magazines and newspapers, and many do not represent the image at its best. When I spent a lot of time in the darkroom I would often make half a dozen prints from the same negative before I arrived at the one which I thought was exactly how I wanted it. That was the print which went into my portfolio or onto the exhibition wall, but there were often others that were almost right that I couldn’t bear to throw away, and I think the same was true of many photographers in the past. And I’ve seen prints on some dealers’ walls which surely must have come from the photographer’s waste bin.

Things are rather different for most photographers today. Many actually produce limited editions of prints, either made by themselves or a professional printer that are more or less identical, and if working from a digital file exactly so. The kind of work we put into each print, including dodging, burning and retouching is now incorporated into the making of the digital file.

Photography is essentially a medium of reproduction. The calotype became more important than the Daguerreotype despite its technical deficiences because the negative could be used to make multiple prints, limited only by the time it took to produce them. And digital has taken that a step further, with the digital file that produces as many prints as you like itself being infinitely reproducible without any variation.

High quality digital files of a number of great photographic images have of course been available for some years, particularly of the work available in the Library of Congress collection. On my computer I have large digital files of a number of the best images made by Walker Evans for the FSA, of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother and of many other fine photographs. Enough to make a fine gallery of photography.

I have only ever printed one or two of these files largely because I simply don’t have the wall space to display them – and what I have is already filled with other images, including both photographic prints by myself and others as well as a few painting and some reproductions of paintings.

Jardin de l’hôtel des abbés de Cluny, (actuel Musée National du Moyen Age), 24 rue du Sommerard, Paris (Vème arr.). 1898. Photographie Photographie d’Eugène Atget (1857-1927) Paris, musée Carnavalet.

But today I downloaded a rather beautiful Atget and there are many more online along with works by many other great photographers, particularly French photographers, as the City of Paris has made available over 100,000 of the works in its museums freely on-line as high quality 300dpi digital images under a Creative Commons CC0 licence, essentially dedicating “the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

The CC0 licence is only applicable to “the reproductions of a work the author(s) of which died more than 70 years ago, after which time his/her works have fallen into the public domain, and which is the reproduction of a two-dimensional cultural asset the author of which died more than 70 years ago, a reproduction created by a photographer who has permitted Paris Musées to place the photograph under a CCØ licence or by a photographer employed by Paris Musées.” It also restricts you from selling the files, though you can use the images for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

As their press release states (in French), you can now download the “oeuvres des grands noms de la photographie (Atget, Blancard, Marville, Carjat…) ou de la peinture (Courbet, Delacroix, Rembrandt, Van Dyck…). ” And while for the painters what you are downloading is a photograph of their paintings, for the photographers it is something much closer to the orginal, enabling you to make excellent digital photograph prints.

So far I’ve only downloaded a couple of Atget prints from what must be a very large collection, as his main source of income was selling his prints to the Paris museums. I first became aware of his work in a Paris museum, where some of the prints in a display of historic Paris for me stood out from the rest, and there in the small print of their captions was his name. The image above was probably one of those that impressed me and made me want to find out more about the photographer when I visited the musée Carnavalet in 1973.

There is a slight problems to overcome in downloading the images, in that they come in ZIP files, the image jpg accompanied by a PDF about usage (in both English and French) and a text file with some image details and its source. Unfortunately those I tried have file names that are too long for Windows 7 to handle (eg: cartel_atget_eugene_jean_eugene_auguste_atget_dit_musee_de_cluny_24_rue_du_sommerard_5eme_arrondissement._jardin._ph6338_132304.txt) and I needed to use the free 7-Zip to access the files. I haven’t yet tried in with WIndows 10.

My pictures on Flickr

Friday, December 27th, 2019

In typically perverse fashion I’ve decided to put an increasing amount of my work on Flickr just as it seems the platform is possibly going downhill fast, with a begging letter from the CEO which also includes a 25% off offer for the ‘Pro’ subscription to those with free Flikr accounts .

I’ve had a free Flickr account for a long time, simply because I needed one to subscribe to another, now defunct organisation. I put a fairly small number of pictures on it, I think around 75, and then forgot about it.

What made me think about it again was simply the fact that my web space is filling up and near its limit, not in terms of space but for the number of files. There is a limit on my account of 262,144 files and I’m currently at the 225,419 mark.

262,144 seems to be quite an important number in computing, which I’m sure is connected to the fact that in binary it is 1000000000000000000 (in hex 40000) and has some connection to the way in which the accounts are set up in Linux. It seems a pretty huge number, but I find that my web space currently contains just short of 200,000 image files. In November 2019 on My London Diary I added another 837 images, along with another 31 html files, and over the whole year over 14,000 files, while other web sites and this blog added at least another thousand or two. So things are getting rather close to the limit. Either I’m going to have to delete some or get another web account of some sort.

I don’t actually generate much income directly from the web, but make everything available free online and without advertising. I do occasionally sell prints or get repro fees because people have seen work on the web, but it hardly pays my costs (and certainly doesn’t repay the hours of work I put in.) I do it more because I want to share my photography and my thoughts with other people.

Importantly for me, there is a lot more work that I would like to share. Fifteen or twenty years of work in both black and white and colour, particularly on London, that has hardly been seen except by myself and a few friends and colleagues, with just perhaps just a few hundred of the probably more than a hundred thousand of the images having been published or exhibited. It includes several major projects along with much other work.

I had hoped earlier this year that a major institution would take ‘My London Diary‘ under its wing, enabling me to free almost 200,000 files from my personal account, but after some discussion and lengthy deliberation they decided that they just did not have the resources to do so. I’m open to offers from any other body that would like to host this unique record of around 20 years of London’s history covering protests and other events on the streets – and for that matter my earlier film-based work.

I decided to do a little research on ways that would be effective both in terms of cost and time in sharing my work on-line and thought seriously about two platforms, Instagram and Flickr. Neither seemed particularly suitable and both have interfaces that really don’t work well for what I want to do. I tried out putting a little work on each of them and in the end decided that for all its peculiarities (and it has a seriously dated and inconsistent interface) Flickr seemed the better for my purposes. So I’ve now signed up for a ‘Pro’ account that will enable me to put as many images as I like on line.

At the moment there are three new albums of my old pictures on Flickr: 1977 London Pictures

1978 London Pictures


1979 London Pictures

There are also a few pictures from the 2000’s, including albums on Paris and on Croydon’s Trams which I added in 2007 when I first set up my Flikr Account. Then I made the mistake of only putting on the files at a small size and low quality, using the images from my web site, while I am now uploading 2400 pixel wide repro quality files which display the work much better. Of course these may now be used by the unscrupulous who are prepared to ignore the copyright notice, but I hope that there are enough honest people around who will contact me and pay to make the risk worthwhile.

All of those London pictures in the albums above are also available on my web site, but you can now see them rather larger and better on Flikr along with the comments that I wrote when putting most of them on Facebook a day at a time.I’ll also probably at some time put the images that are on my Hull web site onto Flickr in hight quality, and then remove both the Hull and London sites from the web, leaving just a residual site which links to the Flikr albums. Together with removing a few other old sites this might give me space for another year or so of My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Paris Pictures

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Sometime in July 2017 I stopped getting my daily e-mail from l’oeil de la photographie – The Eye of Photography and though I missed it, soon forget to rejoin their free mailing list, which I’ve now done as I write this.

A post on Facebook linking to the site today, reminded me of what I have been missing, as well as to the end of the oldest photo agency in Paris, Roger-Viollet. Founded in 1938 by two “passionate photographers”, Hélène Roger-Viollet and her husband Jean-Victor Fischer it remained at its premises at 6, rue de Seine until now. After the founders deaths in 1985 they left the business and its huge collections to the City of Paris, and in 2005 it became a part of the local public company the Parisienne de Photographie, distributing works from the unique Roger-Viollet collection of nearly 4 million negatives and 2 million prints as well as those from the huge collections of many Parisian museums as well as some foreign historical collections in France and several independent photographers.

You can get an idea of the range of their work from their web site, though it may not remain on the web long. It truly is a remarkable collection, particularly of photographs of Paris from the 19th and 20th century. I particularly enjoyed looking at the pictures from the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

As ‘l’oeil‘ says, the city council of Paris voted to close the Parisienne de Photographie on November 15th because of its large losses, incurred in part by the costs of digitising the huge image collection. Surprisingly the collection has been handed to a private company which does not publish its accounts, NLDR, rather than a public company or state institution.

The article also states that ‘the museums and libraries of the City of Paris will soon adopt the “open content”, that is to say the free availability of images‘ though I can’t understand why this should make NLDR a more appropriate choice. It now has been given an already digitised collection with an annual turnover of over a million euros and a public grant of 482 000 € to exploit.

What worried me rather when I ‘Googled’ “Roger-Viollet” was that “roger viollet getty images” came up several suggestions above the actual agency. Getty gets everywhere, and has had a disastrous effect on lowering image prices, not just for agencies but also for photographers. It is the basic reason that so many other agencies have already disappeared – and for the pathetically low reproduction fees now paid by most publications.

The Eye of Photography is a bilingual site, and one where I always find much of interest whenever I visit – and today was no exception (and it delayed writing this post considerably.) I look forward to receiving their daily e-mails.

St Ann’s – End of an Era

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Although the ‘stars’ of photography so far as the media are concerned tend to be those who fly into trouble spots around the world to report on various crises – usually backed by the big international agencies, much interesting documentary work is carried out by people who never get an international reputation, and whose work is made inside communities in which they are embedded, sometimes for years, occasionally for a lifetime.

I’ve long believed that there is a huge unseen body of work out there which has never attracted museum shows, publications or any real exposure, perhaps just seen by a few friends or shown in a local library. Of course now, it may appear on Facebook or Instagram, but tends to remain hidden among the dross and the cat pictures. Of course there are some good cat pictures, probably at least three a year.

My thoughts were directed to this by a Facebook post linking to an article in the Nottingham post, Photographer reveals unseen images of St Ann’s before demolition, about work in the area of Nottingham which was being comprehensively redeveloped when then student photographer Peter Richardson was working ina temporary summer job as a labourer on buildings that were replacing the Victorian housing.

Now, around 50 years later, the freelance photographer has put together a book with 98 photographs that show a real insight into the crowded neighbourhood before demolition. You can see rather more pictures from it in the preview of St Ann’s, End of an Era on the Blurb website.

As well as the quality of the work, the book has other interests for me. At the time when Richardson was taking his pictures I was heavily involved in a similar redevelopment in a similar area of inner-city Manchester, not as a photographer but as an activist. Groups working in the two areas made contacts and learnt from each other – and I think were the first two areas to bring ‘planning for real’ modelling exercises which had originated in Sweden to local community groups in the UK.

I regret very much that I was not at that time an active photographer, being penniless, unable to afford a working camera and lacking any practical training in photography that would have enabled me to work on a shoestring – both things that were remedied a couple of years later. But Richardson’s pictures remind me very much of the people and the homes that I met in Moss Side.

Like Richardson too, I’ve also published books on Blurb – with 16 of them still available. It isn’t an idea way to publish, but does give you the freedom to do so at relatively minimal expense and being print on demand comes with no problems of storing and distributing editions, and the print quality can be good, though not state of the art.

But the problem is price. A single softcover copy of this book costs £44.99, plus an excessive postage charge. Authors can benefit from fairly large discounts offered from time to time by Blurb (and don’t pay any author’s markup), but even so the books are expensive. It makes it impossible to sell through bookshops, where a realistic price would need to be at least £75. There is a cheaper EBook for £9.49 which is more reasonable, and I always advise people interested in my works to buy it in electronic form, though I also sell most of my books direct a little below Blurb prices.

Personally I’ve been thinking for the last couple of years of abandoning Blurb for any new publications. Perhaps publishing a small short-run print book, but making my work available free as PDFs or at higher quality on the web than my current web site. I do make a little from Blurb sales, but hardly enough to notice. For me the point of publishing is to share my work, not to make money.