Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

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.