The Editorial Kiss, not always Plain Sailing…


The Editorial Kiss, not Always Plain Sailing...

My New Years resolution for 2019 was to buy no more music. This was never going to be Plain Sailing. I love music, I love buying records. Music runs through my DNA and is part of my soul and earliest memories. The first record I ever remember hearing was My Sweet Lord by George Harrison, probably coming out of a transit radio in our terraced house in St George in 1970. The  first record I ever bought, Jungle Rock by Hank Mizell. Well, I said that I loved music, not that I have good musical taste. Actually, I wanted to buy 'The Boy with the Child in his Eyes' by Katy Bush, but the Woolworths in Paington, where we were on Hols, didn't have it in stock. I presume the Devon branch of Woolies didn't consider there to be a need. The did have piles of Jungle Rock though.

So by mid March, predictably,  I'd already broken my resolution, as I found myself drawn to some of the new second hand record shops that have sprung up in Bristol.

Last Saturday armed with a strong coffee and looking of something pleasurable to to before the weekly shop at Sainsburys and buying a new battery for the car at Halfords,  I found myself walking into at Friendly Records on North Street in Bedminster. I knew that I shouldn't buy anything, after all, I have over thirty years worth of music on my shelves at home, sorted into genre and mood and waiting to be played. I resolved myself only to look through the singles. I still love the 7 inch single,  a short hit of power pop, that can kick start my day or distract me at the end of it.  And success, after much rummaging, I picked up Tracey Thorn's Plain Sailing for £1 ! It's a little crackly and dog ear'd, but wow, It's a 2 minute slice of cherry red melancholy. Tracy and her partner's Ben's solo records were the soundtracks to my studies, regional train journeys, south London bedsits and shelf stacking in suburban supermarkets. 

But more than the music, the cover features the iconic photograph Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville) by Robert Diousneau . I've always loved this image. I studied mid 20th century photography at College in the 1980's and Robert’s form of editorial street reportage always appealed and talked to me. I would spend hours walking the streets of London looking for interesting subjects to photograph, in the West End, the Docks and dim back alleys.  Photographing everyday life is not an easy thing to do, it's far easier to point your camera at a static object rather that a person or people going about their everyday business. But in the main, this is what Robert did, armed with a brief from Life Magazine he captured an era, a slice of Parisian life. 

Sitting in that cafe on a Paris morning much like any other, watching people walk by, Robert waited  for a moment. I presume he took a many of images of this view as he drank his coffee and smoke his Gauloise,  possibly capturing nothing remarkable.  But, he then observed the kiss. He captured a moment. But the most interesting thing  about this photo is he didn't at first, take the photo. He stated that the moment felt too intimate, too intrusive. But he had freeze framed that image in his mind and he knew what he'd witnessed was something special and he wasn't going to let it go. So what makes this photograph so interesting to me, is that Robert ran after and stopped this couple and asked them to re create that moment. They cheerfully agreed. He sat back down in that cafe, they walked past and he pressed the shutter. I have no idea what his Editorial brief was that day, but it was job done, he knew walking back to the darkroom at 'Life magazine' that he had captured something special. 

Was he right to do this ?

Bert Hardy’s iconic front Cover image, an photo that he set up.

Bert Hardy’s iconic front Cover image, an photo that he set up.

As jobbing photographers working for newspapers, magazines and websites, going back to the office with a special moment in your camera is all the we can hope for. Sometimes you just have to get the job done, to have something interesting to show your client or editor without distorting or telling lies. Sometimes you have to give these moments a nudge to make this happen, especially in the wonderful world of Editorial News and PR Photography. 

One of my other favourite photographers from round that era is Bert Hardy. I met Bert once at an LCP lecture, he even signed one of my photos (another story for another time). He was a charming, confident, street wise Cockney who worked for Picture Post Magazine. Bert took many brave, iconic and gritty news pictures in wartime and in peace, but he also knew how to set up and capture a moment. To have a brief from the picture desk, and to make sure he told the story in one picture or a spread, especially when on a tight deadline. One of his most iconic pictures is the two girls sat on railings in Blackpool which made the front cover, His image is relaxed, summery and joyous. But it is a contrived moment, he crafted that image, assembling the best ingredients that he could find on that day, two young pretty girls from the local dance troupe (the Blackpool Belles), and composed an image that was full of life. Taken during the austere 1950s, this image jumps out at you on the news-stands.

So sometimes there is no harm in making the moment happen, especially if it captures a time or a moment

So going back to music, vinyl is a medium that is hard to let go of and the records on my shelves all have memories for me, audio time capsules that also capture a moment, and clarify as time moves on. The smell, the crackle, the sound and the artwork, these little stories, memories and inspirations are out there waiting to be discovered. I can recommend Friendly Records on North Street (they are friendly) and the equally wonderful Longwell Records in Keynsham where you will also receive warm welcome and where I'm hoping to visit on Record store day this weekend, god help me!

We all know that New Year’s resolutions are there to be broken, and after all, so much pleasure and for only £1!

Here is a Facebook Link to Longwell Records in Keynsham - Longwell, and Friendly Records in Southville plus if you want to see more photographs of people kissing in the street, check out Brian Harris’s series of images here Brian Harris Photography. Brian has been a Press, Street Photographer for many years and worked for the Times and Independent Newspapers back in the 1970s and 1980s when the papers were allowing their photographers to follow stories all over the world.