One of the famous images taken during the 1950s, featured a couple kissing on the streets of Paris. Robert Doisneau shot ’image Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville’ (The Kiss by the City Hall), became in later decades, a commercial success. It was originally published in Life magazine. He was considered one of the pioneers of photojournalism as was Cartier-Bresson.

The young woman in the photograph Françoise Delbart, passed away on Christmas day at the age of 93. The young man Jacques Carteaud passed away in 2006. The story of this picture is interesting in itself and even ended up in French courts.

What struck me on hearing the news was just how different street photography has become, as has many of areas of the craft. When Doisneau took the photograph, although originally it was thought to be a spontaneous shot, it was, set-up after he had originally seen the couple kissing. Back in those days, it was shot on film of course, black and white, with a manually focused lens and manual exposure controlled camera. Possibly with a external light meter.

Compare that to the countless pictures that are taken around the world every day with modern equipment. Now many simply set their cameras pretty much to auto everything; focus – which picks up the subject for them – then moves with it. Exposure, with amazing latitude due to digital capture, not to mention unthought of ISO equivalents. The camera then hoses the subject down with vast numbers of frames per second. It makes it pretty hard to get things wrong.

Those that know me are aware that this is one of my frustrations with modern photography. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the above approach as everybody on the planet has a opportunity to enjoy pictures and catch moments of their lives like never before. And we certainly don’t want to lose that. But, there is a world of difference between enjoying photography like this and being a photographer. They are different things I would suggest. All too often in the modern world, many skills and thought processes that were hard won over generations of toil have been ditched. If you don’t have them, you can’t know no matter how good what you capture is, just what might have been?

Often camera manufacturers focus on the automation, because of course it appeals to the biggest market potential customers. So sadly, whilst we have, as I often say – not had better equipment than we have today – are we not losing one important and vital ingredient… The real photographer? There is still so much more pleasure to be had learning, knowing and practicing the craft.

Best wishes and good photography,

John (04/01/24).