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Monday, 04 June 2012


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I guess the French haven't heard of the new "Digital" stuff yet.

I like this Google translation of the caption of image #4:

"Unlike his predecessors, Raymond Depardon, like a reporter, realizes this portrait freehand (without stand)."

I often too am a freehand photographer.

I semi-sadly sold my Pentax 6x7 and Mamiya 6x6 TLR stuff a few months ago. Lovely kit, but I'm never going to use it again. I kept my Seagull 6x6 TLR because a) it's not worth anything, and b) it demonstrates what the old stuff was like just as well as the Mamiya did.

You know, I had people swing punches, shovels, and paddles at me when I pointed an SLR at them, but I never got more than bemused smiles when I took pictures with a TLR.

Hooray for vintage cameras!

Why not ?

I wonder what film was used. I was trying to guess, but my screen (I'm at work) makes the colors look kind of muted.

Raymond Depardon's "voyages" is one of my favourite books. But when I was at a workshop last October, to my surprise, nobody else liked it. Me, I have a copy in my house, and another in my office.

I might get flamed for this, but I don't like the photo. The president looks fine in it, but the building's roof running through his head puts me off completely. I would've taken a step to the right and had the president's head in front of blue sky above the corner intersection of the two buildings behind him.

Am I just being an internet critic or do I have a point? All I know is I would've returned that photo to Monsieur Depardon and asked him to retake it, s'il vous plaît.

I do like the white border that makes it look like a polaroid pic.

There's an old 2.8f in the closet. If the house catches fire that's the one I'm going back for.

My first introduction to Depardon was through two of his films about French farmers, "L'Approche" and "Le Quotidien". They were among the best movies I saw at a film festival a few years ago. I'd love to see the third in the "Profils paysans" series.

I'm not sure why, but this post just made me smile! 8-)

I don't much like the portrait, either. His head looks too large -- not sure if that is an effect caused by the intersection of head and roof, or the modest wide angle distortion (note how small his legs seem.) He's also standing in what appears to be an awkward pose, not at all comfortable, but that may just be how he looks all the time. My personal preference would be for a longer lens for this sort of thing.

I don't like being an internet critic, but this one doesn't do it for me. Looks like a pretty spot for a picnic, however....


I have a hunch that displaying the architectural detail of the join between the building and it's wing was a deliberate choice. Obscuring the join would make the setting a little too ambiguous, and in my opinion, like too many touristy snapshots where you get the sense that someone is standing in front of something interesting, but you cannot tell what. There's no reason not to photograph him in front of a grey seamless background if the building was of no significance.

My own (limited) experience shooting with a TLR tells me that the difference in local contrast between the subject and background is sufficient at even fairly small reproduction sizes (four inch by four inch prints, even at f/8), and when the difference in overall value between the light building and middle grey subject is taken into account, the eye should interpret it normally.

As an aside, I have a hunch that some of the popularity of soft backgrounds, and despair over not having wide enough apertures for "DOF control*" is actually about trying to increase the perceived microcontrast in the subject relative to the background. Perhaps this is an intuitive response to the fact that, absent tweaking, local contrast tends to be a bit weak with most digital cameras.


*boy howdy does that phrase grate!

Glad to see him shooting with a Rollei. I just bought a needed lens hood for my K1 and look forward to trying out the uncoated lens.

"I guess the French haven't heard of the new "Digital" stuff yet."

The (French) text actually says that prep work was done with a DSLR -- and pic #6 says it was a Sony...

I like the French adjective argentique for a non digital camera.

A tad more insight on the shoot can be found here : http://www.lesinrocks.com/2012/06/04/actualite/le-portrait-officiel-de-francois-hollande-raconte-par-son-auteur-raymond-depardon-11266013/ (of course, it's in french).
In a few words, he tried a (film) leica, then a DSLR, and finally the rolleiflex. He aimed to have the subject not posing, and a good, powerful lighting softened with (big) reflectors.

I didn't heard about the film stock used yet... But I did hear he was fond of Portra. Anybody knows?

Big production for a little picture.

"I might get flamed for this, but I don't like the photo."

I believe you have a valid point, Miserere. When I first saw it, I thought it was an out-take, with the real one still to come. The roof line bisecting his head is just wrong.

I also think that, even with the big reflector, the balance of light between subject and background is off.

He is a very ordinary looking fellow, and the shot looks to me more like a snapshot than a careful, formal portrait.

Maybe that's the point? I do not pretend to any understanding of French taste and sensibilities.


Vive la France (argentique)!

Interesting. My first impression was that it was really different from Sarkozy's portrait (which I'm guessing it was on purpose). For comparison, I've found this link here with the previous portraits of the president of France (and a bit of a desconstruction of Sarkozy's portrait too):


Le changement, c'est vraiment maintenant!


I dunno, the tones are so different. And I suspect that building is iconic in France; photographing the president in front of it is probably a big part of the point.

If I'm seeing everything in the behind-the-scenes photos, this was all natural light, but with a big diffuser and a fair-size reflector panel. Managing to balance against the sunlit stone building is quite a trick.

No school like the old school. Nice.

Roleiflex is so cool... that would probably be the last camera that I would sell, despite not having used mine in a while.

The portrait is interesting in its deliberate snapshot qualities; the style clearly coming from the art scene. I like it, though I don't think it's the best ever, but it's a breath of fresh wind compared to the highly polished official portraits that we're used to (or in the case of my country, very amateurish studio portraits as of late...)

Actually, seeing the last couple of posts -- I forgot to post something that I had in mind about some of the technical and interpretational aspects of the photo.

The weather here in the past week or two in Paris has been particularly excellent. Blue skies, no clouds, all week. This has meant really harsh contrasty light from about 8am through to about 8pm (at this time of the year).

Looking at the shadows in photo, it looks like it was taken early morning (sun is rising in the east) and by the sky. I'm sure that's why Depardon packed the biggest reflector he could find! I'm sure when the president asked to be taken in the garden at that particular time, he would have been cursing his luck to have a blue sky day. (I too have been cursing blown highlights lately!)

On the photo, Hollande's motto was on change ("The time for change is now." roughly translated). So, this photo is a real departure from his predecessor and the typical presidential portrait. The stance with the one foot forward and the hands where they are give that sense of movement forward -- again reflecting that motto. Personality wise, he's also seen to be much more relaxed than Sarkozy and not as much of an egotist, so the half smile is fitting.


I like it very much - it's humble and the colors are beautiful. The contrast with the Sarkozy portrait is remarkable and doubtless intentional.
For those complaining that the angle of view makes the President's head look big - maybe it just is!

Pak: I think you're right, the stark break with Sarkozy's precedent is deliberate. So is the similarity with Chirac's setup, minus the subtle differences.

Moose: Hollande is indeed a very ordinary looking fellow. Moreover, he built his whole campaign image around this theme: an ordinary, "normal" man promising to be a "normal" president. Never mind that Hollande is a thoroughly political animal, just as Depardon is also an acutely sensitive political photojournalist. Like it or not (and I don't particularly), this image is nothing if not deliberate.

A few years ago, at Arles, he was asked whether he had mastered the digital transition. Depardon: "I'm just coming to terms with colour. So for digital, I'll need a little more time."

In the current (June) issue of "Studio Cine Live" (p. 76), he is quite specific: he prefers "argentique" film to digital because of the latter's clipping of highlights, especially in landscapes. On the other hand, his film series on French peasants was shot in 16 mm, but cut digitally. For cinematographic documentary, he would now probably use an all-digital workflow.

"I tried first with a Leica, then a digital camera and then with my old Rolleiflex of 1962, which often leads me luck. And this is the picture obtained with the latter, 6 x 6 format, which proved to be good."

I wonder if he was using an M9. How else would he know if it wasn't working for him? So at the end of it all, he used his lucky camera.

It seems that it is some sort of cliché. Jacques Chirac official portrait was shot in front of Palais de l'Élysée as well.

Here is another breakdown (with the mentioned picture as well):

In any case, "Film is not dead" movement got another strong contribution. Love it!

I start wondering who will be the first president with official portrait shot using Holga...

Now that I look at it again I feel there's way too much background. Doesn't that camera focus any closer. Oh yeah his head does look too big.

To me, it is so different from the usual that I have to like it.

There is an ambiguity that I rather enjoy in it.

Having said that, if I'm not mistaken the human eye is attracted to bright things. So I find the bright part of the building on the left to constantly tug us away from the prez.

An awkward machine to make a portrait with.

Thanks to all those that commented on my comment. A clarification: I didn't mean to say that the building in the background (Élysée Palace, the French equivalent of the US Whitehouse) should be left out of the frame, nor should the European and French flags draped over it, as they all have symbolic importance. I only wish that the president's head weren't bisected by the roof.

What better way to document the collapse of the EU?

Looks fine to me, but what do I know. I like the giant scrim too. Yes, the background looks "near blown," and the chopped knees are a little funky. The official portait of President Obama, on the other hand, takes no chances, and to me looks like it might have been made at Sears, albeit with a 5D mk 2. Here it is at the change.gov site in all its pore counting glory... http://otrans.3cdn.net/57b3824546f56685d6_fxm6bk5fz.jpg

Slightly off topic, but I'd like to put in a humble vote in favor of "touristy snapshots where you get the sense that someone is standing in front of something interesting, but you cannot tell what."

There's a already a zillion completely boring pictures where you can tell exactly what that something is at the postcard stands, in picture books, and online. Twenty zillion online, in fact. But there's probably none yet of that someone being there, and if you have to do some thinking to figure out where there is, well, a little mystery in a photo is not such a bad thing.

I think it is a very positive looking portrait, in that that is probably the purpose: Hollande is projected in a forward stance, almost looming out of the frame, (camera pointing ever so slightly downwards from chest height), with hands loose and suggesting readiness for handling what is undoubtedly a very difficult situation in France and Europe. There is also a slightly enigmatic smile, which suggests confidence and yet a look of ordinariness that may connect as an image with the public. The building is suitably washed out, with no clipped highlights, and the roof line relatively inconsequential to the dynamics of the pose.
All in all in my amateur, humble opinion I think Depardon would have pretty much nailed the brief.

Regards, Mark Walker

Reading French, I can tell you that French people have clear-cut feelings about that photo: they like it or hate it. Personally, I like it. It might be my allergy to "official" photos, but I prefer a more natural pose... For those reading French, there is an article by Bruno Roger-Petit in "Le nouvel observateur" which explains well why it is a "incontestable achievement": http://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/564406-portrait-officiel-de-francois-hollande-pourquoi-c-est-une-incontestable-reussite.html

I like the photo. It's the suit I have issues with.

In praise of the twin lens Rollei.....

Mid sixties and I was a lucky 19: fun job, great life, great girlfriend (she complete with the bonus of great aunt and uncle). They, with no kids of their own (but many applying for the job) had all the goodies. Manhattanites, self built lake house, sailboat, Camaro, cool Ferrari driving martini guzzling friends, great trips, scuba diving, pleasure sailor, and a classic ‘60s photo nut – with a Rolleiflex 2.8.

He patiently taught me the basics on that great 3D screen; composition, exposure, where to point the lens, how to go left to make it go right, your feet as a zoom. We've been together since: great wife, great Rollei, and yours truly as the aging hipster. Uncle had to leave way too soon – he left me a little of himself in that camera.

I've loved cameras and photography ever since. In the ensuing forty+ years there've been dozens and hundreds of cameras in and out of my life (a few at a time of course)- all but a select few turned out to be short term affairs. The Rollei, updated with a bright screen, regular tune ups, and at least annual use has never left.

Every time I pick it up I still marvel at the viewfinder’s depth effect, the heft of the camera – and yet how really small, quiet and elegant it is. The 500 Hassies were LOUD monstrosities compared – the Rollei is a quiet leaf shutter stealth cam 2¼.

Although I had some 35mm stuff by that time, the dozen or so things I had published in those days were all shot on the Rollei. Being young, brash, and not realizing "you can't do that" carves it's own path.

Thanks for those lovely memories – one of the few cameras I never wished had a zoom lens (just sayin’). But - can you imagine that beautiful body and lens with a 40mpx digital receptor?

I think it is a very good photograph beautifully executed and composed. The background is perfectly fitted into the portrait and balanced by the tree on the right. The figure against the building makes a nice T or cross geometric shape which is pleasing and correct. Hollande's demeanor is also elegant and yet not static, and combined with a slight bit of unease a la Avendon. I was surprised at the extent of the lighting though. But I think they might have been filming Depardon as well.

Rollleiflex 1962 ,economy like the same year and where are these days the famous french photographers ?

I like the Nouvel Observateur's notion that one of the remits of the portrait is to "un-bling-bling-ify" the French presidency. On the other hand, I wonder whether a Rolleiflex has not acquired some historic-chic bling-bling-ness as of late. These machines were never cheap to begin with, and to use one professionally now implies that you have someone servicing the camera regularly, and that you have access to a good wet-photographic lab plus either a high-end scanner or optical printing. There is no digital option for a Rolleiflex TLR, something that is not true for other classic cameras (Hasselblad 500-series, Leica M-series, Nikon F-series, etc.) So, the semiotics (bling-bling vs. historic weight+labor intensiveness, for one) may be deeply layered. Alternatively, the photographer just prefers the way the Rolleiflex falls to hand.

he could clearly have benefitted from af Mamiya TLR with a with prism (the only TLR-system with prism :)

Couldn't he move just a bit to the left? ;-)

There's an article on the web site of the french newspaper "Libération" in which they asked various photographers what they think of the picture; see "Des portraitistes jugent la photo officielle de Hollande" at http://www.liberation.fr/politiques/2012/06/04/des-portraitistes-jugent-la-photo-officielle-de-hollande_823527 " . A bit too long to translate/summarize here but Google translate is your friend.

The article also states that the Rolleiflex 6x6 from the 1960's has some history, since it has already been used to photograph Charles de Gaulle, Marlon Brandon and Edith Piaf.

About his head looking large as mentioned by someone else; that is just the way he is, as can be seen in other pictures of Mr Hollande.

The last slide shows the President and two others walking off. The caption reads "Les photos de ce making-off ont été réalisées par les assistants de Raymond Depardon".

I'm tickled by the punning error. The men are "making off", or perhaps stealing away, to the office. The *making-of* shots, the slide show, "were made by the assistants of Raymond Depardon," to translate literally.

Sorry for the pedantry. I admit that my own Franglais skills couldn't hold a candle to the average overworked and under-appreciated sub-editor in French journalism. But I couldn't resist a titter.

On another note: I'd love to have one of those giant sailboat scrims. A few years ago watched in awe as dozens of Chinese assistants manipulated an even larger (4x) version in the Imperial Palace, Beijing, during the shooting of a choreographed crowd scene, for a tv commercial (I guessed at the time). Nothing like it for controlling the sunlight.

I'd make off with that piece of kit, along with the two or three assistants to wrangle it, given the opportunity.


Annie Leibovitz would have put him on a bed of sweetbreads wearing a thong made of horsehair..instead we get this?


Laugh as some of you may regarding the use of a Rolleiflex remember that both Film and Digital cameras are equally vulnerable in that they rely on the benevolence of Manufacturers to make both Film and Software to operate them. As long as they do I know my Rollei's will last longer than me but I can't say that for my Digital cameras.
As an aside I've yet to hold a digital camera that gives me the simple joy of taking a photograph that a Rollei does.

Looking at the 'available/natural' lighting ratios of the scene, including the presence of only small patches of sunlight getting through the trees to the heavily shadowed grass of the foreground, suggests that the 'soft key light' is a BIG HMI ? behind that twelve foot frame with a 'silk' diffuser - movie style - the polyboard being the 'soft fill light' to Depardon's right. (Another stand/cabling? visible under the back of that big frame. Also the amount of light kicking off the lower edge of the top member of that frame, suggests BIG LIGHT? behind this diffuser.
Just guessing, not being there, and being grateful that I wasn't the one having to make those photographic decisions in this heavyweight context. Geometry-wise, I might prefer a little offset of the 'Star' in that square frame. Have a great affection for Depardon's "Modern Life", his 16mm film tribute to the type of community and landscape he grew up in.

I liked the photos of the portrait being taken a whole lot more than the portrait.

It's an excellent portrait taken under pressure by an experience photographer. The photographer uses daylight to avoid artificiality, there is a huge difference between the foreground and background. The photographer exposes for the subject knowing he will burn out the background. Knowing the exposure dominance, the position of the palace can be placed in mid-frame hence in a less disturbing or suggestive area. It's a neutral place, neither to hopefull or pessimistic. The photographer has posed the subject as if he is stepping out of the frame, implying a future to the subject and the viewer. The photographer has done all this and managed to keep the subject focused and attentive for twelve high pressure moments while each frame is snapped. Fantastic work, if you have ever worked under pressure you will appreciate this picture. I had had less than ten minutes to snap an Irish Minister for Finance in 2008, I banged off 20 odd frames and got out of there with a brief 'thankyou' from the minister in question, Bloomberg were happy, that was the main thing. I hope I'm still ticking over when I get to this guy's age. Excellent stuff.

Depardon is one of my all time favorite photographers. He also writes beautifully about his images and ofcourse he's a veteran documentary film maker as well.

In 2008 we had some controversy in Holland about an official photograph of queen Beatrix. Many thougt the famous dutch photographer Anton Corbijn's portrait of her was way too conventional. It didn't look at all like the iconic pictures he took of rock band U2 and so many other famous people. http://www.koninklijkhuis.nl/foto-en-video/portretfotos/hm-de-koningin/hm-de-koningin-januari-2008-5596

I guess Depardon wanted to avoid that trap - and IMHO he succeeded.

"Fantastic work, if you have ever worked under pressure you will appreciate this picture."

Yes, I agree. I could not take the pressure of a shoot like that. I don't deal well with pressure even when it's significantly less than that.


Correction to my previous post, Depardon's documentary "Modern Life" was shot Aaton Super 35mm 2perf.
At a running time of 1hour 45 minutes it can feel a tad long overall, yet Depardon's gift of simply allowing the viewer to sit with him in the homes and lives of these farmers and families with an access that was apparently slowly built-up over some twenty years, beginning with photo essays, then later three documentaries, of which "Modern Times", the last, is a gift in marked contrast to the superficial, word frantic, style and personality-led performing-for-camera of mainstream TV. Also a world away from photo shoots of presidents.
When you see Raymond Depardon's ability to frame a shot in that 2.35:1 aspect ratio, his feeling for, and sensitivity to (probably) only available light, I think I know where his heart is.

A Rolleiflex T1 (mine) dating to around the same model as the one used by Depardon.

It's fun to use but the last model, the 2.8FX is a bit funner (to me) due largely to having a light meter and faster lens.

Raymond Depardon is a classic master of his tools and trade. One of the last of a remarkable generation of both still and moving photographic craftsmen.

Some more takes on the portrait here: http://fr.news.yahoo.com/photos/enfin-officialis%c3%a9e-d%c3%a9j%c3%a0-parodi%c3%a9e-slideshow/. Some of the pictures probably work only in the context of French pop culture and/or the election campaign.

It's a slightly quirky photo, in terms of Francois Hollande's pose and the disconnect between his lighting and the background.

Following the link in the original post, the behind-the-scenes photos -- especially #5 -- are interesting.

The amount of lighting equipment and the film camera make we wonder if part of the brief was "no Photoshop" i.e Hollande is the "real deal" and not some digitally enhanced celeb.

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