The Richard Flint Photography Blog
Launched in February 2007, the Richard Flint Photography blog contains a mixture of photography news, features and posted images covering a wide variety of subjects including news, website and video links and photographer profiles.
|Michèle Breton, 1968|
Type Michèle Breton's name into Google and you can easily find links, photographs, articles about the film, and more. Michèle's name even comes up in the auto suggestions list, yet a vast amount of the information relates purely to her role as Lucy in the cult 1968 British film. Information about her life afterwards is scant, poorly sourced and most often wildly inaccurate, which has really opened my eyes to how appalling unreliable the internet can be when there is an information vacuum. The less is known the more it seems people make things up. No sources, evidence or links. Just assumption, rumour and innuendo dressed up as fact. It isn't particularly helped by the fact that Performance is a cult film and is closely connected with the Rolling Stones story. Keith Richards also knew Michèle, briefly mentioning her (page 254 where he also reveals her nickname was Mouche - which means Fly in French - is the nickname a reference to one of her lines in the film?) in his 2010 autobiography called Life. However even books can get things wrong.
Marianne Faithfull's 1994 autobiography called Faithfull: An Autobiography is a perfect example of how an assumption or rumour can be made to appear as fact. So much so that it is still often quoted. A paragraph on page 155 mentions Breton which reads 'Michèle Breton didn't fare so well either. She became a heroin dealer in Marseilles shortly after the film and is, I think, probably dead by now' The last line is the interesting section, where Faithfull uses the 'and is, I think, probably dead by now'. It's hardly a definitive statement of fact, which was fortunate as things turned out, although you can't really blame Marianne for thinking that way. The drug casualty rate after the late sixties was horrific as addiction took tight hold and reaped its deadly toll. Faithfull herself suffered many lost years of drug addiction, well documented in her book, but there does also seem to be an fatalistic attitude amongst writers, especially those who lived through the sixties, who just assume survival isn't a likely outcome. Many didn't survive - Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Gram Parsons, were just a few of the names who succumbed during the early seventies - but others, like Marianne Faithfull, did eventually recover. They did survive.
|James Fox and Michèle Breton in Performance|
Regardless of that small error, Brown's book is very revealing about Breton's life. Born and raised up in a small town in Brittany, Michèle, just aged sixteen, was given 100 Francs by her parents, put on a train to Paris and told by her parents that they never wanted to see her again! Drifting to St Tropez in 1967, she ended up meeting Donald Cammell who would later cast her in the role of Lucy. After Performance had been completed in late 1968, Cammell drove her back to Paris, let her stay two or three days and then said that he didn't want to see her any more. For five years she drifted around France ( according to writer Robert Greenfield, Michèle visits Nellcôte where the Stones were recording 'Exile on Main St' in 1971. Srangely Greenfield lists Michèle as 'missing in action and presumed to be gone as well' at the end of his 2006 article without giving any details about his search for her or why he presumes she's dead!) and Spain, being busted for drugs on the island of Formentera, from where she flees back to Paris on the run from the police. It was then that she decided to head east, following the hippie drug trail, arriving in Kabul, Afghanistan, regarded at the time as the Paris of central Asia, sometime in the mid seventies. For a year she stayed there shooting morphine, even selling her passport and possessions at one extreme low point, before finally deciding to quit during an LSD trip. After three months in hospital in India, she returns to Kabul, then Europe via Italy before settling down in Berlin in 1982 where Mick Brown finds her thirteen years later.
|Michèle Breton as Lucy|
Mick Brown's book shows Breton alive and in Berlin up to the release of the book in late 1999, and yet the rumours of her death and suicide still persist. Robert Greenfield hints, in a Faithfull like fashion, at this in his 2006 Rolling Stone article and even the Guardian in 2004 clearly state that 'Pallenberg and Breton succumbed to heroin, Breton fatally so.' No obituary source is mentioned - the journalist Michael Holden probably just used Faithfull's brief mention of Breton as evidence. Holden's Performance article is further undermined by further errors including the death of cast member John Bindon, who the article says was stabbed to death in a nightclub, but who actually died of liver cancer in his flat in 1993. Poor research seems the likely culprit but misinformation like this spreads online, especially from 'trusted' sources like the Guardian. It's one of the reason why i wanted to create this post and state the known facts about Michèle Breton from a reliable source - Mick Brown's on Performance. So far THE only reliable source I've found.
An extensive search online (as of the time of writing - March 2014) relating to the possible suicide, overdose or death of Michèle Breton (since the Mick Brown interviews took place) has revealed absolutely nothing. So where next? Hopefully a read of Paul Buck's 2012 book 'Performance: biography of a sixties classic' may bring things up to recent times. If Michèle Breton is still alive, and i have absolutely no evidence yet to suggest otherwise, she will be 63 years of age. She told Mick Brown in 1995 'I've done nothing with my life. Where did it start going wrong? I can't remember. It's something like destiny'. I just hope that in the time since Michèle's last interview, the years have been kinder and more generous towards her.
|James Fox as the gangster Chas|
|Anita Pallenburg and Mick Jagger in Performance|
|Anita Pallenburg and Michèle Breton in Performance|
In the end Warner Brothers hated the film when it was delivered to them. The executives thought they were getting a Mick Jagger film that would appeal to sixties youth like the Beatles 'A Hard Days Night'. Instead they got a drug and sex riddled Performance and they despised everything in it. It took nearly two years, numerous edits and a change of executives at the studio before the film would finally get a release in August 1970. It received a mixed reception on release but has, over the years, gained recognition as a classic British film and as Marianne Faithfull observed, the film 'preserves a whole era under glass. Even Mick Jagger's official website recommends it as THE Jagger film to watch. Thankfully due to this classic status, and it has to be said an intriguing production history and cast, there is plenty of research material out there for interested film buffs like myself, with at least four books detailing the history, production and references within the film - the most recent book being released as recently as 2012. So I'm going to start with 'Mick Brown's on Performance' which, according to the reviews on Amazon, details everything that you'd ever want to know. If I learn anything revelatory, and find my demon, I'll let you know.
At the end of November i supplied a couple of images for a documentary about World War I due to go out on BBC 2 next year to mark the hundredth anniversary of the conflict.
The programme called Long Shadow looks at the legacy of World War I and the far reaching consequences that have carried on through the generations. We continue to be haunted by it.
ClearStory who are making the TV documentary state on their website :-
'Tracing the legacy of the Great War through a hundred years and eleven different countries, historian David Reynolds explores how the war haunted the generation who lived through it and builds a powerful new argument that the conflict unleashed forces we still grapple with today.’It certainly sounds like a fascinating watch. More details will follow nearer the broadcast time.
Viewing these films, lots of memories came flooding back. Hartlepool was where my grandparents lived so i got to know the place very well. The industrial landscape were always fascinating to me as a child, especially at night when Seal Sands would be lit up like something from a science fiction film. Only later did i discover that Ridley Scott had used that very same landscape as inspiration when he was making Blade Runner.
Each of the beautifully shot films takes a look at the people and landscape of the town. I especially loved the third film Black Beach that looks at the “Tantobies” and their horses and carts, working hard to make a living from a coal-covered beach. Twenty years after the pits closed, the coal still appears on the beach. It reminded me of the great Seacoal photography work by Chris Killip shot over thirty years ago. I didn't realise that the 'tantobies' still existed or could still exist after the closure of the mines, but they do.
The superb Another England series can be found on Maxy's Vimeo page HERE
You don't have to go far on the internet to find a well known photographer talking about his work these days, but this week a terrific find was released onto the web - the voice of Robert Capa.
Found on eBay, the recording, a radio interview made in October 1947, was quickly purchased by the International Center for Photography who have now released the full 23:40 audio recording on their website. Robert Capa talks about his work, about the reviews of his book 'Slightly out of Focus' and more, but it is the insights into a couple of iconic Capa photographs that really makes the interview an insightful listen.
One fascinating aspect of the recording dealt with the image of the death of a loyalist soldier (seen above) during the Spanish Civil War. To say that Capa's story about that photo has a interesting revelation would be somewhat of an understatement. The recording, with details coming directly from the photographer, certainly does provide some good evidence that the falling loyalist soldier image is not a fake as some often allege.
The audio recording of Robert Capa talking about his work, photography and more can be found HERE
The steady changing pace of professional photography broke the surface in a variety of ways over the last few days. The first was the tale of the Chicago Sun laying off its entire photography staff. Twenty eight photographers, some of whom had worked for the paper for decades, lost their jobs in what was described as 'a tough decision'. For a well established media organisation to get rid a key elements in communicating a story seems extremely desperate. Tragic even. All that expertise, experience and talent gone in a flash to be replaced by, at best by a freelance photographer, or worst of all, and more likely, a reporter with an iPhone.
A recent event nearer to home underlined the problem and it involved my local paper. A truck going along the nearby dual carriageway caught on fire after a tyre blew. The fire was so intense, due to the truck's extremely flammable cargo of tyres, paint and rolls of tape, that the road surface had to be replaced. For most of the day the road was closed. The story got the headlines it deserved and with the text was an small photograph of the truck ablaze shot by a local resident on a smart phone. Just ten years ago, the paper would have dispatched a photographer to capture the flames engulfing truck. Today a member of the public does it for them for free - the reward is not financial but to have your glorious name alongside the image.
You might think that this practice is just restricted to local newspapers after a cheap story, but recently The Guardian newspaper launched an iPhone app called Guardianwitness which they cheerfully describe as 'GuardianWitness: our new home for content you've created'. Well that's big of them isn't it. The benefits speak for themselves for a newspaper in an era of dropping circulation, lower revenues and changing business models. You get the public to create the content, give them a credit and NO money has to change hands. Who needs journalists or photographers when the costs can be reduced to virtually nothing.
Yesterday morning, the excellent Who Pays Photographers? Tumblr blog posted about a band offering a potential photographer access to the band for one day during their tour for $150. Yes, the photographer would have to pay the band to photograph them and not the other way around. After receiving a massive amount of flak on their Facebook page from pro photographers, the band eventually pulled the offer claiming that they meant a fan with a camera. It certainly didn't come across like that in the text.
“Are you an aspiring photographer? Come take pictures of us all day at Warped Tour! We will provide you with the access, and experience you need. We will also take your pictures and put them on our Instagram page, and give you full credit for it. This is a great package for anyone who loves taking pictures, whether its for a hobby or professionally.”
With an attitude like that, it's no wonder that they ended up feeling the wrath of pro photographers on Facebook. Sadly a few comments showed support for the band and ignored the fact that the band were potentially going to exploit someone for their own gain. Was it down to ignorance or was it knowingly going to exploit some poor photographer? The band seemed genuinely surprised by the bad response and they did quickly remove the offending offer, but only because they were exposed to a intense barrage of criticism.
The last few days has seen all sorts of accusations hit the web about the Chicago Sun decision. The internet is killing photojournalism being the over simplistic, headline grabbing war cry of some. The discussion has centred on photojournalism but the core issues around of the devaluing of photography affect the whole of the photography industry and not just certain sectors. Technology brings solutions and problems. The impact of digital cameras, the internet and software that simplifies processes will continue to have unforeseen good and bad consequences. The key issue behind the loss of jobs at the Chicago Sun comes back to money and the newspaper's lack of it. Technology provides another solution. The photographer is replaced by iPhone.
Are we really that surprised? Some people see taking a photograph as the mere pushing of a button, ignorant of the skill and talent involved. No doubt some newspaper board members think this way too. I could say that this attitude is all down to Instagram, the internet or digital cameras but it's always been there. I'd be lying if I said that people never quibbled about the cost of photography back in 2001 when I first started out. They undervalued it then and they still do undervalue and quibble about cost now. They always will.
It has been quite a week for Yahoo. In a fevered burst of activity this week, they purchased Tumblr for just over $1 billion to inherit the younger audience that apparently congregates there. Then, to top it all off, they decide, after years of neglect, to revamp Flickr which Yahoo themselves modestly state is 'almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.' Well maybe.
The Tumblr purchase annoyed quite a few people who hadn't forgotten Yahoo's lackadaisical attitude to appropriating new website services. Just like a young child given a new pet, Yahoo do have a reputation for being very enthusiastic towards their new 'pets' only to loose interest later. I rather like Tumblr and was relieved to hear that the service will remain independent of Yahoo. How long that promise will last though is anyone's guess. I expect that adverts and maybe even a paid Tumblr Plus account may appear in time.
The real story of the week, however, was the Flickr upgrade that was spectacular in a number of ways by wowing and horrifying photographers in equal measure. I've started to get used to the new design but the business model does leave me wondering how Flickr will make money for Yahoo. The old model had the Flickr Pro account that delivered a few extra perks for those who signed up to it. There was an incentive to pay for a Pro account but not now. All the great bits are now free including the one full terabyte of storage, full resolution images and many of the old Flickr Pro perks. Great... but what about upgrading revenues?
The old Flickr Pro users have been looked after... well at least most of them have. Those lucky enough to have an eligible pro account keep the current $25 rate of renewal. Newcomers to Flickr will have to pay more and here is where Yahoo's upgrade model looks weird. The paid format in place is not at all appealing. Fifty dollars gets you no adverts. That's it! No extra space or cool features. With a significant jump from $25 to $50 it's hardly a compelling deal! Why upgrade? Most people will just choose to stick with the generous free options and live with the adverts that, to be honest, are barely noticeable.
The Thatcher post from earlier this week provided me with a reason to smile. It wasn't anything to do with the iron lady herself but one of the photographs i had used in the post. A memory came to mind.
Student life had many fun moments but one aspect that isn't often talked about is the boredom. During the week you would have course work and other distractions to entertain you, yet i found filling the time over the weekends could be tricky. You can only read so much. To counter this, I created a circular walking route that I would do most weekends. During my years as a student I had routes in each of the towns I lived in but the Middlesbrough walk always remained my favourite. It was dark, gritty and industrial but beautiful too.
The River Tees runs past Middlesbrough and I had a walk that went through the centre of town, followed the river from the iconic Transporter bridge to the Newport bridge, and then cut through the terraced streets back to my house. I imagine that the walk must have been around three miles in length (note: just measured it using Google Earth - it was five miles so I was well off with my estimate). Often the route was quiet apart from the occasional dog walker or runner, but one hot June day i came across the family seen in the photo above.
The photo was taken just off the rather glamorously titled Depot road that I had to follow between the two bridges. The location hasn't changed very much at all in twenty years, but the once open space now has a security fence that makes access near impossible. The rail track itself ran down to the dockside, although by the look of it, a train hadn't run along those tracks in years. Making their way along this overgrown bit of railway line came a man with his young son and daughter.
"Look Dad, he has a camera" remarked the young girl pointing to the Pentax Program A i was carrying. "Yeah" replied the Dad in a rather confident tone of voice "but my camera is better than his!" I just smiled and carried on walking my route. What camera he had I don't know. Unlike me, he didn't have it with him.
Thatcher. One name that conjures up love or loathing. Her recent death has whipped up many of the old emotions about her. Those people outside of the UK have been surprised to find out how hated she was. No other British politician has ever really inspired these emotions as much as Margaret Hilda Thatcher does.
shipyard at Haverton Hill where huge ships towered above. It seemed biblical in scale to me as a six year old boy. Then one day the yard was quiet. Empty. Barren. The shipyard site was so huge that it didn't really fit any other purpose so it stayed quiet and empty until 2008. It could be said that I was politicised from then on. I saw the consequences to the actions. Thatcher didn't close the yard - it closed in February 1979 - but the damage done through a lack of investment and re-development during her time in office haunts the area to this day. During my early student years I was able to see more of this derelict industrial sites around the north east town of Middlesbrough. I even got a pass from the harbour authority to photograph sites. These places and their workers had powered the empire, supported the country through wars and done exactly what had been asked of them. All it earned them was a quick, but totally painful end. The workers, their families and the communities, like the derelict work places, were left to rot and decay after the industries were finally closed. No help. No investment. No compassion. No hope. No wonder there is still anger.
The Midlands, South Wales, Scotland and the North East were just some of the places that found themselves in the firing line. All was definitely not equal in Thatcher's Britain. Far from it. A series of tough monetarist economic polices took an immense toll on many industries and their communities. Some areas like Hartlepool only started to recover after receiving serious investment from the European Union re-development fund starting in the early 1990's. It was true that the industrial decline had been going on for some time and that it was inevitable that many industries would close, but the real bitterness and hatred aimed towards Mrs Thatcher stems from how the closures were done. The fact that some militant unions had caused havoc in Britain shortly before Thatcher's rise didn't help matters. Maybe she saw the closures as dealing with two problems at the same time - killing two birds with one stone as it were. The end certainly came quickly for many industries but the communities ended up facing a damned existence. As a child growing up in Thatcher's Britain during the 1980's, I saw the effects first hand as a wave of decay and disintegration set in. Chris Killip's images, featured the books 'In Flagrante' and 'Seacoal', look very familiar to me and reflect many of my childhood memories.
ship building, steel works and other industries. To a certain extent this did happen but it took a generation or more for many towns to even start the slow process of recovery. Regeneration of an area is an extremely slow and costly process that can take decades to complete. The town of Consett in County Durham still clearly visibly bears the scars of the closure of the steel plant back in 1980 - even after years of regeneration via Project Genesis. The heart was just ripped out of the town in one knock-out punch. Workers went onto the benefit system and mostly stayed there. Unemployment in Consett during 1981 peaked at 36%. It is still higher than the national average in the town over thirty years later.
unifies a country rather than divides it - especially during a time of national crisis. Mrs Thatcher was certainly no Churchill. The North/South divide widened during her reign and still remains a major problem that modern politicians just don't want to be bothered with. When Mrs Thatcher was entering Downing Street after her 1979 general election win she said 'Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope'. Many would say that she failed on all counts; especially the last one. A friend of mine, at college with me in the mid 1990's, utterly despised Mrs Thatcher because of the experiences he'd had as a young man. His unemployment, and that of many of his generation, were seen as a sacrifice worth paying for the smooth implementation of various monetarist economic policies. Three million unemployed. My friend never forgave her for it. Hope? What hope???
Today the funeral, which is a state one in all but name, took place and there will be plenty of people praising the politics and vision of the late Prime Minster of Britain from 1979-1990. I won't be among them. I will be thinking of certain images created by Chris Killip and the Amber collective in Newcastle upon Tyne documenting the other side of Maggie's Britain. Martin Parr photographed the Britain Maggie wanted to see - Chris Killip did not. With the request to be respectful towards Margaret Hilda Thatcher often mentioned, it would seem that many journalists and politicians have forgotten that the Iron Lady had very little respect for large parts of Britain. Many parts of Britain certainly haven't forgotten her. They still bear the scars.
- Top: Wallsend, Tyneside - Chris Killip
- Top left: Ship Launch at Haverton Hill 1972
- Middle Right: Haverton Hill shipyard 1992
- Middle Left: Disused Railhead - Middlebrough 1992
- Bottom Right: Political posters - Middlebrough 1992
Zombies. Walkers. Rotters. The dead coming back to life have been rather popular of late with TV shows like 'The Walking Dead' even appealing to those who aren't fans of the zombie genre. Just like those TV shows where a character dies and comes back, the photo retail chain Jessops has returned from the dead; thankfully looking in a leaner and fitter shape than it did before it passed away.
Originally the comeback, only made possible by the efforts of entrepreneur and businessman Peter Jones, was to be an online only operation, but it has now been revealed that 40 stores, possibly rising to 48 at a later date, will be opened around the UK. One store will open every day during April. An order online and collect in store service appears to be one key area that the new Jessops company are keen to promote so the location of the stores will be key to the use of the order and collect service.
The new stores opening is great news but they do need to be relevant to the broad demands of the modern day photographer. Whether it be digital, video or film, the stores should reflect the diverse nature of 21st century photography. One reason for the death of the old Jessops brand was it focused on a very narrow market - a market that quickly moved onto using smart phones for their photography! The retail needs of other photographers tended to be ignored. Hopefully this new Jessops enterprise will be a true photographic retailer where digital, video AND analogue photographers can shop in the same retail space.
So will i use it? Well yes, in fact i will be placing my first order next week using the website, buying photographic chemicals and a few other bits and bobs. What the future has in store for this new enterprise is another matter, but with reduced costs and a better business plan it could have a bright future. Maybe.
The new Jessops website can be found at www.jessops.co.uk
It would be interesting to do some English Civil war reenactment images in a similar style, even if it was historically totally inaccurate. Photography in the England of 1644 would probably be regarded as witchcraft so you'd have to be careful.
The eyes say all you need to know in this image of the chaining of a young pig-tailed macaque as it is displayed for sale in Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia. Fear, uncertainty and even a sense of 'please help me' can be seen in those eyes. Of course if it were a cobra being chained up the image would lose all of its power. Cobras don't have that awww factor about them.
This image by Rivo Andries of Associated Press was featured in last week's best images on the Time/Lightbox website. It can be tough going through the images each week but strangely this one stood out. Maybe it represents so acutely the darker side of human nature. Looking at this image i thought of Agent Smith's rather accurate appraisal of the human race. Maybe he has a very valid point.