Billingham 225 Camera Bag

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Returning to my core mission of celebrating aesthetically pleasing and classically designed icons mention must be made of the beautiful English made bags of M Billingham and Co Ltd – better known to us as “Billingham Bags”.

In 1973, Martin Billingham founded his eponymous business making fishing bags and forty years on the business is still in family ownership. Indeed the essence of the light brown canvas bags are reminiscent of a trout fishing bag my father gave me over forty years ago complete with many internal sections for reels and tackle. By 1978 it was discovered that a large number of their bags were being sold to a New York based photographer thus igniting the most important connection between these durable water-resistant canvass and rubber bonded bags, edged in finest leather and their obvious target market.

Typically a Billingham bag is full of sections divided by velcro sided foam panels that can be varied to accommodate several lenses, camera bodies, flash units and filters. The larger models also feature external straps to hold tripods.

The world of photography has undergone a revolution in its transition to digital image capture and a trend away from larger SLR type cameras – Please check out here our piece on the new Hasselblad X1D – Hasselblad X1D to the more convenient “point and shoot” or even the use of a high pixel camera like that of the new iPhone X. Yet it seems that the future of the Billingham bag, as the bag of choice for the professional or serious amateur  photographer, seems set for many years to come. The Billingham range has also evolved to offer a range of smaller bags designed for compact cameras and their accessories.

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I bought my first Billingham bag, a large brown canvass 225 with chestnut leather piping, in the late 1980’s to accommodate my beloved SLR camera, a Nikon 801 body – to which I had attached a Nikon motor drive – and had a large flash unit, several Nikkor zoom and wide angled lenses, straps, boxes of Ilford and Kodachrome film – both black and white and colour – and a tripod. It was an excellent collection that I used regularly and produced some pretty decent photos. My habit of saving both boxes and receipts from my favourite camera shop “Fox Talbot” (that merged with lager rival “Jessops” in 1998 now owned by TV’s Dragon’s Den investor, Peter Jones) stood me in good stead. In the middle 1990’s, when we were away on holiday and our house was being renovated and some light fingered painter/decorator stole my entire Billingham bag and its contents. The insurance company were impressed by my proofs of purchase and refunded the entire loss allowing me to replace my favourite bag and its contents.

For me the most adaptable bag in the current Billingham range – and there are more expensive ones – and the one I have owned for several years, is the Billingham 225 – see here a live review of this bag –Billingham 225 camera bag

If you would like to enjoy the evident benefits of these most appealing icons of modern photography please click the AMAZON link below the image

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Billingham 225 Canvas Camera Bag With Tan Leather Trim – Khaki

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Image credits M. Billingham & Co Ltd and Hasselblad AB

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Bonne Maman Jam

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Click here to buy from AMAZON – Bonne Maman Blackcurrant Conserve Jam, 370g

As many of you know I am a huge admirer of many French products. My list includes Duralex “Picardie” glasses Duralex Glass – Picardie a favourite mustard, Maille – Maille Dijon mustard , a favourite polo shirt, Lacoste – Lacoste Shirt , three favourite cars from Citroen Citroën 2CV Citroen DS Citroën Méhari , my favourite fragrances are from Chanel including Chanel Egoiste and I really like Baccarat glassware – Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight .

When it comes to my favourite jam then that trophy goes to the black fruit jams including  Blackcurrant and Blackberry coming from the fine kitchen of Bonne Maman. “Bonne Maman” literally translates to “Granny” and the company stresses that its recipes are traditional – perhaps suggesting they may have been handed down by a Grandparent.

The pretty jar and screw topped lid – draped in a bistrot-style gingham-tablecloth pattern – both enjoy certain Intellectual Property protection around the world. The designer of this iconic packaging, including the quill-like script, was Pierre Roche-Bayard.

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The simple presentation is in the style that you may have seen, possibly produced by any older relative and sold at your local equivalent of a Farmer’s Market, at any point over the last fifty years.

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Click here to buy from AMAZON –

Post World War II, Jean Gervoson and his co-founder Pierre Chapoulart established the  Andros agro-business, in the Department of Lot in South West France. They decided to make jams from the fruits – primarily plums – that remained unsold. The business developed during the 1960’s and in 1971 the Bonne Maman brand was launched.

Jean’s sons Frederic and Xavier continue to be in charge of the business and its various divisions. Since 1997 Bonne Maman has diversified launching of a biscuits, desserts and pastry /muffins ranges.

Unsalted, perhaps French…., butter on a lightly crisped tartine – a day-old toasted and halved baguette – which once coated in butter should be loaded with Bonne Maman’s wonderful jam. A perfect breakfast when combined with a good strong coffee.

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Don’t throw your empty jars away – sorry fans of recycling – as you may well be inspired to make your own jams or jellies and use the attractive jars as gifts for your pals.

Images – Courtesy of Bonne Maman

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Henri Cartier-Bresson – Rue Mouffetard, Paris (1954)

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We are delighted to continue our series of iconic photographs, images that capture a decisive moment or an attitude.

Our subject is Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) and his 1954 portrait: “Rue Mouffetard, Paris”. A depiction of local boy – Rue Mouffetard is in Paris’ 5th Arrondissment – Michel Gabriel, proudly carrying two magnums of wine. The boy’s expressive face is evocative of Puck both knowing and innocent. Perhaps it’s the incongruity of the young face, the contented expression and the fact he is carrying an  adult product that adds to its charm. Behind the boy are a pair of girls who seem to be applauding his efforts and sharing in his joy.

It’s said that Cartier-Bresson stayed in touch with Michel and attended his 50th birthday in the late 1990’s. He arrived at his party to a closed door which on cue was opened and the great photographer stood in a similar pose carrying two magnums!

Cartier-Bresson’s trade mark was candid photography – often in the street – that have marked him as one of the great pioneers of modern photography.

The oldest of five children of a wealthy textile manufacturer, the family lived in Paris in Rue de Lisbonne, a middle class neighbourhood close to Gare St Lazare and the Parc Monceau.

A good student, post Lycée, Henri went to an art school, Lhote Academy – the studio of Cubist, Andre Lhote, whom he regarded as his teacher of “photography without a camera.”

In the late 1920’s meeting various Surrealists “with an appetite for the usual and unusual” was an inspiration. In 1928/9 he attended Cambridge University studying art and literature. In 1930 he was conscripted into the French Army and was introduced to photography by American, Harry Crosby.

He spent time in West Africa and contracted blackwater fever that nearly killed him. Returning to recuperate in Marseille he saw and was hugely influenced by the work of Martin Munkacsi, a photojournalist. In Marseille, he purchased a Leica 35mm camera-body – he always preferred small bodied cameras – and a 50mm lens.  He painted any shiny part of the camera with black paint to increase his anonymity.

He cared little for photographic technique, never used a flash or cropped a photo. Throughout his working life he shot almost exclusively in black and white

He travelled extensively and his resulting works were first shown in New York in 1932 at the Julien Levy Gallery. In 1934 he met a Hungarian photographer named Endré Friedmann, who later changed his name to Robert Capa.

In September 1939 he joined the French Army, but was captured and spent three years in a prison camp before successfully escaping to work with the Resistance, secretly photographing the Occupation of France and its Liberation. In 1943 he dug up his Leica – having buried it in a field near Vosges – and worked for the American Office of War Information.

In early 1947, Henri, Capa, David Seymour and others established Magnum Photos, a co-operative photographic agency owned by its members and divided assignments amongst them. Henri’s coverage of Gandhi’s funeral in India in 1948 and his work in early Maoist China in 1949 are particularly celebrated.

He retired from photography in the early 1970s preferring to draw and paint. The antithesis of the celebrity photographer being both shy and private, very few photos of him exist.

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