Robert Doisneau – “Picasso and The Loaves” (1952)


Continuing with our series of iconic images and featuring a definitive piece from the body of work of the classic French photographer, Robert Doisneau, would usually involve his work “Le baiser de l’hotel de ville” (A Kiss at the Town Hall) a joyous and iconic image – although I was diasappointed to learn that it was staged – but I feel that that image is upstaged by our featured image. It combines the work of a master craftsman photographer with the mischievous genius of a painter, Pablo Ruiz Picasso.

Doisneau, along with fellow French giant of photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson are credited with pioneering photojournalism that fly on the wall process of documenting and recording the lives of ordinary residents. For both Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson their cast of characters were the post War inhabitants of Paris and its suburbs.

Losing his parents as a youngster he was raised by an aunt. He attended a craft school, École Estienne, graduating in 1929 with diplomas in engraving and lithography. At 16 he picked up a camera for the first time but the shy Doisneau was uncomfortable photographing people.

After a short stay with Atelier Ullman, a graphics studios that provided services to the advertising industry in 1931 he becomes assistant to a photographer, Andre Vigneau selling his first piece to Excelsior magazine in 1932. By 1934 he had found work as a photographer at the Renault factory which ignited his interest in photographing people.

Until the start of World War II he worked for the Rapho photographic agency – with whom he remained for the rest of his working life – but was conscripted and served in the army until the Fall of Paris when he turned his skills to helping the Resistence by forging documents.


After an unhappy spell with Vogue post War, Doisneau retuned to photographing street life as well with the 1950’s being the peak of his career when he was also in demand for taking celebrity portraits.

Our 1952 featured image comes from a session at Picasso’s house at Rue Grands Augustines (Paris, 6th Arrondissment). Picasso was having lunch with painter and author Francoise Gilot the loaves, resembling large hands, were on the table. Picasso, realizing the humour posed with his forearms below the table. Doisneau captured this with the loaves of bread sticking out looking like his hands. This is one of the most popular photos of Picasso and it also shows his sense of humor.

Barbour International – Steve McQueen

As those of you who already know of my penchant for Barbour and their intoxicatingly smelly wax jackets – if you are a regular user and they don’t quite dry out you’ll know what I mean – then you’ll know of the long-standing connection between motorbikes, their riders and Barbour. Duncan, Founder John’s grandson, was key to this connection fuelled by his own passion for motorbikes.

Please see our earlier piece on the subject – Barbour Jacket

Well, Barbour, under their brand “Barbour International” have hit the jackpot this season with the launch of a reinvented collection of classic biker styles.

The iconic ambassador of many cool things, who is celebrated by and gives his brand to this collection is Steve McQueen.

McQueen apparently loved motorbikes, particularly riding out into the dessert. He is famously quoted as saying “I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts.”

Our featured image shows McQueen on his 1963 Triumph Bonneville “Desert Sled” that sold in Las Vegas at Bonhams in January 2016 for $US103,500. It was rebuilt for McQueen by his friend Bud Ekins, the stunt rider who jumped the barbed-wire fence in The Great Escape (1969) – insurance risks prevented McQueen doing the stunt. It was finished by famous motorbike painter, Ken Howard, better known as “Von Dutch”.

In 2009, the Desert Sled sold at Bonhams & Butterfields’ first motorcycle and memorabilia auction for $84,240, yielding a good return for seller Larry Bowman, a prominent California collector.

Please enjoy responsibly!



Dorothea Lange – “Migrant Mother”

The power of great photography is alive and very well. Taken in an era when 35 mm film became a popular format and without the luxury of multiple digital “bursts” to chose exactly the right shot, the clear and enviable skill of manual photographers is undeniable.

This is the first of a selection of those iconic photographs that resonate with succeeding generations, such that their relevance today is unquestionable.

The first in our series is “Migrant Mother” by the Great Depression-era photographer, Dorothea Lange.

Born in 1895 in Hoboken (New Jersey, US) into a family of German immigrants, Ms Lange, succumbed to polio aged 7 – that left her with a limp and recurring pain – and at 12, she and her family were abandoned by her father. The influence on the young Dorothea of these harrowing events indisputably led her in her work as a social commentator and photojournalist.

Graduating from Columbia University, in 1918 she determined to travel the world but her plans were foreshortened as a result of crime en route to San Francisco where she settled, married and raised two boys.

The years of the Great Depression, provided Ms Lange with ample opportunity to study the lives of those left destitute. Her work became of interest to the federal Resettlement Administration who employed her to document the lives of migrant workers suffering rural poverty.

In 1936, Dorothea took the photograph, “Migrant Mother” in Nipomo, (California) – at a settlement camp for out of work pea pickers, the crop having been destroyed by freezing rain. Her stark image truly captured the essence of a mother’s struggle to provide for her children in the present and portrayed the loss of her hope for her children’s future.

She made her images available at no cost to the press across America in order to raise awareness of the plight of these displaced families. A San Francisco newspaper carried the story and the photos, as a direct result the Federal Government provided emergency aid for the camp.

The woman photographed was Florence Owens Thompson, then aged 32. She later admitted that she had managed to keep her family alive but they “just existed”, she had sold car tyres and they had eaten frozen crops. Dorothea had promised Ms Thompson, a Cherokee Indian, originally from Oklahoma, anonymity as she felt the photos may assist the plight of her six children and of the poor itinerant labours who roamed the country seeking work. Above all she wanted to avoid any embarrassment to her children as she didn’t want them to be seen as specimens of poverty.

Ms Thomson resolutely remained anonymous until the late 1970’s but she gained nothing material from her role in this iconic work. In 1983, after suffering a stroke and being unable to afford her medical care, her children used her identity as the “Migrant Mother” to raise donations. She died shortly afterwards.

On May 28, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Ms Lange’s induction into the California Hall of Fame.



Image Credit: “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange 1936 © Library of Congress / Courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery