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

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

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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.