The Benetton Baby Ad

1991 - The Benetton Baby Ad

In the early 1990s Benetton was making a name for itself with some shocking adverting campaigns that amongst other things included this image of a new born baby. The campaign itself only lasted a few days before it was pulled under the weight of the public outcry that followed. I found one of the billboards in my home town, Cardiff, right in the city centre where a new exhibition hall was in the process of being built. I photographed it and since then have always liked the image with the combination of the new born baby and the new building. The two go together well and make a bigger impact.

A few days later it was removed.

My only regret was that this was the only image I took.

Since then I’ve realised that I can develop my photography more, by taking photo essays and not just single images. Looking back I could have returned to take the picture of the billboard that replaced it. I could have taken it from different angles, especially capturing the looks from passers – whether or not they’d be pleased or horrified by it.

Really I guess, this shows that no matter what we’re always learning about photography and how we can interpret the world around us. And how we can do better to record it so we have more of a three dimensional view of it, rather than a single flat view, which doesn’t give us the depth that looking at this now I’d like to have.

Benetton went on to print a number of other shocking ads that included nun kissing a priest, 3 identical hearts from people with different coloured skin. Turning back the clock I would have liked to have taken these images as well, looking for similar connections. Perhaps near a church or hospital respectively.

I notice that billboards have been a recurring theme now that I look back over the 25 years since taking this picture. Advertising says a lot about the time and place that we’re in. The fashions, styles, technology and even social change is documented in them, plus the backdrops of the cities that you find these billboards in changes, constantly. It’s one of the fascinations I have about shooting street photography images.

As for Benetton, I believe they are more mainstream now with their ad campaigns, no longer needing or wanting to run such shocking ads. It’s another reason for us photographers to shoot images like this, so that they are recorded for posterity.

Photo details – originally shot on a Bronica SQA camera on Fuji Velvia film, f16-22.


Pigeons on Take Off

Capturing Pigeons in Flight - Lisbon, Portugal

On my last trip to Lisbon I took with me a new Fuji X-Pro 1 that came with 2 lenses, the 18mm and 27mm pancake lens. With it I took hundreds of pictures including this one of pigeons taking off. For me this is a perfect camera because I get all the possibilities to take images manually, but I can fall back on setting the ISO to auto and then experiment with aperture or shutter speed knowing that the image will come out as the ISO adapts to balance out my settings. The wide angle lens, 18mm is the one I’ve used the most although I used the 35mm lens on this particular shot.

Both camera and lens have helped me to take more street style photographs, a style I’m now most comfortable with taking. In the old days I used to lug a tripod around with me wherever I went and often that was up into the mountains. Nowadays I’d rather go out into the street and capture scenes like this. There is more happening in the street, and everything is always in a constant state of change.

Here though I chose to photograph these pigeons. I was travelling to stay with family over Christmas in Lisbon and in the nearby ‘Parque Eduardo VII’ in central Lisbon, I found this flock of pigeons scratching round for food on the ground. When I ran at them, they took off and I grabbed a few frames. I’d set the camera at 1/150 of a second to allow some movement but not too much. I’d left the ISO on 200 and the aperture was f3.6 at time of firing.

I’d intended to make this a black and white photograph from the off, in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson. I’m happy with the movement and randomness of everything that is going on and not really concerned that some are focused and others are blurred.


Secret Station by Eilis O’ Connell

Secret Station by Eilis O' Connell

Secret Station – On a cold wintery day.

Taken about 20 years ago on a Hasselblad and printed on a City & Guilds course I was doing at the time on Black and White printing. I remember setting up the tripod and positioning the camera and taking a number of pictures from different angles. I had to work from a tripod because I wanted to get a long exposure and by setting the aperture down to f22 at least, then I knew that the street lights would have a great star light effect, which they did. I’d also be able to capture the tail lights of the traffic going past. These trails and star lights help make the picture a little more interesting than it would have been if I’d just taken it on a wider setting, f4 for example or shot it on a fast shutter speed. I was looking to get movement into the picture and think I succeeded in doing that.

Since taking it I found out that the bronze sculpture was an abstract called ‘Secret Station’ by Eilis O’ Connell and was commissioned by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation in 1992. I have memories of it puffing out steam from the slits at the top of each tower, but I’ve not seen it do that for years. Whilst trying to find more about the sculpture, I discovered that puffing steam mechanism broke a long time ago. It is a shame, as it was quite a sight when you drove past to see it smoking as if it was living and breathing or had moving parts inside.

Originally taken on 120 film on a Hasselblad, since post processed in Lightroom CC.


Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Toronto Road Trip - Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

On a road trip across Canada from Toronto to the skiing mountains of Tremblant, just north of Montreal a few years back. I normally drive everywhere, but was grateful of the chance to be a passenger on this particular trip, so I could get to sit back and look at the amazing Canadian landscape as we passed it by on our way to Montreal. We passed this huge truck, they are way bigger than the ones we see on British roads and I noticed it in the wing mirror as we passed and was able to get a picture of it before we passed it by.

Toronto Road Trip - Highway Sunset

As the sunset on our trip I noticed the reflections in the bonnet of the car and got a bit arty by putting the camera on one side and snapped away. The colours in the sky were wonderful and I think the composition with the car tail lights, street lights and reflections make for a great picture.

Toronto Road Trip - Telegraph Poles

I took this series of pictures from the car. Normally I’d be wanting to set up the tripod and take a little more care, but if I did, then I wouldn’t have got any of these images.

Toronto Road Trip - Cars

Have you done a similar road trip? Share your experiences and images by writing a comment below.