As movie stars arrive at the foot of the Cannes Film Festival red carpeted Stairs for a short stroll through the photographer’s flashes, a crowd of ordinary people gathers hoping to catch a glance at someone famous.
Alas, the red carpet is hidden behind rows of accredited photographers. The only visible Stars are on the giant screen overlooking the Stairs. Hundreds of cell phones and compact cameras are pointed to it awaiting the appearance of that favorite comedian.
On the sidewalk opposite the Stairs is a special group of dedicated fans. They arrive three days before the launch of the festival to secure their seats and step ladders in front of the red carpet, a prime spot to photograph the stars as they arrive. Most of them are assiduous amateurs who return every year to enrich their photo collection.
This is a made-for-TV giant photocall, not a news event. Photographers and cameramen are required to sport a black tuxedo and assigned a numbered position according to their importance. The intended high-class of the show is ruined by loud low grade pop music and cheesy speaker commentaries.
All is bright and beautiful in front of the camera, it’s the magic of cinema. As with all magic the tricks are only visible behind the scene. Press photographers and editors do their post-production work in offices in the Palais des Festivals basement, beneath the red carpet. No large comfortable press room here. Press agencies spend a fortune to rent high-speed internet access and a windowless wooden prefab office, as small as 9m2. The picture editors spend 12-15 hours daily in this space for the festival’s duration.
Some people are in Cannes during the festival to actually try to see selected movies. Anonymous cinephiles stand at the entrance of the Palais des Festivals brandishing placards asking professionals coming in and out for spare invitations for the next film presentation. They are dressed-up to be allowed in should they be lucky enough to get one.
The bottom-line is, if you’re in Cannes during the Festival, the only sure way to see movie stars is to walk around the bus stops near city hall:
It has begun! Pro photographers shoot features, amateur photographers guard their step ladders -chained to fences in front of the venue three days earlier- and the city’s energy level rises prior to the evening’s opening ceremony. When it finally gets under way, a crowd is there to attempt to catch a glimpse and grab a frame of the movie stars climbing the famous red carpeted steps. Click on the photo to view the gallery.
This year again I am commissioned by ARTE, the franco-german TV channel, to cover their activities during the festival. This means ten days of lunches, cocktails and lounge parties on the yacht rented for the event to greet actors, directors and producers of the 15 films produced by ARTE and presented in the festival.
This should be an enjoyable two weeks but a tougher job than it sounds. Really. First lounge party tomorrow…
In September 2010 I set out to cover the large demonstration against the French government’s planned retirement reform by shooting portraits of the retirees participating to support the movement. The angle for this series was to compare these retirees’ work history and retirement pension to that of younger generations still at work -and demonstrating.
I planned on using the same studio set up used to shoot the two large demonstrations against Nicolas Sarkozy’s politics which brought huge crowds from the private and public sector together -a rarity in France where people usually demonstrate to attract attention to their own specific issues. This meant two lighboxes and a black cloth backdrop installed on the side of the demonstration’s path, Boulevard Beaumarchais. It also meant having an assistant to watch over the studio and write down the “model’s” testimonial (name, age, profession and in one sentence why they were demonstrating) while I was out casting in the marching crowd. Speed of operation was essential in this shoot: the demonstrators usually marched with a group they didn’t want to loose in the crowd. So every portrait and interview had to be made in less than a couple minutes, five at the most.
Alas my small pool of potential assistants was unavailable for the retirement demonstration. I had just treated myself to the iPhone 4 and was amazed at how good the pictures it produced were. I especially enjoyed playing around with the very popular Hipstamatic application. So I decided to shoot my retirees with my phone.
Along the path of the demonstration I found a neutral backdrop -the metallic curtain of a closed shop on Boulevard Beaumarchais- and had my models pose in front of it. In those ancient days (this was six months ago, an eternity in geekland) the Hipstamatic application was very slow at processing each picture taken. I had to wait 30 seconds to see the result -now you can take up to nine photos while the app processes in the background. That meant I only had time to shoot one picture per retiree, do the quick interview and release him or her. All pictures turned out ok, some better than others but all were usable.
It felt strange to work with a telephone but none of my subjects noticed or said anything about it.
I sent the pictures to my agency, Sipa Press, and they were picked-up by the national magazine Le Nouvel Observateur to illustrate a story on Sarkozy’s retirement reform plan.