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1937 Renault 4 Break, France. [Alamy image ref. BRD531]

Because classic car rallies bring out a high number of photographers compared to casual passers-by, I should be prepared to accommodate the presence of others with cameras more than I am. When I see other snappers hovering in the close vicinity of a subject I’m interested in, I wait until they have finished, then I get my shots, and then I clear off to another location and leave the way open for any others.

On this day, however, there were too many photographers and spectators hanging around as a long, slow line of old cars arrived in town to park in front of the town hall… in harsh sunlight and deep shadow. The only clear space I had to capture the cars was as above… messy background, even worse out of frame to the left, and terrible behind me which was where the cars were trying to park. The photographer and his wife in the background, and the rally sign on the roof rack of the Renault 4, made the situation worse… and had I planned the shoot better I would have waited well-away from the arrival point and shot each approaching vehicle with a telephoto lens from a distance and then from close-up with a wide angle as they passed my position.

A little history from the internet… The Renault Juvaquatre was a small family car automobile produced between 1937 and 1960, although production slowed considerably during the war years. The Juvaquatre was produced as a sedan / saloon until 1948 when the plant switched production to the new Renault 4CV. In 1948 a Juvaquatre based panel van appeared, and later models of the station wagon (from 1956) were known as the Renault Dauphinoise. The sedan/saloon found itself overshadowed and massively outsold after the appearance in 1946 of the Renault 4CV (which was France’s top selling car in the post-war years). However, both the 4CV and its successor, the Renault Dauphine, were rear-engined and unsuitable for simple station wagon adaptation, which is why the Juvaquatre “Dauphinoise” station wagon remained in production until effectively replaced by the Renault 4 in 1960.

Despite the relatively high production numbers and long manufacturing life-span, this is the only example I think I have ever seen in France. But this image – the best of a three I took – was licensed RM by Alamy for a 1/4 page reproduction for 5-years in Worldwide text and e-books with a 50,000 print-run under my “Autos” pseudonym.

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Bugatti Type 35 sports car. [Alamy image ref. BR8T27]

Tenuously linking back to Adrian Henri in my last “Abstract Art” post… when walking the streets of sixties Manchester he used to pointedly remark about how everybody walking past was staring ahead… never looking up, across or around. He used to point out the rich ornamental detail, as well as the grotty eyesores, seen everywhere and that most people never saw.

Half my lifetime later I still practice his incidental but important advice and see many otherwise unseen subjects and details worth photographing for stock. Mind you, I sometimes wonder that if most people don’t see many of the subjects I photograph… will they, as picture users acting ultimately for image consumers, ever search for those normally unseen subjects for reproduction! Hmm… Catch 22?

However, as a result of keeping my eyes open for different subjects, I also keep my ears open for different sounds. Many years ago in one of the quality motoring magazines, a respected journalist (not sure if it was L.J.K.Setright whom I accompanied as a photographer a few times on motoring press days) described the exhaust sound of a BMW 3.0l CSL sports-saloon racing car as that of “tearing calico.”

And so it was one afternoon as I typed in my hotel room… a thunderous roar bouncing around the small square in front of the ancient abbey church echoed by a similar sound a few seconds later… but not an echo… another car, making up a pair of glorious Bugatti Type 35 racers which thankfully pulled-up and parked. In one were a couple of elegant blonde Frenchwomen and in the other (illustrated here) were their partners. Both cars were in road-racing “semi-legal” trim and had competed in the Pau Grand Prix a year or so before.

They were there for only a few minutes… and then gone in a raucous spluttering as they gained sufficient revs to get out of first gear but struggled to stay within the town speed-limit… not that the local gendarmes would have cared too much, such is the unquestioned love for these famous vintage cars in French Racing Blue.

Licensed by Alamy under my “Autos” pseudo to a Swedish weekly magazine, inside spot-size  with a small print-run of 10,000 – and for a fee around double what UK national newspapers with a print-run of a million usually pay for up to half a page usage. Moral of that little tale is don’t join – or opt out at the next opportunity if you’re already in – the UK Newspaper (Scam) Scheme!

Citroen 2CV and scarecrow [Alamy image ref: AGBHJN]

The slightly frantic sound of a Citroen 2CV accelerating leaves you with enough time to grab a camera, change a lens maybe, check the settings, focus and frame, then fire off a series of shots before the subject disappears from view… such is the pace of the French voiture affectionally known to Brits as the “Tin Snail”.

The design brief for the “deux chevaux” (literally ‘two horse power’) was basically for a cheap mode of motorised transport that would have robust enough for a typical peasant farmer to drive to market with his wife and a pig in the back and a basket of eggs on the front seat… the kicker being that as he would probably drive across a ploughed field to get there, the basket of eggs had to survive the journey without breaking! Which they would have done… when you get a puncture with a 2CV, the suspension is so soft and saggy you can jack the side of the car two feet off the ground but the flat tire will still be touching the tarmac.

This red and green 2CV was carrying a scarecrow to a wedding… no need to ask the gender, but it seems to be a French tradition to depict the bride-to-be in this manner – perhaps an unkind warning to the groom after the previous evening’s stag-night celebrations and commiserations. But is presented a jolly scene passing under my hotel window decked out in sunflowers, straw and the scary figure propped up on the back seat… all that was missing was a pink pig!

From memory it was shot at around 20mm with my 14~24mm f/2.8 Nikkor wide-angle zoom at 1/60th and f/5.6… and sold soon afterward to a consumer magazine in Germany with a 10,000 print run.

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