Chocolate shop, Poitiers, France [Alamy image ref. B5A2Y6]

In high summer, and in good weather, the Claude Lafond Chocolatier establishment in the rue Lazare Carnot, Poitiers, will be fronted by crowded tables and chairs bordered with troughs of Geraniums to separate those taking tea and cakes or coffee from shoppers and sightseers in the traffic-free “zone piétonne” old quarter of the city. Those people who have come from near and afar will expect to choose from many delicacies prepared every day to amuse and satisfy every palette.

Established since 1957 in the historical centre of Poitiers, the family-run establishment perpetuates the tradition of beautiful selections of desserts, small cakes and chocolates. Together with a staff of more than 50 in other premises around the town, the organisation serves around 1,000 receptions and seminars a year catering for more than 150,000 people.

The shop and café must be well-know further afield too because this image was licensed by a Japanese TV company for use for one year on a programme. The is also much else to see and photograph in Poitiers… but because of my personal situation I have only been able to make two trips there despite that city being only an hour’s drive away. But there and back with a couple of hours shooting amounts to half a day away from my paralyzed wife whom I – being her sole carer for a couple of decades – normally have to return to after a couple of hours away. However, from those two trips I selected 84 images for Alamy… from the 1,456 images with the “Poitiers” tag currently with that agency.

One day I would like to get to “Futuroscope” for some extra stock coverage because there are only 129 images on Alamy with “Futuroscope, Poitiers” as the subject including 5 “RF” of which four have people in them (spot check necessary Alamy… Futuroscope is private property and also recognizable faces of strangers cannot be RF)! The big problem I have with a designated location to visit though is not usually one of time, but one of distractions! On my first visit to Poitiers I must have stopped half a dozen times to photograph churches, bridges, market squares and random signs… all of which doubled the 1-hour journey time there. On my second trip I stayed more focused on the road ahead… but it was difficult not to stop on many occasions.

This shot – which I waited for specifically so as to not include people – was taken at the wide end of my 14-24mm Nikkor zoom… the exotic optics holding contrast well despite the various rays of sunlight bouncing around the scene from random windows.

The RM image was licensed by Alamy for unlimited transmissions in an editorial programme (not for advertising) for 1-year by a Japanese TV company under my “a la France” pseudonym.

Notre Dame church, Poitiers, France. [Alamy image ref. B1CXKD]

Whenever I venture out to a nearby town or village for a photographic exploration, I start in the very centre where there is usually a church. Here in France, compared with the New World (the United States of America and Canada) which is a strong market for European images, there is a long history and an architectural heritage which they have some difficulty in comprehending. For example, the church across the road from where I’m typing these articles was celebrating Mass more than a thousand years ago… or half a century before William of Normandy invaded and conquered Britain in 1066. Every Sunday, during Mass, I look around to try to picture the scene a thousand years ago – not just because I can’t follow the usually lengthy lesson too easily in French, but partly to keep my eye honed for new photo angles (God forgive me if I have sinned by doing that!)

Here at the 12–13th century Notre Dame La Grande church in the centre of Poitiers, in the Vienne département of France, the main part of the building was built in the 11th century and the later façade in the 13th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries chapels were added (in the south of the choir – the biggest, the chapel of le Fou, is dateable to 1475). It was damaged during the Wars of Religion (1562-1569) when several statues on the façade were beheaded. In 1840, it was listed as an Historical Monument and restorers of the 19th century were very keen on giving it back its original purity. It was freed from the surrounding houses and shops that previously hidden it, repainted inside and the façade was strengthened. Since then, bad weather, pollution and ageing have marked it again. It became urgent to save the façade and its beautiful sculptures of which some were painted. The latest restorations (early ‘90s) have combined micro-sandblasting and laser cleaning techniques.

All of which is, for most clients, ideally shown in just a single image because most don’t want to pay for two or more shots when one will do. Yes, times have changed and photo spreads are a thing of the past for most publications unless accompanied by a lengthy article… when the guest “name” writer will command an exorbitant fee and the photographer’s image will be a budget after-thought purchase.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain because this shot was used in a Polish (where publication fees are historically very low) publication – although in this case much higher than UK national newspapers pay… being licensed for 1-year by Alamy under my “a la France” pseudo for an 1/8th-page reproduction in a retail textbook with a 5,000 print-run.

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