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JUAN ASSIGNMENTS - Jazz à Juan/Antibes, Côte d’Azur, by Tim Motion

1 July 2021

The Juan open-air concert venue is situated under the pine trees of La Pinède, overlooking the beach and Cap d’Antibes. I have been attending this festival for 35 years excluding three, and the work constitutes the basis of my Jazz&Blues Archive/An Eye for the Sound. It has been an essential part of all my summers, in order to shoot pictures, listen to great music, and reconnect with groups of friends and itinerant colleagues.

The photograph above was taken at the 32nd jazz festival at Juan les Pins/Antibes in 1992. I chose it because it shows Ray in a rare moment of calm and contemplation in the midst of an exhilarating big band session. It is a cropped image from a couple of dozen shots with the Hasselblad from that night, part of my favourite series of the great Ray Charles whom I photographed between 1987 and 2001. On this particular night the lighting was quite good. Often however it is variable to non-existent and shooting moving people at f4 with pushed film in semi-darkness can be something of a challenge. Added to this are the increasing restrictions on photographing the artists, often limited to three songs or three minutes or no pictures at all. My favourite instruction at a later Ray Charles concert was: “You may shoot for three minutes from when the Raelettes (Ray’s backing singers) pick up their tambourines.” A French rugby scrum formed.

With my passion for photography, music and travel it was no surprise to find myself making a yearly pilgrimage to three or four of France’s special jazz festivals from 1982 onwards. I wish that I had started earlier. Depending on other commercial work in UK I regarded these trips as working holidays, sometimes with editorial commissions for ‘words and pictures’ from specialist magazines like Jazz on CD, Jazz Express and Jazz Journal, current at the time. Occasionally I had to fly back to London to fulfil a worthwhile commission but, added to the daily and nightly photography, after a couple of years a camaraderie formed amongst the international photographers in the excellent Press Bar at Juan les Pins, and I would often meet up with the same gang at other festivals.

In those days of analogue my camera equipment, chained to the floor, took up at least half the locked boot of my car and consisted of two Hasselblad bodies, three 12on backs, four Zeiss lenses, three Olympus OM bodies and four or five lenses, plus monopod, tripod, folding stool and an extra bag containing the usual essentials that photographers will never travel without even if they may not need them; but of course, they will, and yes my Pentax spot meter still works! I also included a 5x4 Wista field camera for the occasional landscape. In fact, in 1988 I shot a sunflower field on the way home, and the print won a Gold in the AoP (AFAEP as it was then) Awards landscape category. In the car with no aircon, film was kept in a 12v fridge and cold bags, though admittedly the cooling effect was inconsistent in 80°F heat.

For me, 1986 to 1992 were peak years at Jazz à Juan for photographing many of the great musicians in jazz, blues and other genres. This year I am honoured to exhibit 21 pictures in the Palais de Congrès in Juan les Pins to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the festival. The prints will be on display during July and August. I am considering extending the exhibition to other areas in the region at a later date, with different material, and am planning at least one photo book. My music pictures have been exhibited widely in London since the late ‘70s, and in France, Spain and the United States.

In 1963 in Portugal I shot a series of lifestyle and people reportage photographs with my old Leica for a book on the Algarve. A collection of these photographs was made into a photobook called “Algarve 63”, printed in Portugal in 2017. Some of these photographs featured in exhibitions from 2005, locally and in London, and in Arles during the Rencontres de la Photographie in 2012.

Tim Motion was born in Ireland and has been a professional photographer since the late 1970s, after returning from 13 years living in Portugal. He joined the AFAEP (now AoP) in 1984. HIs professional work since the mid 1980s comprises architecture, interiors, travel and principally aerial photography for corporate clients.

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