“Café in Arles, France. 1968” by Frank Siteman

As a budding photographer on break from Tufts University in the summer of 1968, I embarked on my first trip to Europe, hitch-hiking and photographing for 10 weeks.

Intent on meeting the legendary photographer Lucien Clergue, I made a pilgrimage to Arles, in the south of France. That got me to the city where he lived and worked, but I missed him by a day.

Being alone and with no schedule or direction, I observed and recorded this new, exciting, and exotic environment. I spent a fair amount of time sitting quietly in cafés in Arles, Aix-en-Provence and across the region, never finding the elusive horses of the Camargue that I’d read and heard so much about.

I was young and poor, without a car or an objective other than to make photographs, and since they were everywhere I looked, I made them without purpose or any idea of where they’d land. This was the purest form of art, with the mindset of “made for the making and not the having”.

Now, it’s the finding of images buried by time, digging out their negatives and bringing them to light. Making macro photos of these old negatives gives wonderfully detailed and nuanced digital files which allow for controls that earlier, silver-based imaging (printing on Portriga Rapid paper), would not have been able to accomplish. Some things DO get better.

The time I spend retouching or cloning out incredibly small irregularities in the actual grain pattern is not necessary but is rather a caressing and understanding of the image, millimeter by millimeter. It’s a true labor of love and time well spent.

And this image in particular, with the subjects both paying attention to the same small, unknown, and unseen detail, is similar to my ‘working’ the image.

It’s taken me over five decades to get back to that mindset, and it’s a huge relief. Now, 54 years later, I’ve discovered some of those negatives and am surprising myself with these images from my youth.

I never did meet Lucien, but he still managed to move me and my photography forward.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

Spontaneity and intimacy.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

It may have been a better photo if the camera had moved to the right just a bit, revealing more of the woman’s face. But the fact that she remains hidden adds to the mystery that is happening in just a few square inches.

Frank Siteman shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Frank Siteman, Winchester, MA. USA


Equipment and settings

Nikkormat FTn + Nikkor 105mm f/2.5

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Comments (2):

  1. michael grover

    July 4, 2022 at 13:24

    Love this image!


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