Belfast Telegraph

Not picture perfect but these royal photos have charm (and a message)

Those official shots of Prince George may not be technically skilled, but that's not a bad thing, says Malachi O'Doherty

Michael Middleton's picture of his grandson in the arms of his daughter, accompanied by her husband and their dog, is like a million other pictures taken every day which will not form much part of the historical record.

The baby in these shots, however, is an heir to the throne, and if events unfold as they should, then colour supplements on the day of his coronation will have one of these pictures perhaps on the cover, at least prominent inside.

The pictures are being critiqued and found technically wanting, but that is how the images that fill our family albums are. Either they are granda's bumbling efforts or they are professional portraits that, for all the elegance of their composition and their technical refinement, always seem a little cold.

Of course, this is a family that can afford the best. They don't need to commission studio pics by high street photographers, with their stock props and stark lighting.

They could have Bobbie Hanvey if they wanted him!

And launching baby George into the public consciousness in the ineptly shot family pictures carries a wider message.

It plays into the narrative that this is a normal-ish young family that will not be surrounded by professionals and shielded from nature and reality. William changes nappies and granda takes the pics.

Are we to believe this?

Could it be that the very amateurishness of the pictures fits with a professionally conceived branding of the Cambridges as middle class rather than aristocratic?

I'm a bit of a snapper myself, though with a following no bigger than a few Facebook friends.

I think I can see Michael's problem. He took his subjects out into the garden on a bright sunny day during a heatwave.

The parents probably wanted to turn the baby away from the direct sunlight. If Michael (below) had had them all facing into the sun they would have squinted. Instead he got relaxed smiles. So he thought about what he was doing.

He got the exposure right for the faces and consequently the brighter light behind bleaches the garden. Well, it wasn't the texture of the lawn that he wanted into the picture. This creates the effect almost of a dreamscape. An unfortunate stab of light on William's forehead looks like a chunk cut out of him, however.

His problem was that the picture was taken in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Cambridges have gone to a little trouble to let granda get a good shot, just not enough trouble.

It's hardly likely they were sitting out in the direct sunlight with the baby at the height of a heatwave. So they have come out especially for this picture. The dog Lupo, with his tongue hanging out, looks like he's ready for a bit of action rather than panting after it.

So someone has perhaps said, 'Can we get on with this before we all starting sweating?'

The pic with Lupo in it is perfectly focussed on his dangly ear. That's the part of the picture that is sharpest. Look at Kate and William's eyes and teeth; they blur a bit.

The one with them standing has them positioned under a tree, to shade the faces, the sun starkly burning up everything behind them again, and it's not sharp. William's shirt might have presented a problem for a cheaper camera. The fine lines can create a distortion effect called moiré. But the faces are slightly out of focus here too.

But then, one might speculate that this is exactly what the photographer wanted. Too much detail on Kate's face might not be flattering if she is as tired as you'd expect a young mother to be.

And that glare over William's shoulder might look like sunlight burning out the pixels to you or me, but to a more romantic eye it might be symbolically suggestive of the light of heaven endorsing the divine right of this poor child born to a role. It is the light that ordinary mortals can not bear.

So I am split in my judgement of these pictures and wonder if their very naturalness and sloppiness is contrived. Look at how a little dab of sunlight falls on the baby's face in both pictures. In one of them, the light seems to glow from under his white wrapping. Isn't that just the sort of effect that an ad agency photographer worth his fee would try to create?

Everyone is a photographer these days, and it may be that these images tell of the ubiquity of the digital camera and the eclipsing of the professional. The news media now trust that they will always get pictures from the public at a train crash or an attack. The weather forecast is now illustrated every day by pictures from amateurs.

Ordinary families don't need great artistic photographs of growing children; granda or uncle Joe can catch them on his mobile phone.

There are dangers in everyone having a camera. William's brother Harry has been caught partying in the nude.

But I bet you that if granda Middleton had caught a candid shot that Kate and William or their PR apparatus did not like, we would not get to see it, just as we will not get to see the topless shots which were taken of Kate in France around the time of George's conception.

These pics pass because though they look just a little through-other and technically awry, they fit the message and the brand.

Belfast Telegraph


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