Hands up who’s heard of Robert Freson?

It’s what photographers call daylight.
It was Freson’s light source of choice.
It’s obviously less controllable than other forms of lighting but the results can be magical.
It can can give people a luminous, spiritual glow.
At a time when so many briefs are to make the people in front of the camera look real, authentic and believable, it’s odd that we generally drain the colour from the image, add filters or use artificial lighting.
Go through Robert’s images below you’ll see the images positively radiate with life.
Yet feel 100% natural.

So here’s what I know about Mr Freson:
He survived Germany’s occupation of Belgium, then, in 1947, left for Switzerland to study photography.
He then took his master’s degree in photography and and brand spanking new bride to live in the United States.
He dropped his portfolio off at mecca of fashion photography Vogue.

Only a few a few days later he received a telegram inviting him to work under Irving Penn, at that point*, probably the best photographer in the world. (*Possibly at this point too?)
He stayed learning his craft from Penn for the next 13 years.
Here are a few of the portraits he took of his boss.Irving Penn by Robert Freson.jpgHorstPennMoments+Preserved2.jpg61b3b3bf3e3bdb10f56a03ae3b881a1e-1.jpg
In 1962, he left Penn to go it alone, but rather than still life or fashion like his mentor, he chose photojournalism.
In the sixties he was very in demand, he seems to have shot virtually anyone famous in the sixties; from Sophia Loren to Dwight D. Eisenhower to Salvador Dali, basically everyone.
He also shot ads, notably Whitbread for Colin Millward at  CDP in London and the Jamaica campaign for DDB in New York.

For the next forty years he kept two studios, one in France, one in Carnegie Hall.
In the 1970’s he moved into food photography, his book ‘The Taste of France’ became a bestseller and is still sold today.
He’s still around, in his seventieth year as a photographer.
(Although I had no joy trying to get in contact to interview him). 

Robert Freson, Whitbread 'Keyhole', CDP-01'Huntley Levy's Ancestors' Jamaica, Robert Freson, DDB 2.pngRobert Freson, Jamaica 'Calabah', DDB-02'What Makes Young' Jamaica, DDB NY, Robert Freson.jpgRobert Freson, Jamaica 'Spanish Gold', DDB-02Robert Freson, Jamaica, 'Rumplestiltskin', DDB-02'In Jamaica,' Jamaica, Robert Freson, DDB NY-01Robert Freson, Jamaica '150 Years', DDB-02In Port' Jamaica, Robert Freson, DDB NY-01'Her Flowers Are' Jamaica, Robert Freson, DDB NY-01.jpg'Roll Up' Jamaica, Robert Freson, DDB NY-01Jamaica 'Little Girl', DDB NY.png

Robert Freson, Weekend Telegraph Cover 'Blond Girl'-016bc72d5d1d83c0a06e9ceda81e22ebfa.jpg

Robert Freson 'Argyle Parade', Esquire.png
Robert Freson 'Yellow Parade', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Stripe Parade', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Trunk Parade', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Golfers 2', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Golfers 4', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Golfers 3', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Bowls', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Sveti Stefan', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'DPS', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'Tennis Parade', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'The Genial Landfall', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'The Genial', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'To Kill A', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'The Princess', Esquire.pngRobert Freson 'The Princess 2', Esquire.png

THE SUNDAY TIMES.Robert Freson, The Sunday Times Cover, Feb 23rd 1964-01Robert Freson, 'Field of Crosses'-01Robert Freson, 'Boat & Leaves'-01Robert Freson, 'Man & Bike'-01Robert Freson 'A Bowl of Grapes', DPS-01.jpgRobert Freson, 'Farm Fields'-01Robert Freson, 'Norfolk Man'-01Robert Freson, 'Poppy'-01Robert Freson, 'Woman In Field'-01'Ireland' Robert Fresonnational-geographic-june-1978-Robert Fresonrobert-freson-2s-l1600-3.jpg'Baby' Sunday Times, Robert Freson, -02.jpgRobert Freson, Sunday Times 'How A Child Grows Up', Feb 5th 1967-01Robert Freson, The Suinday Times 'Childhood', Feb 12th 1967-01Robert Freson, 'Trumpet Boy'-01Robert Freson, 'Smile'-01Robert Freson, 'Boys Pulling'-01Robert Freson, The Sunday Times ' June 6th 1966-01.jpgs-l1600-2.jpg

LOOK.Robert Freson 'Look Cover - New born'.JPG

FAMOUS FOLKS.Robert Freson 'Sophia_Loren & Hat'.jpgRobert Freson 'Sofia & Moum Loren'.jpgRobert Freson 'Hitchcock Hair Cut'.jpgRobert Freson 'Eisenhower'.jpg

ARTISTS.Robert Freson 'Man Ray'Robert Freson 'Andy Warhol DPS'.jpgNE-2013-Freson27.jpgRobert Freson 'Joan mitchell'.jpg
Robert Freson 'Dali'.jpgRobert Freson 'Degas'.jpgportland-press-herald_3784059.jpg

A CAT.Robert Freson 'Cat Stevens'.jpg

20171-fg-panolply-22-dsc_3403__large_430_600_75_ce1f08b01dda5d56.jpg2b2efc3299ab3419ac6086753129afef.jpg74b71ebb64c087f38e40ab09e5f7b2d9--robert-richard-entertaining.jpgassets_LARGE_t_243061_54389822.jpg2013-Nov.Gareth-Jones-4-1.jpg'National-geographic-june-1978-robert-freson2016 Feb.15th.Shop Front Boulangerie_web.jpg

Robert today. (Or maybe yesterday…could’ve been the day before…)10043523_H12765891-600x399.jpg

Any photographers reading: Use the comment section, tell us why exactly is daylight so special?


18 responses to Hands up who’s heard of Robert Freson?

  1. brycemain says:

    You gave up too soon…you should have persevered. A talent such as this deserves patience. But good post!

  2. Incredible collection of pictures, they make me wish I’d been there when they were shot. (except the stinky boots shot)

  3. Robesim says:

    Great work indeed. Natural light is not always perfect, and the magic lies in it’s imperfections.
    We have to work according to it – not vice versa. It’s more earthy and has more soul.
    Great website DaveDye

  4. André Mühling says:

    The author of the second portrait is Horst P. Horst (1951).
    Nice collection of Freson’s work!

      • dave dye says:

        Hey there, I just bought a new domain through you guys, (thingy.ink), and would like to set up a second blog aside from davedye.com. What do I do? Where do I go? Thanks, D.

  5. Warren says:

    Hello! Great to see a collection of this work all in one place.
    Until now – I have not seen the Veruschka cover of The Telegraph. There’s a picture there from my old ‘ebay’ days ( I can replace that if you like ) But I am also in the process of Archiving issues for my own Magazine Website. (a rather lengthy mission) If ever something escapes you that you might fancy for your blog….let me know and I could send something over. Best. MagazineCanteen

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Bob, Do you think he’d be up for an interview? If so could you introduce me via email? Dx

      • Bob Korn says:

        I’m sure he will. Also I’m having an exhibition of his work this summer, 2019, at my gallery on Cape Cod, MA.

  6. Mike O'Toole says:

    We have two copies of his Book The Taste of France , one mine , one I bought for my then girlfriend , she’s now a food stylist . She contacted Robert through Linkedin Last year.
    We plan to revisit some of the places in the french book and do some photos as a kind homage to his book. I worked on lots of aDs while an assistant in London in the 80’s and they used to try replicate beautiful daylight in the studios of Soho and the east end. Every Photographic studio had books by Irving Penn was and a few followed Robert Freson in the Sunday Times.

  7. Tony Russell says:

    I met Robert in Jamaica about 50 yrs. ago when he worked on the Tourist Board’s advertising campaign. However, possibly his most famous photo from this campaign, model Sintra Berrington emerging from the Caribbean in just a red t-shirt, astonishingly, isn’t included in the JTB selection in this portfolio.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Tony,
      What was your role on the shoot?
      Yep, the ‘Sintra’ one is missing, hard to find a hi-res version,
      plus the nipples may cause some of the more sensitive millennials to choke on their avocado toast.

      • Tony Russell says:

        I actually was the Tourist Board’s chief photographer, the first Jamaican to have the gig, and had photographed Cintra, a Trinidadian, living in Jamaica at the time and suggested her as a model for the shoot to my PR Dept. colleague, Lance Neita, who was Bob’s handler and, like they say, the rest is history. I had the pleasure of meeting him on other JTB shoots and still have the highest opinion about the quality of his work. In retrospect, the exclusion is perhaps understandable, after all.

  8. Hugh Johnson says:

    A very interesting article. Robert Freson was one of the reasons I now shoot food. It used to be the dullest area of photography but after reading A taste of France / Italy I now shoot food & also have a farm in Lucca.
    I was checking the spelling of his name for a blog & your article appeared. Not many AD’s today would know his work or know many photographers either!!
    Check out the http://www.hughjohnson.co.uk/blog
    Thx for the inspiration!! Hugh

    • dave dye says:

      Thanks Hugh.
      His simple day lit images look particularly good in this world of over lit, over retouched, complicated imagery.
      p.s. Lovely site by the way.

      • Hugh Johnson says:

        My first day as an assistant to Donovan in the 80’s was shooting Ralph Richardson, Alec Guiness & Sir John Gielgud. In those days a poster of leg of ham looked like a ball of plastic surrounded by perfectly round new potatoes which was the reason no one wanted to shoot food whereas today it’s the most sought after area of photography.

        Not only did Robert Freson source wonderful props but the food styling was actually done by the French madam which made it look so real. Imperfections helped create the atmosphere, nothing was polished, no lights were turned on and certainly no tweezers or paint brushes were used; it simply wasn’t necessary.
        Sadly, 99% of today’s food photographers have never heard of Robert Freson. Not only was he a brilliant portrait photographer but he showed us all how a photograph can be appetising and beautiful.

        I’m delighted that you had heard of him too David. The man was a genius. I never knew he worked for Penn.

        Great blog & delighted you like my site too.

        Buon apetito, Hugh

  9. Robert A. Freson says:

    Dear Dave Dye: love your comments and would still be available to be interviewed by you or anybody!! . I am still alive, not retired and working and happy to help any worthy cause!!and YOU
    Robert A Freson Tel: 207 833 6808 in Maine

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