I first came to Cannes in 1996; I was looking for a good gathering of classic yachts and my colleague and mentor Bert Richner suggested I give it a go. It was still the analogue era and I worked out of my van, bunk and laboratory.
Once gaining my yearly go-ahead from Mr. Oderò, I’d bring my van in with the other photographers; we were a great gathering and the Regates Royales proved an excellent venue for our work.
We were hard core photographers, developing our own film in our vans. I could process about twelve to sixteen rolls a day, maybe 600 pictures, no more. As soon as I came ashore, losing no time I’d unload the film from the canisters in the black bag, then into the developer. Once dried, then the strips went into the framer, a horrendously noisy thing that would spit out each shot, framed and numbered, that I’d then check for focus one by one with the little loop, and then sort by boat. When nothing went wrong, I’d usually be done by two or three in the morning. Somewhere along, I’d try to get a beer and a sandwich into me. At eight in the morning, the idea was to have the van in store mode, open for business with yesterday’s shots ready to show to the early risers, usually the owners, who would order prints from their favorites. Lots of coffee for all.
In 2002 I converted to digital, and the market changed completely. Direct sales to the owners and crews almost disappeared. So I began working for the event sponsors and press offices and sleeping in hotels. Instead of driving myself on a small rental or borrowed zodiac, I often had a local driver and a sizeable platform to work from. Helicopters too. About the only downside was the deadline for the communications people; this meant that you had to in by about 4pm, no matter what was happening on the water. But it did lead to the other great improvement; now I had time for a proper meal.
Looking through my archive while choosing a few pictures for this story, I couldn’t believe the number of great shots taken over the years in Cannes. The Regates Royales has become part of a very productive fall schedule for me, as I then do the feeder race to Saint-Tropez and then Les Voiles.
I enjoy working in Cannes and have nothing but good memories – these twenty years have flown by.
From 2007 until 2011 I worked for Panerai, and since then for the Yacht Club de Cannes.
James Robinson Taylor – The official photographer for the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge
Photos and words by James. More of his work can be seen at his website: jrtphoto.com