September 8, 2013

A life in pictures

The photographer Robert Freson, who captured on film some of the most famous faces of our time, has settled into a happy – and still busy – existence on Bailey Island.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Robert Freson displays photographs of children that he took in Ireland in the 1960s.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Robert Freson

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

The house itself is brilliant, with high ceilings, large windows that look out to the sea and a delightful kitchen that would charm anyone with a spirit for cooking. "This house sold us, because of the beauty of it," Freson said.

But the treasures in this house are subterranean. Freson has converted the basement into a near-museum quality storage facility for his slides and his lifetime of work. Every assignment is neatly chronicled in hand-printed ledgers that record time, date, place and subject (Eisenhower, November 1964). Metal storage cabinets are organized by subject (Jamaica Bikinis, Nov. 16-23, 68). A separate room serves as storage for boxes and boxes of props used for his food and fashion shoots.

His goal now is to find a suitable place to leave this trove.

"It's incredibly difficult to place it, because it is so large," he said. "I would like to keep it in Maine. I would like to find a suitable institution, like a college or museum. I am not trying to sell it. I am not interested in making money. I just want to make sure it is properly preserved."

On a recent visit, Freson was dressed in bib overalls, his breast pocket stuffed with pens and two pair of eye glasses. With classical music playing softly in the background, he was mounting and framing color prints that he made in Ireland in 1969. These are images of tinkers -- itinerant groups of Gypsies who travel the countryside.

He was preparing the prints for an upcoming exhibition. Although he does not often show his work anymore, Freson still receives requests for exhibitions. This one he is preparing for Loyola University in Maryland. He showed a small sampling of images two years ago at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick.

STILL SHOOTING

He would love to show more in Maine, and during this visit he received a call from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Freson wants to meet the museum's new co-directors. "I want to talk to them about what I am and what I've done," he said.

He remains professionally active. These days, Freson travels to fairs across Maine and takes photographs of animals and their tenders. As he learned from Irving Penn so many years ago, the best portraits are those that capture a subject at ease. "I love people, and I like to photograph people where they are relaxed," he said.

Despite his accomplishments, Freson does not consider himself a great photographer. He learned from a great photographer in Penn. He's a good photographer, he said.

What made him successful was his ability to deliver a good photograph under any condition. During his younger years, he worked fearlessly without a hint of intimidation. He knew his task and how to achieve it.

He got the photo at all costs.

"I always came back with a publishable result," he said. "Editors hired me because I never came back with something a magazine could not use. A photographer must capture a moment. I never gave up."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphbkeyes

 

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Additional Photos

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Robert Freson with a couple of favorite photographs: Dwight Eisenhower, taken in 1964, and Sophia Loren, taken in 1965.

Shawn Patrick Ouellete/Staff Photographer

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Robert Freson has kept meticulous handwritten records of his work. Below, the artist David Hockney and the Eisenhower portrait.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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In addition to his photography, Robert Freson has authored books about fine cuisine. “The Taste of France” is still in print, having sold more than 275,000 copies.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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A Robert Freson photo: The wedding of England’s Charles and Diana.

Robert Freson

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A Robert Freson photo: Artist Marc Chagall.

Robert Freson

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Dwight Eisenhower

Robert Freson

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A Robert Freson photo: Artist Salvador Dali.

Robert Freson

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A Robert Freson photo: Actress Sophia Loren.

Robert Freson

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A Robert Freson photo: Director Alfred Hitchcock.

Robert Freson

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Artist David Hockney.

Robert Freson

  


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