No other photographer has captured the far-flung social and cultural life of the Côte d’Azur in the “Golden Fifties” with such intelligence, verve and remarkably gentle irony as the Irishman Edward Quinn (1920 – 1997). For over a decade, Quinn showed the perfect blend of persistence and discretion in his daring exploration of the social jungle on the French Riviera. With his camera, he picked out countless incomparable gems in this iridescent epicentre of high life, big business, art, music and literature. RIVIERA COCKTAIL encompasses an entire era in film history, tracing the path followed by Edward Quinn from his early pin-up photography to his unconventional portrayal of the great stars and, finally, to his collaboration with Pablo Picasso and Georg Baselitz.
My beginnings in photo-journalism go back to 1948. I had been toying around with a folding Kodak camera, bought a couple of years before to take some souvenir photos on my flying trips while working as a Radio-Navigator for a charter air company. I was based for a while in the then international North African city of Tangier in the northwestern comer of Morocco. The pictures I took there were very insignificant.
I moved away from aviation and went to live for a while in Monaco. As it was then still a very picturesque little place, I tried to capture this with my simple camera. The photos showed a little something, but were not too inspired. A friend loaned me a better, more expensive camera with a sharper lens. Some portraits taken with this were admired and I found myself that they were quite encouraging.
This spurt me on, so I plunged into getting hold of a Retina camera which I had heard was of professional standard. As I thought then, and still do, that the best proof of one’s skill and success is to be able to sell pictures, I nosed around for something newsworthy to try my hand on.
I heard of a horse jumping contest being held in nearby Nice and decided to try my luck there. I managed to get in as I spoke English and this helped me to pass myself off as a fully fledged professional press photographer. At the show I positioned myself beside the hardened professionals who were covering the contest and began to shoot, trying to catch the most spectacular moment as the rider edged his horse over the very difficult obstacles. I of course concentrated on trying to get good pictures of the Irish and English competitors. Riding for the Irish team was Capt. Turbridy, an excellent horseman who had a terrific horse. lt was not too difficult for me to get some good shots of Capt. Turbridy and his horse and it seemed to me a very good omen that on my first professional outing the Irish won.
The pictures were published in the IRISH INDEPENDENT and at that moment I began to take my work as a photographer seriously. I bought some books about photography. Over in Nice I was able to get POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY, MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY and CAMERA, magazines still published nowadays. I followed all the "how to do it" articles and transformed the tiny kitchen of a kindly Monegasque friend into a darkroom.
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