Philippe, Duke of Orléans, has gone down in history above all for his return to France in 1890, when he confronted the laws of exile, which, since 1886, had kept the royal family at a distance. He was subsequently sentenced to prison for two years and deported.
He was a great traveller and left hundreds of photographs taken during his many visits to Sicily, Spain, Holland, Portugal and Bulgaria. Although some of the images are likely to have been taken by various members of his entourage, his friends or family, the majority of the prints seem to have been the work of the Duke himself. In the majority of these snapshots, taken with one of the small Kodak panoramic cameras that came on to the market around 1899-1900 enabling photographers to obtain 110 to 140 degree angles, he revealed himself to be an excellent amateur photographer. He handled his camera with brilliance, showing a great assurance in composition.
This image is a good example. It divides into three successive horizontals, the beach, the water of a lake and the sky. In this desolate landscape, three elements perfectly placed across the width of the frame draw in the viewer's eye and create an effect of depth as they progress into the distance: a group of three men on the left, close to the photographer, a second group moving away in the centre, in which the female silhouettes are especially noticeable, and lastly, on the right, almost on the horizon itself are a few very white houses contrasting with the dark ground. An image such as this, partly because of the identity of the person who took it, but also because of its aesthetic qualities, provides an exceptional example of the snapshots taken by amateurs, both famous and anonymous, at the beginning of the twentieth century.