Harold Chapman At 90 ‘Not Only the Beat Hotel’ – Peepers, Punters & Pendants

Harold Chapman at 90 ‘Not Only The Beat Hotel’



Harold Chapman was born in Deal in 1927.  As a child, his father introduced him to the magic of photography.  Harold was self-taught.  He started his career as a jazz photographer in Soho.  Meeting Vogue photographer, John Deakin, changed his life.  He went to Paris and became a street photographer and was soon working for The New York Times.  In 1957 he moved into the Beat Hotel – then a hotel with no name – on the Left Bank and lived there untill it closed in 1963. By chance in the flea market in Montpellier, he met a young publisher, Francois Lagarde, who went on to publish The Beat Hotel in 1984. 



Harold Chapman at 90

How would you describe your photography practice?

I am a street photographer which gives me a chance to avoid getting into crowds which I do not like particularly like, but like to be working alone.  The pictures that I take are the messages that I see visually in the world today and I take them to show those who look what I believe the world is becoming…

What it is you want to say with your photographs?

My photographs should make people giggle and then think twice and maybe even thrice!

How do you actually get your photographs to do that?

The photographs are a juxtaposition of various objects and situations in the streets which come together by chance. 

How do you develop ideas?

I develop ideas by lying flat in bed and thinking and trying to create dreams.  Unfortunately the dreams are now becoming reality so it’s good to show how things used to be…    

Who has influenced you the most?

From a technical point of view and also philosophical, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Do they influence your thinking and your practice?

Very much so. 

What dreams and goals inspired you to succeed?

I was inspired to succeed by meeting John Deakin, the well-known fashion photographer of Vogue.  However, he said he always considered himself a street photographer and advised me to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and go to markets… and photograph the hardness of an ashtray and a guy digging his chick…  A few days later, I happened by chance to see an exhibition of his, under a bookshop and coffee bar in Soho, called My Paris…  I had never seen such stark and bleak grainy photographs…  I was soon on my way to Paris where I learned my trade on the streets…


– Peepers, Punters & Pendants

– Julia Riddiough

– June 2017

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