Classic images from Fleet Street's finest showcased by DMU art grad

A snap decision to showcase the work of Britain’s leading photojournalists is proving a shrewd move for a Fine Art graduate from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Bret Painter-Spanyol is the co-founder of Fleet Street’s Finest, a photo agency with a difference which offers a platform for photojournalists to share their best shots with the general public.

A growing portfolio of pictures from a spiralling number of photographers includes David Bowie applying his make-up backstage, Mary Quant walking her dog, Spike Milligan having a haircut and Audrey Hepburn gazing across the New York skyline. 


David Bowie 1973 by Roger Bamber

There are sports photos, celebrity portraits, landscapes and wry news pictures, like Lucy Young’s perfectly-timed shot of a guard of the Military Knights of Windsor whose ranks had just been joined by a passing cat. 

Existing photo agencies focus on sales to the news industry, but Fleet Street’s Finest has an eye on the home market, with prints framed and delivered, rather than sent to picture desks.  


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“This is a homage to the work of photojournalists,” said Bret. “We’re taking the talent from that world, and showcasing it.

“Yes, you can buy images individually from the Guardian or the Telegraph, but there isn’t this kind of one-stop shop that allows you to see the best photojournalism in just one place.”

Audrey Hepburn by George Douglas

Bret, from Hertfordshire, came to DMU in 1995, to study Fine Art.

“Being around like-minded people, all wanting to learn about the same thing, was brilliant.”  

“It was a modular course, and in the third year we learned about art as business. Without that kind of practical foundation you are lost as an artist.” 

He graduated in 2001. “I delayed my finishing my degree,” he said. “I’d had too much fun in my first year, basically.

Spike Milligan by George Douglas

“That first year was the best year of my life. The bars on the Narborough Road, gigs at the Princess Charlotte, gigs at DMU … Pulp played the Student Union. It was amazing.”

After leaving DMU, Bret forged a career in journalism, and worked as a graphic artist on the Independent and a graphics editor on the Daily Mail, and the daily freesheet Metro - which is where he first met picture editor Alan Sparrow, his business partner on Fleet Street’s Finest. Between them, they have notched up more than half a century in journalism.

They currently have 10 photographers on their books – with up to 50 more wanting to join. The pair are in discussions with a couple of national titles about expanding their portfolio – and have an upcoming meeting with one of the world’s largest photo agencies. Future plans for the firm include offering newspaper cartoons, graphics and gift ideas.

Mary Quant by George Douglas

Photojournalism is an art form that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, Bret believes.

“Outside of the industry, photojournalists might be relatively unknown,” he said.

“But they have to hit that same standard of quality that a studio photographer requires, but they also need to be in the right place at the right time, and they need to recognise what’s newsworthy.  It’s a crucial job for society.”


DMU grad Bret Painter-Spanyol

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Posted on Wednesday 12th July 2017

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