A self-portrait in Languedoc, south France, with the Pyrenees behind me.
In Bratislava we stayed with an amateur winemaker named Imrich. When he had his house built in the Little Carpathian Mountains, an ancient wine-growing region (with its beginnings in Roman times) near Bratislava, he designed a small wine-making cellar as well. An engineer by day, and a jazz musician by night for many years, he loves his wine.
As he gave us a tour in a mix of Slovak and English, he pulled out a folder and opened it up. Inside he kept poems, songs, and stories about wine. He read one to us, interpreted by his daughter Monika, comparing wine to a woman. What a delight to spend time with a man of such good humor, who loves his craft not just for its end product, but for its poetry as well.
One of our hosts in Spain is this gentleman, Peter. He is a sweet man, softspoken, always smiling when he greets you. His wife says he looks Greek here, which makes sense, since his parents were Greek and English. He hasn’t lived in the UK for over 35 years, and yet his favorite memory of his time there was a holiday he took in the Yorkshire Dales. His wife groans whenever we mention our time in the Dales, and says with her Dutch accent, “Not the Yorkshire Dales! Three or four times a year Peter tells me this story about his holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. Always the Dales!” And he smiles.
When we saw the spire of Mt St Michel from a distance of several miles, this dark, spiky lump on the horizon, it immediately was impressive. So unexpected was it that we all let out exclamations in the car. As we drove toward it, it slowly began to tower over the cow and sheep pastures and bay (and parking lot) that surrounded it.
Like so many places we’ve visited, it only makes me want to read up more on my European history. We were told that, during the 100 Years’ War between England and France, Mt St Michel was the only part of northern France that did not fall into the hands of the English, in spite of a 30 year siege.
It is, somewhat like the Cimitierre Perre Lechez, a place right out of a fantasy novel or sci-fi flick. Its similarities to Edoras and Minis Tirith in The Lord of the Rings was unmistakable.
Today’s post includes a few images from St Malo, a ‘pirate city’ on the west coast of France. We spent an afternoon there with our friends the Drouets, walking the walled city, watching the rapidly rising tide, ducking the rain. Above, an image of the little castle on the rocks off the shore of the main city. This little archipeligo of rocks and castle was accessible by foot when we arrived, and within no time, the water rose and everyone made their way up on the walls of the fortified city. I ran rather quickly back to a vantage point and shot swiftly when I saw this little patch of sun highlight the fort.
An image with clear Cartier Bresson undertones. Or overtones. I don’t know which.
Paris has a famous cemetery, the Cimetiere Pere Lachaise, known primarily for its famous residents, such as Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.
We went there on the recommendation of my friend Ben Poundstone, who visits France whenever he can get away. So we headed out to the cemetery, only to discover that it is one of the most fascinating places in Paris. At least for me. In fact, it was the one place that I found truly inspiring and interesting as an artist.
As we explored, I photographed, and am just now working with the images to realize the vision I had for them. The gravestones are little shrines, either for families or individuals, right out of a Tim Burton movie. Shannon and I were postulating that we could imagine the residents of this cemetery coming out of their fantastic little houses at night, after the gates are closed and locked, gathering together for potlucks, getting cranky with each other, returning home before daybreak.
As I’ve worked on the images the past couple days, meditating on them, there are other themes emerging about death and life, light and darkness, mortality and immortality, the temporary and the final.
A sample image from the set:
The Vancouver, Washington newspaper The Columbian just published an article on the Trash the Dress phenomenon, and included an image and quotes from me. You can read the article online. It’s a lot of fun to photograph people doing something crazy with their wedding or prom dress (or any dress, for that matter), and also fun to be interviewed about the process by the local press.
We’ve been in Paris for almost a week now, and are finally feeling acclimated to the place, culture, and language. The expense and exchange rate I’m still not accustomed to, but I’ll get over it. We’re in Paris, for heaven’s sake. The food is wonderful, and I’m enjoying that and the people we’ve met as much as I’m enjoying the sights. In fact, there’s so much to do here, that I have whittled down my expectations: see a few major sights, enjoy the street life, and leave the rest for next time. And that’s sufficient. With so many major museums and tourist attractions here, it can be overwhelming. I’m finding sufficient pleasure in walking the streets, watching the people, and sampling the goodies at the patisserie on every street.
The parks here are the other wonder we’ve enjoyed immensely. Tuileries, Luxembourg, Versailles. The enormity of Versailles is staggering, and we didn’t even go inside the buildings. We’ve read that King Louis XIV had Versailles built to showcase the splendor of the French kingdom. He moved his court from Paris to newly constructed Versailles, including his retinue of 6000 people. You can begin to see why the French Revolution occurred. Considering that none of these lavish parks were publicly accessible, I’d have been pissed if this is what my taxes were paying for, and I couldn’t even go see it.
Here are some things I have seen. I’ve been shooting stock images, and now and then something personally interesting comes along:
Not the most flattering image, but I like it.
A couple images on the Metro.
This is the courtyard in which our little apartment is located.
This is London City Hall, with the Tower Bridge over the Thames in the background. I attended a press briefing at City Hall this morning, for the Olympic Torch Relay, which will happen this Sunday through 30 miles of London. I’ve been hired by a firm in HongKong to shoot video of the torch relay for a production they are creating on the life of Olympic champion Eric Liddel, of Chariots of Fire fame. Should be an exciting day of tromping around the city through the crowds, and getting some interesting images for their documentary. I’m excited. And I get an official press badge.
After the press briefing, I wandered over the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. It’s the famous tower/castle/armory/palace/warehouse/torture chamber/menagerie of medieval London, begun in 1066 by William the Conqueror. Perhaps it is most famous for being the place where kings imprisoned and eventually executed such ‘traitors’ and enemies of the state as Ann Boleyn, Thomas More, Henry VI, Guy Fawkes, Lady Jane Gray, and child Princes Edward and Richard sons of Edward IV. It is the latter, the child princes, that I find most interesting at the moment. Especially because, outside the Tower, in what used to be the moat, there is now a colorful but entirely forlorn playground. I can’t help but look at it, and think of those two boys who were imprisoned and eventually murdered here, never to be seen again….
Speaking of children, London tourist attractions are filled with children, most from England and France. Sometimes, as I wander about reading signs, looking at the sights, and taking photographs, kids will tentatively yell out, “Hello!” And I say hello back. And then, if they are courageous, these French students will try a few English phrases on me, as these high schoolers did. We talked for a few sentences about where they were from, how long they are here, where I am from (“America! Oooh, a long way.”). I even got to practice some of my French on them, saying, “I do not speak French” quite fluently. We were all pleased.