Category Archives: Lifestyle

Old School Photography

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Perhaps the most meaningful personal shoot of the year comes every December. We sit down and talk about what the year meant and how to capture that in a photograph. How to express where we were at that time. I shoot the annual Ann Street Studio holiday card photograph in the same format each year, on a 4×5 film camera with black and white Ilford film.

This year’s image crossed continents twice from start to finish. It begins in France, taken in the afternoon light of Provence with flowers I bought at my little town’s Saturday farmer’s market. After I framed the flowers just so, I used two magazines to manipulate and block the natural light of part of the background and on some of the arrangement while the shutter stayed opened for 30seconds. I shot somewhere around 15 plates with variations on lighting and exposures then packed them up and brought the sheets of film back to New York with me to be hand processed at LTI.

As always, I took the processed film and contact sheets to my favorite darkroom lab in Boston which I pilgrimage to every winter and spent two days hand printing the set of 200 on Ilford warm tone fiber base paper.

I brought the final 200 back to France with me and spent days by the window light addressing each one, some with added personal notes, to be mailed out all over the world. It is a long process but one that brings me great joy in a digital age. To give someone a physical object you made with your heart, soul and abilities is like having a small piece of me in your home. The sense of pride I feel when people send me photos of the image framed in their home makes me feel grateful that I am a photographer. However, for the most part I don’t know what people do with them. I like to imagine someone using one as a bookmark to later discover again years from now. I like to fantasize a child or grandchild will come across one decades from now in an old box and feel a connection to me or at least to who I once was. They don’t have to know me personally but I hope they know my work.

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When Pigs Fly…

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When I first started my journey to France I got a new piece of jewelry, something that represents my approach to life. It was a signet ring by Retrouvai, a modern heirloom designer based in L.A., with a flying pig engraved in gold in the middle.

I love signet rings with their classic monograms so this was a bit of a departure but the symbolism of the flying pig to “embody strength to overcome life’s greatest obstacles” was exactly the reminder I wanted to give myself to be strong on my new journey in a far off land with a foreign language I did not speak, I was in a town I’d never been and was living in an apartment I’d never seen before, in the middle of nowhere. Fast forward five months and everything worked out.

It wasn’t always easy.

I have cried from frustration, fear, exhaustion, confusion but now I’ve grasped the swing of things. I’m a better person. I’ve learned so much about myself and grown immensely by doing something so completely different than the life I had created in New York. I am stronger. I’m a better photographer, I’m an inspired artist. But perhaps more important than any of it, I took the courage to live one of my dreams.

When you test what you can do you realize that anything is possible. The limits we create in our mind are just that, creations of the mind. Every time I slide this ring on or off or catch glimpses of it reflecting the light I think about that line engraved on the inside, nestled against my skin, a message that is one of the things I most believe about how to live a fulfilling life… “Anything is Possible.”

“A wise man once said anything is possible when you stop believing it is impossible.”

More stories from my life in Provence here.

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Winter in Provnece

Life fell into a quiet pace. In the mornings I count the bell tolls while the angular winter light rakes across the crumpled bed covers. In the evenings the cry of the starlings marks 6pm as they dance to their symphony in the sky.

fireplace-provence-cinemagraph-615 The distant sound of a person’s footsteps on the quiet ancient streets, the soft ambience of rain outside my aged glass window plane. Most days nothing is happening. The stores have closed for the season, the visitors have gone home to Paris and on many of the restaurants old signs hang saying closed until April.

I go for long walks between the towns, the vista dotted with chimney stacks dancing with smoke. A dusty blue haze settles in before each sunset, a faint reminder of richer blues skies ahead.

It’s better than I imagined, the quiet after years of thriving on noise. Life noise, street noise, work noise. Manhattan just seems to constantly hummm. I used to be afraid of silence but now I find myself in it and it is there in the void where I can paint all the worlds I dream of.

As I work in the short hours of afternoon light I watch as it scans with each passing minute through the room I photograph in. It always seems to start with such gusto and by the time it reaches the last corner before slipping away it slows to a linger like taking that last sip of champagne.

The nights are illuminated by roaring fires and home cooked meals. For years I cursed the winter, I never knew it could actually be so warm. I watch the trees and the vines and the rosebushes rest… and I rest… because with spring awaits new wonders to discover .

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Drinking Wine in Provence

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I remember when I first moved to New York in 2003 the sticker shock I had over the cost of food and drinks. A poor college student, underage, I didn’t drink back then and even if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It took a long time in my late twenties to finally accept the fact that cocktails can cost $18 apiece and a good bottle of wine at dinner will be half of the bill if not more. When I cooked at home, on average, the cost of wine for dinner was between $20 to $30 a bottle.

Then I moved to France.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the wine shop here and looked at the prices. The average cost for a locally produced bottle of wine was under $10. And we are talking very good wine. Standing there confused I was having the inverted sticker shock sensation I once felt in New York. I must have looked completely bewildered, staring at the shelves of bottles motionless. One of the shop keepers asked me if I needed help and after fumbling shyly through in French “I’m sorry I don’t speak French, do you speak English?” we started a dialog which has continued to this day to enrich my knowledge slowing unlocking the French wine regions one bottle at a time.

We started first with what I was making for dinner, honey and herb roasted pork loin. You do not have to know anything about wine but you do have to know what you’re eating. The French are experts on pairing wines to flavors and I find this to be the best way to start a conversation and begin to make sense of a wine region.

It’s very funny being in a place so different from home. In Provence, and one of the reasons I love it so much here, there is a matter of fact approach to wine making. It’s not overly glamorized, commercialized, hyped, locked away behind gilded gates and sold to you in an expensive package. The goal is not to get rich, the goal is to make good wine for your community.

Wine is treated as a right, not a privilege. We all have the right to good wine.

Driving from village to village in the Luberon is a beautiful tango between small winding roads and blankets of vineyards tangled with life. In a word, it’s breathtaking. It’s a symbolic view of the cycle of life. If Napa Valley is a beautiful woman with her coiffed hair and makeup dripping in diamonds and high heels, Provence is her tomboy sister with striking natural beauty, long wild hair barefoot in the dirt draped in a linen dress. The locals here talk about the region’s vineyards and what years yielded the best wines. I visited one vineyard at the footsteps of Bonnieux on a recommendation to buy a bottle of theirs from a specific year. The French woman who helped me was quite unapologetic while she informed me they were sold out. That’s just the way it is. There will be more good years.

Perhaps my favorite moment from last autumn’s harvest was the sight of an old farmer happily bobbing along driving his tractor through the middle of town pulling a large bed overflowing with grape clusters. I assume he was en route to our town’s CSA winery where the local farmers can bring their grapes to be mixed together and made into wine. It is here where you can buy bottles of wine for around $3! An American I had met some years ago that once lived in Provence told me “they pump wine like gas down there” which at the time I thought was a metaphor but found, it is actually true! It is here at the CSA where you can watch people come in with their large empty plastic jugs and just like a gas pump, fill-er-up. No fills, just good table wine made from the community. (I’ve snapchatted / Instagram storied this)

It’s been a fun and interesting experience and I can tell you one thing… it’s going to be very hard to go back to New York prices after this.

Wearing in portrait above:

Monogrammed (check cuff!) “Husband Shirt” by Misha Nonoo, vintage vest from my favorite vintage store on earth Melet Merchantile, linen scarf from Merci-Merci Paris, leather boots by Lucchese Boots, IWC Portofino Watch, “The Perfect Vintage Jean” by Madewell and red lips are a mix of Nars Cruella and a top swipe of MAC’s Lady Danger.



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