Tag Archives: jamie beck

On Learning French…

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One of the first questions everyone asked me when I told them I was going to France for an extended stay was, “Do you speak French?” My reply: “Non.”

When I was growing up in Texas and it came time to learn a second language I declared I would be taking French, to which my parent’s reply was “no, you’re taking Spanish. You live in Texas, after all.” But in my mind, I wasn’t going to stay in Texas and wherever that life was taking me I was sure it would have much to do with Paris. I lost that battle and I regret not fighting back harder for what I wanted now, while reflecting back from a small French village where 90% of the population only speaks the local vernacular.

I took private lessons (if you are in NYC and want my tutor’s info, email me. He was fabulous!) before arriving which was barely enough to make me appear to be not a total idiot. Perhaps the most important thing he taught me was Je suis désolée… I am sorry. I think a lot of people would be terrified to live in a country where they can’t communicate but this sort of thing doesn’t bother me, it’s part of it. It’s part of the opening yourself up to new experiences and putting yourself in unfamiliar situations to test your character on how to survive each day and make it the best it can be.

When I arrived at my little apartment in the south there was an old stack of books on the fireplace mantel, faded from the sunlight streaming in the window on those gloriously quiet afternoons and dusty from years of idle use. Sitting there, just the size of my palm, was an old french language handbook from the late 1960’s. I sat in the sunlight that afternoon practicing the unchanged phrases of French culture and wondering as I felt the texture of the old thin paper between my fingers, what wary travelers had held this book in their hands and fumbled through the phrases as I am today. I imagine them filled with hope that each line of expression will unlock another door in my journey through this foreign land. Where did this book, stuffed into a back pocket, take them and who will possess it after me? What is it that brings us all here, to France, weaving an invisible thread between us?

I have for most of my life been an incredibly social person. My mother always called me a social butterfly. Living in a place with no one to talk to was a release of an invisible social responsibility I had given myself. I don’t know anyone and I can’t really know anyone. There are no parties to go to, no friends to call upon to meet up for drinks. I can’t check in with the neighbors or commit myself to random photoshoots.

It was a relief.

Taking socializing off the table opened up so much time for myself to focus on other things, and to think about photography. It was in a sense a freedom from obligation and made me feel invisible. When you are invisible you are free from the definition you have created for yourself, or has been created for you, and can become a truer form of what you are destined to be.

As the days have turned into weeks people have begun to recognize my face around town. I keep a pretty set routine. I go to the patisserie first thing each day for my baguette. Then to the café for my cafe créme. I buy my cheese at the market from the same man and my eggs from this adorable older couple. Then this marvelous thing started to happen. They each started trying to teach me words. Always with an expression of amusement they say it slowly to me, I repeat it back to them, they say it again back to me. I try to remember it the next time we meet. In these moments I feel what a 2 year old child must. My cheese monger taught me plus and minus, my little vegetable grocer taught me rosemary, the woman at the fromagerie taught me Bon Dimanche (Good Sunday), which is used around town starting Saturday afternoons. This past weekend the organic grocer emptied out my coin purse onto the counter and sat their teaching me how to count change in French. Connecting with another human though their kindness and patience of sharing their knowledge with me has been one of the most generous gifts I’ve received.

I can’t believe I could have possibly lived my life without ever knowing these human experiences, the freedom from myself and the beauty of kindness in others to want to help you learn and participate in this shared life with all walk through together.  Though for the most part I have no idea what these people in my little village are saying to me, I feel more a sense of community with them through their kindness toward me than I have ever felt before and the opening up of my brain as it makes room for new words.

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Studied.

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I was watching the U.S. Presidential debate live last night, in bed with a glass of red wine, around 4am French time. As I listened to Hillary Clinton speak (looking chic as F in Ralph Lauren, IMO) I was so impressed with how knowledgable and studied she is. Dedicating your life to anything, especially in her case of public service for 30 years, is a huge statement to passion, purpose and incredible knowledge on the subject. I was contemplating how that related to my own purpose.

Change makers start by first learning, then with doing. The power is in knowledge. The expertise is in experience. That’s what I took away. If you have been following my Snapchat this week I have been sharing what I’ve learned about photography. Quick little daily tutorials on knowledge I’ve gained either in the class room or from experience in my breathe thus far as a photographer which is and will be my life’s work.

On Photography

My journey started when I was 13. My mom handed me her 1970s Pentax 35mm film camera. The kind that is so basic and manual all you can do set the shutter and aperture. A far cry from the endless options and controls we now have with digital.

My first lessons in photography started with basic balancing of the camera’s built in light meter and a LOT of trial and error. I learned quickly that I like to overexpose my images by a stop, especially when shooting faces. I learned how slow I can set the shutter before the image begins to reveal the shake from my hand, or breathing. I learned how to communicate movement, not just freeze it. This is knowledge I still use today when I want the image to feel alive. From there I read books, I took every class I could for the next 10 or so years. Post college, I still study. I watch youtube videos, I take classes in alternative photography, I buy random cameras and learn how to shoot with them. I play, experiment, challenge myself and discuss daily.

The Continued Study

I’ve studied photography. I loved photography. I still love the history of photography, btw THIS is the best podcast on the subject. We are now all photographers. We all take pictures, communicate through imagery and share with the world. For those of you who want to make it a profession… take a lead from what inspired me about Hillary. Be studied, do the work. Take your time on the journey. Here I am 20 years later and I am still doing just that. She makes me excited for who I will become as an artist (and business woman) in the later years of my life.

Please, this is not a political post but one about being inspired about another human’s knowledge and commitment to what they belive in, if you belive in it with them or not… #ImWithHer

Above self portrait, in Baukjen dress & wrap coat,

inspired from the painting “San Gerolamo” by Caravaggio

 

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My Day in Provence

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So, as you know, I’ve been spending a great deal of my time in a tiny town in the south of France. Nothing about my life is the same as it was. Life in New York has me up at sunrise working, emailing, off to the gym, running errands, doing photoshoots, taking meetings, then social engagements until I finished the day around 10pm with dinner and way too much to drink. Not so anymore…

My day starts at 8am when I naturally wake up. I don’t set alarm clocks. Not a lot happens around here until 11. So, relieved that it’s still early, I go back to sleep until noon. I know, outrageous, but I typically work late here – until about 3am when there are no distractions and America is awake and buzzing.

I go to the café and have my daily cafe créme, something I NEVER would have done in New York. Not taken the time, not taken the milk. Since I don’t have cell service here, a blessing AND a curse, and wifi hasn’t hit this town yet, I listen to podcasts I have stored like Claire & Erica’s “A Few Things“. Today’s episode was especially inspiringI buy my baguette, whatever is left of the varieties they sell, since it’s pretty picked over by the time I roll in. Sometimes they come out with a fresh hot batch midday which is really a shining moment for me, when she hands me the loaf and it’s still warm. That’s when I stand outside and munch.

I come home to my little 17th century apartment. The light is perfect this time of day. I have so many options from direct light to filtered window light, reflected light, and softly diffused. I thumb through inspiration images and I shoot from 2pm to 5pm, mostly on black and white film. Still lives, flowers, self portraits, life.

I clean up, I make dinner, I build a fire. I edit digital stories for social media, I edit client work. I do more research on upcoming commercial projects, and look for inspiration for personal ones.

Living here, that small town life, was super scary at first. I cried every day for a month. There were so many challenges at first. How do I get a taxi cab? Why won’t UPS deliver my boxes? How do I tell the butcher I would like a small steak? Where does one buy scotch tape… and why do I have a washing machine but no dryer?

It took a while to actually reset. To want to shoot. I was so burned out.

I also needed to break out of the hard shell I had built for myself. To find inspiration in creating, not being overly stimulated by a mountain of activity. I have discovered, most importantly, that being here limits what I can do. There is not a lot going on, I don’t have a car (yet). I don’t speak French and everything is basically closed 99% of the time. However, it is in those limitations that I am finding freedom to do so much more. Fewer distractions, more time to create. And that is what it’s really all about.–

Above self portrait, in Misha Nonoo jumpsuit,

inspired from the painting “The Red Beret”

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Snapshots from Los Angeles

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After heading out to L.A. to experience the Sound of Luxury we decided to make it a long weekend…why would you not, it was 18 degrees in New York at that time. We rented the most amazing Airbnb industrial loft in Marina del Rey to hide out in when we weren’t experiencing all the best food L.A. had to offer. Mostly, I wanted to just cruise around and play in the sun, dance in the light, and feel the ocean spray on my face. Here are snapshots from a weekend in Los Angeles shot on black & white 35mm film with the camera I first learned how to take photos with…

Los_Angeles_2016_03 While in Guatemala I discovered Swedish designer Rodebjer whom I’ve since fell in love with. Above, wearing Rodebjer’s white shirt dress that allows you to unbutton the front, back and sides in any conformation to change it from a shirt to a dress to the perfect beach coverup.  Los_Angeles_2016_04 (more…)



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