bon appétit: food photography | provence-alpes-côte d’azur, france

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“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

― Julia Child

Many of you know, and many of you don't know, that food photography is a huge passion of mine. It's not just the food itself, but the community and cultures that humans create around food. When that is tied to my passion for ethereal light, my love of a shallow depth-of-field, capturing moments, and my yearning to eat, experience, and share all the things, the only result is a glorious collision of light hitting film and sensors capturing light as colored pixels.

It's around a kitchen table where some of my best memories were made, where I learned from my family, and was consistently asked, "What did you do for your country today?" by my father as he took a swig of his wine and a bite of his bread...or popped an olive into his mouth, because we never had a meal without a boat of olives. It's around a kitchen table where I learned to make tamales at Christmas time while novelas played in the background, try everything at least 1 time, spend hours protesting carne guisada despite my love for it now, and actually stop to reflect on the day and its happenings from a very young age. I was blessed to know that the kitchen table was a place of solace, a place of camaraderie, and a safe place to talk to my family. The kitchen table is a place of sharing, and there is no better way to enjoy a meal than to share it with the people who make you tick.

While it has taken me some time to figure out where my life is headed in terms of a creative career, I'm confident that I now know where I want to be. I want to be in a place that I can share my adventures and the food that shapes them, and all the stories that come along with them. Food is more than nourishment, it is a gift from God, it is an art form, and it is a precious commodity that I am thankful for everyday. To the farmers, the chefs, the families, the non-profits, and the consumers:  you're the ones who feed the world and that's a huge job...I'm here to document every part of that.

Our trip to Bonnieux and the South of France was an opportunity to really delve into more personal work. How could you not with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and all the French cooking? The best food starts with the freshest ingredients, and I'm sure Julia Child and any other chef would agree with me. I believe the best food photography starts with the freshest ingredients and the purest of light. Below are a sample of photos I made that document my trip through my food, some staged, some at markets, some at home, and some at restaurants. I'm thankful that I have a family who understands that all food must be photographed before it is eaten, who knows that me going to the markets is like my brother walking into a music shop, and also who just lets me be me at the kitchen table when I whip out some sort of camera to remember something special from that meal.  Here's to the next adventure, a load of supporters, a solid quote from Mrs. Child herself, and a fury of passion..finally.

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After gawking over (and naturally, photographing) all the fresh fruits and veggies from the garden at the house where we stayed, we made our way out to Goult which had the most adorable grocery store...smaller than my apartment but still fresher than anything around here. I love how the French, and anywhere in Europe really, opposes the use of preservatives. The food tastes much fresher and I can tell you the body appreciates the organic and local nature of these foods.

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We spent a few nights cooking at home, which allowed for all the photos of all the pretty parts of food including family. Everything so fresh. Everything so natural. And everything just delicious.

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Those fries, though.

These next few photos are from out and about. Food trucks, restaurants, markets, and patisseries. Just lovely, every bit of it.

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And of course, if you've been following along, you have seen that kitchen window. That kitchen window let in the most glorious of light onto a beautiful kitchen farm table. When we arrived, we were gifted with three giant heirloom tomatoes just waiting for a photo shoot before becoming a caprese salad.

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For my last food shoot in Bonnieux, I greeted that kitchen table with some pretty macarons from Aix-en-Provence. I mean...when in France, right? I do think, however, I had as much fun shooting them as I did crushing them and then subsequently eating them.

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Thank you for traveling along with me! Again, if you'd like to see how we chronicled our trip in instagram posts, search our hashtag, #bonnieuxmonsieur. I'll leave you with this fiery quote from someone who never let anything or anyone stop her:

“Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” ― Julia Child

bonnieux, les agnels distillerie de lavande | provence-alpes-côte d’azur, france

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Oh, Bonnieux, how I miss you so (rhymes with monsieur, if you're curious how to pronounce it)! Nestled and perched high on the side of a mountain in the Luberon region lies Bonnieux, another Roman-Gothic tiny village that has vibrant life, steep streets (very very steep, which is still an understatement), and a spectacular view onto the land of les paysans (farmers). This little town, home to Les Chapelins (a small neighborhood surrounded by vineyards that climbs the mountainside where we stayed), unlike any other is bustling with life, beyond welcoming, home to delicious restaurants, and had the most casual lifestyle. While we didn't make it to the bread museum (shucks...just more carbs for next time!), we did make it to the18th-century chapel at the bottom of the village, the market, found a lively little grocery store, and grabbed our daily croissants and baguettes from the local paâtiserie and salon de thé. We antiqued with some locals and met a lovely artist couple, Carole Sebton and Laurent Vauxion, who own Sous les toiles de Provence Atelier-Galerie who make some of the most unique impressionistic and mixed media work I've ever seen in person.We stayed in an old Provencal home that had been modernized, but still kept its old world charm in way of its stone sink, worn stairs, thick stone walls, and its lack of windows facing the street (cool fact: the French were taxed for the number of windows on a home that faced the street...so they wouldn't put windows on the side of that house!).

This house was our sanctuary to everything that weighed heavy on our shoulders at home. It was one of the best escapes I can remember and easily one of the most photogenic, too! It was so photogenic, we could not pass up a 30th anniversary and family portrait shoot for Jerry's parents. With a view fromBonnieux, across the valley all the way toLacoste, one could sit for hours gazing off past the horizon. When I wasn't daydreaming my life away, I was playing badminton with Jerry and Tess, dipping my toes in the pool while glued to my newKinfolk and sipping sparkling lavender lemonade, I spent my mornings noshing on pastries, butter, and honey, and drinking endless amounts of espresso while sitting in the kitchen window. Tess and I also had a lovely time photographing (and eating) ALL THE FOOD (wait for the next post!), enjoying our time together with family, and occasionally dodging a scorpion. I even raced snails (escargot on the go!) and admired the beauty of spiders and their webs, rather than screaming and running away. This house had so much natural beauty and history with it's towering trees, terraced garden full of lavender, pears, figs, blackberries, olive trees, and all the pretty flowers that overlooked the vineyards of Les Chapelins. And all the history is tied up with the key to this home... it's so big, you could never lose it!

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Go! Go! Go! Escargot!

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OMG PASTRIES + ESPRESSO!

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I spent probably 30 minutes in awe of this florist as she whipped up the most beautiful bouquets in merely seconds. If there was an olympic racing event for creating stunning fresh-flower bouquets, I'm certain she'd win. 

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On one of our slugfest days (days where you do nothing but slug around), we went out to Les Agnels Distillerie de Lavande to see how lavender was farmed, harvested, distilled, and turned into the finest essential oil. We learned about the health benefits of lavender, too. I'll give you a quick description...it heals everything with 1 drop. We even finished up by watching lavender get stuffed by a tractor tire into the still while sipping on lavender water (not to my taste, hence why I took photos instead). This was a very interesting and informational visit. I had no idea there were three different species of lavender that grew at three different altitudes: traditional lavender (high altitudes), spike lavender (low altitudes), and lavandin, a hybrid of the first two where they meet in a middle altitude. Most of what we use in oils, perfumes, lotions, and other aromatherapy forms are lavandin, rather than lavender, because it is easier to genetically reproduce. They all have their own different medicinal qualities too, but it seemed that lavande officianale, true lavender, had the best and most healing qualities. It also yields some of the BEST honey I've ever had, besides of course, the local honey from Eastern NC.

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Thanks for stopping by--I hope you enjoyed our photos from Bonnieux of our epic slugfest (massive key below)!

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Some really not-so-awesome-but-can’t-live-without-them instax shots of our tablescape and view from the kitchen window.

And again, our trip was, of course, chronicled in instagram posts. Below are some from this part of our trip. To see them all, and unfortunately see the nsfw spam that made it’s way into our beautiful hashtag, search #bonnieuxmonsieur.

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Up next, FOOD. ALL THE FOOD. Please eat before you view! :)

keenwood apiary honey harvest

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The honeybee: the ultimate pollinator and creator of the most natural sweetener with the best health benefits.

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Last year,  a local beekeeper, Beverly Keen, contacted me about photographing her bees and the honey harvest. While our schedules didn't match up last summer, we were able to get together this year. Mrs. Beverly was my husband's 7th grade science teacher and he LOVED her. She taught biology and after spending a day with her, it was evident she has a passionate soul for teaching and keeping her bees. This gracious, southern woman welcomed me to her home, clad with adorable bee paraphernalia, to teach me about the honeybees and reiterate their importance to our society. Bees are full of life, and it's truly amazing how they function as a colony and how vital they are to human life. When I asked her why she chose to become a beekeeper, she simply said, "The Lord just fascinated me with why he created bees, so when I retired, I decided it was my time to keep them."

Honeybees are a vital and important part of our agriculture, as they pollinate around 80% of our plants to produce fruits and vegetables. These fascinating, flying critters are not pests, however, they are the movers + shakers of our environment that keep the circle of life circling. If honeybees are healthy, our environment is healthy, which reflects in our overall health. Honeybees are important, y'all! Over the last 8 years, they have seen a significant collapse. In 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, became a huge and mysterious killer of honeybees. Since the major collapse, CCD has killed 30% of the honeybee population each year. While many scientists and researchers now believe that it was a cyclical phenomena, possibly tied to certain pesticides, honeybees still aren't as abundant as they used to be, therefore putting our agriculture industry at risk. Could you imagine a life without apples, cherries, broccoli or any type of fresh produce? Or honey for that matter?!

Since then, many boutique apiaries have popped up across the globe. Everyday people raising honeybees to pollinate plants in hopes of improving the environment. Urban beekeeping boomed a few years ago utilizing rooftop space in big cities for bee hives and small gardens as people started to realize how important these relatively peaceful creatures are to securing our food supply. Also, people have realized all the health benefits that come from consuming raw, local honey, which unlike tupelo or clover honey, has a complex and dynamic taste as it comes from the nectar of a myriad of plants. It helps with allergies, is full of vitamins and minerals, and  has natural antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Mrs. Beverly advised us to start sipping a tablespoon of honey everyday before bed because it's best for our health and contains tryptophan which helps us sleep. On top of the many benefits of honeybees and their honey, these buzzing critters and their apiaries are some of the most sustainable beings and "farms" around! Here's the sustainable cycle that Mrs. Beverly experiences at her apiary:

  • The queen bee lays her eggs, or brood, to create drones (males) and worker bees (female),
  • These bees grow up to fertilize the brood or pollinate her garden,
  • Then they take the nectar to the hives in their nectar pockets, which then goes through the cycle of becoming honey,
  • Mrs. Beverly takes the hives apart to harvest the honey,
  • The wax is cut off and honey is extracted,
  • The honey gets bottled up to sell and the wax gets melted down for candles (some people like to make beauty products with it!),
  • The equipment used to extract the honey then gets put outside and the honeybees clean it spick and span as they eat up all the honey as one of their sources of food,
  • And the cycle starts again!
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Look at her just sucking up the sweet honey off of that glove!

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And we found the Queen Bee!

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Look at all the honey dripping down the sides of the extractor!

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The natural creation of something so geometrical like honeycomb just fascinates me.

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Mmmmmm, honey!

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That's a load of beeswax!

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Such an adorable little honeybee scooter for her grandbaby!

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Me and Beverly in her garden, followed of course, by an out of focus selfie!

For more information on the importance of the honeybee, in addition to the fight they are facing, check out some of the articles below:

  • http://www.backyardbeekeepers.com/facts.html
  • http://science.time.com/2014/02/13/can-urban-beekeeping-stop-the-beepocalypse/
  • http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130510-honeybee-bee-science-european-union-pesticides-colony-collapse-epa-science/
  • http://saveourbees.com/plight/
  • http://time.com/559/the-plight-of-the-honeybee/
  • http://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/guest-authors-on-natural-health/raw-honey-the-complete-story