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! :)

lacoste, l'isle sur la sorgue, aix-en-provence | provence-alpes-côte d'azur, france

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I think it's ok to say that good people come to you in the most unexpected places. That would be how I'd sum up a good chunk of our trip to Provence. You might be in a pretty place with breathtaking views and decadent food, but without family and friends, both new and old, your experience will never be as rich as it could be. I don't mind talking to strangers, in fact, I always make it a point to befriend someone especially if they are going to be in front of my camera. If I learned anything with my photojournalism schooling, it's that if you don't speak up you'll never get the shot you want,  because rapport is such a wonderful thing. I've met a lot of lovely people in the past six-ish years who have let me be a part of their story somehow. I'm thankful for the friendships and the photographs they've given me, and the contact that still remains. People and their stories open your eyes to a world that you may have never known existed; and it's with these people and their stories, that your life becomes much richer than it ever was before.

This part of our trip, we traveled to Lacoste, Aix-en-Provence, and L'isle Sur la Sorgue. Each town and city is unique, but united in their laid back, southern-esque lifestyle. We started in Lacoste, another perched village across the valley from Bonnieux. In the village's recent history, it's known for its artistic community and is home to a Savannah College of Art and Design campus. Marquis de Sade's crumbling castle at the top of the town is now an art museum which was started by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin. At night, the castle is brightly lit and is easily seen from across the valley. We jaunted over to this village unknowingly aware of how rich it was in the arts and how steep the roads were. We climbed from the bottom to the top on a sunny late morning in ill-fitting sandals and somehow managed to avoid slipping on the narrow and winding cobblestone streets. We also avoided getting sunburned from the limestone's reflections of the blistering sun. The entire walk, or hike, was met with beautiful art and sculptural aspects of this tiny village. Once at the top, we stood with our mouths open at the view and the art that surrounded us. Once we were back in the town center, we were surrounded with the locals setting up for the Festival Lacoste. We peeked our head into a humble church, St. Trophime, and breathed in all its simplistic beauty. We stepped out only to find a sparkly little shop that caught our eye. Here we met Ruth, who was running a small pop-up shop selling her jewelry. We managed to walk in on the last day within its last hour. It was fate, as some might call it. Ruth was very sweet and allowed me to photograph her shop and make conversation. We talked about our love of treats, pretty jewelry and textiles, and some of the best brocantes in the region. We've kept in touch sharing images and our love for good photography. Her blog, Rubanensque, is a beautiful menagerie of her French lifestyle and a creative outlet of her work, family, and inspirations. My two recent favorite posts are about truffle hunting and a surprise winter snow. Ruth's presence, hospitality, friendly persona and recommendation of the best crème brûlée made Lacoste that much more dear to my heart. I can't wait to return this summer for a visit!

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Whoa, y'all, Jerry actually posed for picture without arguing and enjoyed it.

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How'd you like to be that cat with that view? Just a little jealous.

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Aix-en-Provence, or the Paris of Provence, as some locals call it, always leads to a day of shopping and exploring. Last time, we came upon a quaint little dog shop and searched up and down the streets for the shop again to no avail. We did however, fall back upon the beautiful Cathédrale St. Saveur, which was built upon a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo, and houses a stunning green and gold organ (however, we missed organ practice this time). This cathedral will always take my breath away with it's soaring ceilings, exquisite frescos and stained glass, and it's mash-up of Roman, medieval and neo-gothic decorations and architecture. St. Saveur has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, which accounts for its unique qualities. After cooling of in the sanctuary, we made our way to a macaron shop for some sweet cookies for a soon-to-be featured food shoot.

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While staying in Bonnieux, we made a few trips to the old textile town of L'isle Sur la Sorgue, which is now home to some of the best French antique markets, or brocantes, second only to Paris. Some call this the French Venice, but I do enjoy this town better than Venice itself. There are canals of crystal clear emerald green water, brocantes, and hidden gems all over. The algae-laden watermills speckled throughout the chilly canals used to power the silk and paper factories that put this town on the map. Antiquing and tourism are its current industries, the first of which we spent days supporting. After walking around in the Provencal heat, we'd end the day by dipping our toes in the chilly Sorgue River with a gelato in hand. Tucked behind gardens and gates off the main road were shops, galleries, and warehouses of antiques. La Boutique de Francine, was a favorite as it housed hoards of antique linens, silks, and clothing. These brocantes are open only during the weekend and Mondays, with the street flea on Sunday mornings. Each one had its own personality and flare, our favorite of which was where we met Robbie and Nava.

This British couple transplanted themselves in L'Isle Sur la Sorgue because of the antique industry and the calmer way-of-life compared to London. After interrupting their lunch, we bought some prints and a surprise present for Jerry, cracked a few jokes and realized that they were some pretty awesome people. They were an integral part of Mrs. Donna's antiquing expedition and helped her find an antique stone sink, in addition to letting us know which dealers were solid and which were crooks. We checked out some real estate with Robbie and Nava, then walked around the canals, visited the overly gaudy, but still mind-blowing, Baroque cathedral, Notre-Dame-des-Agnes, and ended our day with Pastis, an anise-flavored apertíf, and sparkling lemonade. I of course, got lost taking photos of a colorful street across from the cathedral with such lovely vintage typography. We arrived the next day to continue our quest for antique tables and sinks, and then grabbed a lunch at Restaurant Le Carre D'Herbes with the lovely couple before we left town. It was one of the tastiest lunches of traditional Provencal fare served with a to-die-for Côte du Rhone. It's hiding inside one of the galleries surrounded by vines and greenery. We then parted ways as our new friends went to go move their gallery to a new site, called Rives de Bechard. You should go visit at the very least to meet these lovely friends of ours. Just like Ruth, we've kept in touch with Robbie and Nava since we've left and hope to meet again this summer.

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Hundreds of lovely little ducks speckled the canals.

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Quirky entrances graced most of the shops and brocantes throughout the town.

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And of course, a daily gelato stop and toe-dip.

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One of the coolest things were the gentlemen who boated their way along the canal. Unlike Venice, all the bridges were very low, so they definitely had to limbo their way through.

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Fig trees graced the edges of the canal as we made our way down to Francines. Some shots of the linen shop are below.

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The colors and patterns that surrounded L'Isle Sur la Sorgue got my heart good. I would cage all my windows if cages looked like this.

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Robbie and Nava were so full of life and hospitable. After interrupting their lunch, she could only offer fresh apricots to us while Robbie cracked jokes about us crazy ambitious antiquing Americans. I love these portraits as they really capture their dynamic and caring personalities. Below are some shots of the trip to the stone mason's gallery, and his dog, who searched for toy rocks in the sinks.

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Look at the size of that office chair. Whoa.

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Vintage french typography. Be still, my heart.

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And Jerry's new favorite photos of us.

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Don't fix it if it's not baroque! Also, don't let people see you taking photos!

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Some really not-so-awesome-but-can't-live-without-them instax shots.

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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Bonniuex & a lavender distillery are up next! À bientôt!