Friday, June 12, 2015

France in May.

There aren't words for how beautiful it is here, for the colours that glow in the early summer light, for the shadows that dance under the towering plane trees, for the hundred shades of green on the vista over the hills and valley. It is, quite simply, ridiculous and we are, quite simply, incredibly lucky. 

These photos were taken a few weeks ago in late May, which I think is maybe the most beautiful time in the south of France, possibly anywhere. The roses are gone now and the greens started fading to yellow last week, in the scorching and unseasonable early June heatwave. Perhaps the swollen thunderclouds that have rumbled over the valley for the last week will break and drench the parched earth with the rain it needs to revive everything that is fading, including me.  

The land here is strange. It is mostly rock, in places acres and acres of vines grow from what stops just short of being slate roof tiles, it's called Schist and it produces wine that tastes better than it sounds. It's a mystery to me how the land produces anything, let alone anything as succulent as grapes, but it does and we're grateful. 

I could photograph this village every day of the week in every season and never get bored. It's a restored factory village that was built in the 17th century to produce cloth for the King, now it's houses and an art gallery and a record shop and a cafe with 17 flavours of ice cream. When it was built the words 'Manufacture Royale' were engraved over the gate but during the revolution they rubbed it out and replaced it with 'Honneur au Travail'. Wikipedia says this was crude but I like it, down with the monarchy, up with travailing. 

Note to self though: pee before you leave the house. Never has a toilet been situated so beautifully (see above left photo) only to provide such a horrifying experience on closing the door. There is no light, there is no flush, there is no paper, there is no toilet... There is a hole in the ground and well I won't go on. France is good at many things but lavatories are not one of them. 

When I was talking to a friend about moving to France vs moving to the Western Isles she told me she thought that the Western Isles would, from a photography perspective, suit my aesthetic more. She suggested that the tones and colours and atmosphere were more aligned with my style, that I find more inspiration there. She suggested, gently, that France was maybe a tad... familiar, visually. I think of her as I stand photographing roses against sandstone walls, as a pastel-toned vintage Citroen jumps out at me from in front of a wall of wisteria, as I compose images of piles of apricots under striped market awnings and wonder if it is possible for me to find pictures here that haven't been in a thousand holiday brochures, a thousand lifestyle blogs, a thousand magazine articles about the south of France. The jury is out. 

ps. The clouds broke as I was writing and the rain came. I have never heard thunder claps so loud and so long, it smells like heaven.