I was working on an article last night and found a stash of photos I took whilst wandering around France. I thought I'd share a few with you in the spirit of 'let's-pretend-we're-on-holiday-in-the-South-of-France.'
Close your eyes (just for a moment or you won't be able to see the photos, silly), breathe deep and feel the midsummer sun bearing down on your cheeks. Smell the soft, red smell of the dust beaten into the air by the feet of hundreds of tourists. Now put your hand protectively over the passport in your bumbag (JOKES! As if we would ever wear bumbags!) and step back in time with me.
Mid-August, 2008. After two weeks gallivanting throughout Paris (and still feeling like I barely scratched the surface) and a few days pouring south down through Chartres and Lyon, we found ourselves in Arles. My travelling buddy Carmen and I knew we wanted a few days in Provence but other than Aix-en-Provence, we didn't know where we should go. So we went to one of the biggish ones and BOY O BOY was it one of the happiest accidents of all time.
Christian Lacroix, only my favourite couturier at the time (the opulence! the artisanry! the imagination! the execution!), hails from Arles. And he had curated 'Les Recontres des Arles', an incredible exhibition which rubbed shoulders with everything else in that ancient city. Because Arles also became the seat of the Roman Empire after some Caesar defeated some other Caesar and to spite the conquered Caesar the conquering Caesar changed the see from Rome to Arles (you with me?) Cue lots of ancient buildings, in all states of beautiful decay. You could walk through the decrepitude and find moss growing over historied stone; a colonnade rubbing shoulders with a boulangerie. And because the Recontres exhibition was housed in these buildings, you could enter an old empty stone church and find the walls hung with silent black and white photographs of Lindbergh's seaside series. Or you could walk into the pale yellow hospice where Van Gogh was interred and find yourself gazing at streetstyle images by Scott Shuman, Phil Oh, Yvan Rodic and others.
For a fashion nerd of my particular bent (Lacroix loving + streetstyle loving + Avedon/Lindbergh/Tim Walker loving) it was ecstasy. I spent one intoxicating day wandering the streets.
And what Ii have to show for it, other than the details that furnish my memory, are these sneaky shots I took of backstage images at Lacroix- taken in his studio during some of his Haute Couture fittings. It was naughty of me ('NO PHOTOGRAPHY') but can you blame me?
It's a crime that he can't afford to show Couture anymore, a crime.
This gorgeous portrait of Picasso was included in the Recontres too but I can't remember who took it.
Where else did we go but Avignon, pretty Avignon, the old papal city on the Rhone. What did we do there other than laze on the deck of our houseboat, wade in the pool and eat pistachio meringues (and gelato and brioche and Salade Nicoise)? Uh... not much.
O this? O just our houseboat.
The deck of... you get the picture. My heart burns at the colours, the heat, the clarity, the beauty.The papal palace was downriver from us, on the other side of that bridge you can faintly see. Apparently it's the reason that most people go to Avignon but, well, we did okay for ourselves.
The view from my porthole.
And flicking through these forgotten photos, I remembered the start of my love affair with classical statues. The photos below give you some indication as to why (but because I can't stem words when there are words to be shared, it's the smoothness of their limbs, the way they fill the space, the way they intimate a bigger story but completely inhabit just that moment, a fixed moment for all time. And because they're beautiful and savage and stately and because somehow emotion streams from them despite that they're inert stone.)
Diana the Huntress in the grounds of Versailles
Some classical couple bearing the broken body of their son in Lyon