This story starts On a crisp but sunny Monday morning in January when I landed in Marseille to teach at The forage feast photography workshop. This was a whirlwind of a trip, which I only knew about a few days beforehand. I was asked to fill in after one of the teachers had to pull out. I jumped at the chance for this adventure because deep down I just knew it was going to be amazing and I was not wrong.
It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life, coming home and sitting here now writing this with a big smile on my face as I think about the new friends I have made, and the growth I feel after spending a week amongst so much talent is such an amazing feeling.
I don’t have the talent for writing which pains me, that’s why I tend to tell stories with my photos. I really wanted to share this story with you though. I write from my head and I’m terrible at sentence structure and punctuation but I though I would just put it all down here for you to read.
So let me tell you all about it. I was met from the airport by the wonderful Ruth from the French muse who, even though we had never met instantly felt like a friend I had known for years. We went for lunch and enjoyed the most garlicky meal we could find. We felt it was better that we both would smell of garlic In solidarity so we ordered the same dish which consisted of the worlds best aioli, Literally it blew my socks off.
We then drove to pick up Valeria from the train station with the help of my sat navigation skills, (it’s my secret talent, I can navigate really well I think I must just have a really good sense of direction) .We where a bit concerned our garlic breath would be a bit much for poor Valeria in the same car, but luckily I don’t think she noticed.
Then we made the journey to the house that we would be staying at for the week. My first impressions of Provence where magical, the beautiful rolling fields that would soon turn purple and smell strongly with the scent of lavender (I need to go back in summer and experience that), the quaint little villages perched on the hills and looked like they hadn’t changed in hundreds of years and the winding roads.
I felt like I had stepped back in time and found a piece of paradise. When we arrived in saignon I couldn’t believe how small and pretty it was, the little balconies and shutters on the windows of the houses in the tiny town where so breath taking. The house we stayed in was an art gallery/artists residence turned b&b and was so inspiring.
There where incredible paintings, statues and art installations all throughout the house. I really felt such an amazing creative energy there, so it seemed like a perfect venue for us to be creating our own form of art in for the next week.
The team(minus Elodie, who is an amazing florist see her work here and arrived the following day) sat down and enjoyed a delicious meal and discussed the coming days events with excitement and I knew from that moment that magic would happen that week. Poor Valeria was not feeling too well, possibly because she hadn’t had her weight in garlic aioli like Ruth and I , (making us immune to colds) and spent the next day resting up.
There where a few colds amounts the group that week and I would really like to credit the aioli for me not catching any thing lol I always swear by eating garlic to ward off colds.
On the Tuesday afternoon the sweet and extremely talented Elodie arrived and into the mini bus we went to forage for foliage for the floral displays. As it was winter and there where not any flowers around she created the most amazing centrepieces with grasses, branches, moss and leaves, it was so inspiring to see her create such beauty with from what seemed like weeds.
At one point on our foraging adventure we came across a patch of pampas grass and pulled over to get some. It was growing down a steep bank in a bog, one minute I was stood at the top gracefully foraging like a Provincial beauty (ok in my head I was) and the next minute I had slid down the bank and into the bog!.
It was pretty hilarious and was bound to happen when you get a accident prone person to stand on the edge of a bank. Needless to say my trainers where covered it smelly bog water for the rest of the day. It was quite comical as Ruth ran towards me thinking I might be hurt shouting omg are you ok!! and I just crawled up the bank saying “I’m ok” like they do in the movies.
We laughed about it for quite a while afterwards. At one point Ruth was literally hanging off a cliff to cut some mistletoe from a tree and it was so frightening I couldn’t watch, I’m quite glad that I didn’t go near the edge.
With our minibus full of goodies we drove back to the house and then we went to Giuseppina’s house for dinner and preparing one of the rooms for one of our workshops that week.
I think we need to spend a moment discussing her house as it was literally breath taking. Surrounded by olive trees and stone walls was a beautiful house with a big roaring fire and delicious smells coming from the kitchen, we rummaged though her beautiful collection of ceramics and glassware and then sat down for a very tasty mushroom lasagne.
Maybe the most interesting thing about the meal was the wine that she served with it, a red sparkling wine. I had never heard of a red sparking wine before but she had got it in Venice. I actually really enjoyed it but then I like Asti so I’m not really a wine connoisseur.
We went home to bed and where awoken at 8 o’clock the next day but the Church bells that sounded every hour from 8am until 10 or 11 I can’t remember.
Wednesday was here the day the guests where due to arrive and the day the workshop would begin.
I roamed around in the morning looking thought the prop room filled to the brim with amazing objects. It felt a bit like the room of requirement from Harry Potter bursting with so many incredible finds that Ruth had collected over the years. I instantly fell in love with one particular item, a wooden board with lettering on it, and to my excitement at the end of the workshop Ruth gave it to me as a gift as she knew how much I loved it.
The guests arrived to a welcome drink of Prosecco and nibbles, I had two glasses for Dutch courage before the group was split in half and one half came to do a photography theory workshop with Valeria and I and we talked to the attendees about camera settings, styling and composition. And the other half discussed video with Nora. Then we swapped and worked with the other group. It was then time to have a little break before the welcome dinner.
Elodie has been secretly working away on some beautiful masterpieces and with Zuza and Raina they set up the tables for dinner. The room looked spectacular with candles flickering in the darkness.
We enjoyed the feast that Giuseppina prepared starting with a fennel soup, then followed by radicchio with pate and beer jelly and then we finished with a hazelnut cake that was to die for.
Thursday was the beginning of our first hands on styling /cooking workshops which was being held at Giuseppina’s house.
We set up a beautiful table setting to shoot in the garden and it was magical. There was an old Borie (a round stone house typical of Provence) in the garden and we tip toed over white orchids that has just popped through the spongy moss ground and set up under an olive three.
After lots of excitement from shooting then we went inside for lunch and Valeria and Elodie went upstairs to style the next scene and all of a sudden Valeria ran down and said we had to go up and shoot it right then as the light was amazing and she was not wrong, I literally squealed with delight and jumped up and down when I saw it. (I know I know it doesn’t take much to excite me) then we sat down for a quick lunch and then styled another light scene in the afternoon.
Then the guests had a cooking class and learn how to make gnocchi and some other dishes while me Elodie and Valeria carried in all the props and then laid on the bed chatting until dinner. I was very glad to get to bed that night but was desperate to edit my photos so I could see it I managed to capture that beautiful light I was so excited about.
Friday was chiaroscuro workshop day. The guests went to visit a atelier in the morning and Valeria, Elodie and I stayed home so we could set up a scene ready for when they got back. After several trips up and down the winding stairs with the chairs from the dinner the night before we prepared the room for the workshop, by getting loads of props from the room of requirement (prop room) downstairs and carrying them up many more spiral stairs. I suppose the exercise was mandatory to work off all the bread and cheese.
I was really quite nervous about this part of the workshop as I was the one leading it and possibly because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t actually pronounce chiaroscuro, but it went really well.
I set up a table with bread and cheese and fruit in an old masters style with the help of Valeria and Elodie and the guests arrived home and started shooting. Then they had the chance to style their own scenes before I styled a simple cake scene with them. Elodie and her magic talents transformed the little chocolate cake with leaves and a little crown made of grasses we had foraged and we put some candles on it.
The room it’s self was really quite spectacular with red walls and terracotta tiles and beautiful curtains. We then photographed some truffles which smelt pretty strong and weird but I was assured they would be delicious. I hadn’t actually tried them before.
We then stopped for a break before dinner and Carried the props back down and set the tables and chairs back up. I don’t think I have ever walked up and down the stairs so much in my life, so I was so ready for dinner that night and wow it was amazing.
The highlight of the dinner was the truffle butter mashed potatoes and chicken that we had for the main it was absolutely incredible. The flavours will stay with me forever. I slept like a log that night after all that exercise, I’m not going to lie I’m pretty unfit.
We woke the next day ready for truffle hunting. We went to a field and met George and with the help of his dog, found 2 truffles and then headed back to the house after a spot more foraging and it was time for a floral workshop with Elodie. It was such a fun workshop and we all made wreaths and flower crowns ready for our final banquet dinner that was secretly being made into a masterpiece by Sebastian and Valérie, two incredibly exceptional people which I will talk more about in a moment.
Next was Valeria’s food writing class and that was equality amazing. I actually had goose bumps at one point when a piece of writing by Mfk Fisher was read out. It actually inspired me to write this post as I don’t tend to write long blog posts. I just do a recipe and leave it at that, mainly because I’m terrible at writing. (sorry I know this is probably hard to read).
Then we got to see the room that was being decorated by Sebastien and Valérie and I don’t know how to describe it other than mind blowing. We walked into the room and I felt like I have been transported back to a royal feast there where swans, rugs, candelabras and bowls of beautiful fruit everywhere it was magical.
We drank wine into the night and laughed together and told stories and I was full to the brim with happiness and inspiration from spending time with so maybe talented people.
On Sunday last day of the workshop we woke up to the bells at 8 with sore heads (some of us) and travelled to L’isle-sur la Sorgue to go to a flea market and it was amazing. There where so many different stalls I have never seen such a big antiques market before.
we all found some amazing things there. I got a beautiful old artist box and some old papers. I need to go again with a bigger suitcase. If you visit the area I would highly recommend that you pay a visit.
Then we had a delicious lunch and then headed home and worked on Lightroom. Most of the guests went home at 6.30 and we all said our goodbyes and we sat there (me in my Harry Potter pjs) and chatted about the week.
I was so sad that the week was over and I had to go home because it was so amazing to be surrounded by likeminded creatives. Now I am home and full of inspiration to create which is brilliant.
In conclusion it was a truly magical week and I felt like I learnt so much and met so many amazing people.
I will be writing a follow up post talking about chiaroscuro lighting in photography and how to achieve it as I have had a lot of questions about it.
(scroll down for the many photos I took)
truffle hunting with this cute dog.
P.S I love teaching workshops, I have a few day workshops planned this year check out when and where here