I have to admit it. I had certain expectations of Italy. I try to approach travel with a ‘no expectations’ mantra. But for this trip I was definitely influenced by stories my mom had told me, memories from childhood, Instagram imagery, and, of course, television.
Having an Italian background, I imagined I would ‘find my people.’ I did not. I found the culture in Italy very different from the Italian American culture I grew up around in the South End of Hartford, Connecticut. It was a tight-knit community, very much influenced by their new environment, where they eased up on tradition and became a bit more lighthearted.
Life in the Tuscan hills seems to have remained untouched. Many occupations have obviously continued for centuries … wine and olive oil production, woodcraft and leather craft. I imagine the hills of Tuscany looked very much the same hundreds of years ago.
Although I did not find my people so to speak, I did find inspiration. The effect of time on doors, windows, walls, and floors was exciting to look at and photograph. Experiencing buildings constructed in the 12th century or before … I found myself stopping and staring and imaging what life was like so long ago. Amongst this ancient backdrop, women dressed in haute couture, an eclectic mix of modern style and classic fabrics. The juxtaposition of old and new, ancient and modern was exhilarating. I do love contrasts and textures so, it fueled me creatively. My heart was racing, my brain filling with idea after idea, layers of concepts forming as I walked the narrow streets. Rough stucco and crumbling brick encouraged me to once again work with textures. Intersecting buildings inspired geometric design concepts. Eclectic interiors and clothing design influenced me to craft photography composites.Looking back in time helped me imagine the future. To envision the work I will to create over the next few years, seeing it hang there on the wall as if it has already been accomplished.
Looking back in time helped me imagine the future. To envision the work I will to create over the next few years, seeing it hang there on the wall as if it has already been accomplished.
Tuscan villa near Castiglion Fiorentino available on airbnb here.
Tuscan texture packs coming soon. Current texture packs and stock images available here.
I must mimic the words of my dear friend Dona Bergen here. This city has indeed stolen my heart. Paris has welcomed me with open arms and has literally taken me in. I resonate so well with the culture and surprisingly so. It has been an unexpected pleasure to find I connect with this polite, kind, gracious, respectful people. It was especially a joy to see the art of conversation has been developed into just that – an art, as beautiful as the art that surrounds you on every corner of every street.
The city was easy to navigate. My husband and I strolled along endless streets in a variety of neighborhoods in order to get a feel for the city. Our main objective was to enjoy the everyday habits of Parisians … coffee, pastry, cheese, and crepes. Crepes are the tacos of Paris. Filled with every imaginable filling, they can sustain you any time of day for any meal or for dessert. You can have it wrapped to take away and eat it on the fly for a mere 4 euros.
With just 3 days to explore the city, we opted not to visit the inside of museums but instead thoroughly experience the gardens and architecture. I was dumbfounded at the sheer scale and massive size of the buildings. Just a glimpse appeared in my minds eye of a time past, these buildings under construction and the artisans who created them. As my daughter remarked, “It is a testament to the capability of humanity. Imagine how much can be achieved if we were to exist in a fully cooperative state, devoid of distress.”
Paris is so easy to fall in love with. Everything is beautiful, everything! … from the tiny little spoon that you stir your perfectly executed cappuccino with to the delicately ornate stonework and ironwork on the face of the residences. One can find a complimentary combination of new and old, modern and antiquated in every detail. For me, a country girl with a city aesthetic, I immediately thrive, right at home with the everyday fashion of black and scarves and leather shoulder bags. Citizens and tourists alike walk about the bustling streets with a purpose – to live each day to the fullest. The concept is enhanced by a delightful “Bonjour,” spoken with a lilt at the end and said with a smile that tells me it is meant fully as well.
And lastly, I must speak to the infrastructure of the city. From the moment you arrive at the airport, you realize that your experience will be pleasant. I don’t know how they do it, but thousands upon thousands of visitors are cared for wonderfully without massive traffic jams or packed tight streets. We are fed without having to wait very long and can walk pretty much anywhere without fear. I tip my blue baret to you, dear Paris. I will return to you again. I must, for now, I have left my heart with you.
For most of my stay in Paris, I sported my Nikon 3200 DSLR with a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens. My F-stop was set at 6.3 for street shots and architecture, ISO 200-400 as it was never really bright and sunny, and a range of shutter speeds to suit the subject and time of day. I found in particular if I focused on the beginning of the right or left of the street, not the center, the depth of field was correct. I used a 35mm and 50mm lens at Luxembourg Gardens and generally shot at F 5.0. I always had my iPhone 7 in my pocket everywhere I went and used it for quick indoor shots or to zoom in on a subject from far away. I jumped between using the stock camera on my phone as well as the ProCamera App for specific settings and to shoot in Camera Raw. I always upload everything to Lightroom and edit there.
‘I’d Rather be in Paris’ was first written for Bangor Daily News featuring Dona Bergen, owner of Mars Hall Gallery in Tenants Harbor, Maine. The post has since been archived.