Sunday, 20 July 2008


A private viewing in France is known as a "vernissage", historically when the artist laid the final coat of varnish (vernis) to their work to render brighter or duller according to the light in the salon where the work was being shown.

I needed no varnish - the photos sighed languidly in the breeze from the open window self-assured in their composition. 

The film crew arrived early, as planned, and shot Sherry arriving at the apartment as I welcomed her in and explained what vernissage meant. The camera then followed us as I gave her a private viewing and artist's explanation of the photos. Aaaaah. I bathed in the "it is all about me" for a good half and hour and loved every moment.

And then the remainder of the guests arrived, stopping under the windows in the street to hear the buzz of the event above their heads, keen to tell me that they wanted to see more photos (they do not know how long it took me to hang these ones, and I did not tell them). Some interesting conversations ensued and I have leads for future projects. 

The highlight was when Sherry came up to me to ask if she could buy a print, and it was all recorded on film. If they use this part of the footage then so will I. In addition to this sale I managed a further two sales. In retrospect I was trying to do too much, I was trying to do it all and it would have been better to enlist some help. It was a learning experience. I learned.

The second highlight was at the end, when all the invitees had departed Jennifer, Laura and Kylie stayed behind to make sure I came down gently, and they helped tidy everything away. That is friendship. 

Thursday, 17 July 2008

A taxi? At lunch time?

After filming we tried to find taxis. I located a taxi rank, full of taxis... all without drivers. When I enquired in a local shop if the drivers would return I was told "yes" but "after lunch".

It was 3.30pm.

So Sherry and I posed for a photo as Tom searched for a taxi with a driver. I handed my camera over to Peter, her boyfriend (a genuinely lovely guy), to take the shot. Very sweetly Sherry insisted that he take one of the two of us with her camera as well. I get the feeling that hers will be the better picture.

Being filmed

Thursday morning was beautiful - white linen trousers weather. Phew. I arrived early to scout out a couple of initial good locations for Kate-type photography, this generally involves sitting down in the middle of the road. Pissing off motorists and motorcycle riders on narrow Parisian "ruelles" is an occupational hazard. 

The film crew mustered outside Métro Abbesses. And the Parisians moved just gently to one side; their respect for cinema outweighing their intolerance of inconvenience.

The first photo opportunity involved sitting down in the middle of the street, and Sherry was wearing a cotton-jersey summer dress. She is a pro... she coped. Our rapport and mutual respect grew as the day went on. Another phew.

As the filming continued I forgot we were even being filmed and recorded, every step of the way. Occasionally Tom would call us back because one or other of us had said something really excellent that would drive the story along. This involved doing re-takes. At the 6th retake of one particular scene I no longer knew what I had said in the first place. Sherry acknowledged that she generally could recall anything for up to 24 hours and then it was lost to her. She is a pro.

Three hours later we were all in yet another secret garden in Paris. The film crew had collapsed onto the edge of the band stand. The bottled water was finished and I had a vernissage to set up. Sherry and I parted (on camera) after 5 takes in which I invited her to my vernissage that evening...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Hang those photos

After morning session four classmates bought our lunch from the opulent Bon Marché and nibbled on sushi and salads in a secret garden under a rose-covered arbor.

My mission for the afternoon was more practical; to locate transparent bra straps. With the mission completed (at Darjeeling) I spent the afternoon sitting in Vicky's sun-filled apartment writing a new version of my Memoir from our time in Boston. I was astounded by the amount of detail that worked its way through my keyboard to sit on the screen in front of me. As if daring me to leave it out.

I underestimated exactly how long it would take to hang just 18 prints for my show. With only permission to hang from the balcony of the mezzanine I ran up and down stairs way more than the minimum 36 times getting the length of each piece of fishing line just right before curling circular paper clips over the prints and suspending them from the fishing wire. Do you think I have a photo of it? Of course not.

Lois (whose apartment I borrowed for the show) invited me to dine with her and a friend at 10pm. We sat at a circular table, candles flickering gently with the vast windows thrown open to welcome in the sun's warmth being emitted on slow release from the beige sandstone. 

In preparation for the big day I turned my light out before midnight, but only just.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Mon conseileur d'image

In the first half of Tuesday I suffered a bruised ego. My writing (or rather note taking from the journal entries) from 2001 was heavily criticised as lacking both context and characterisation. Maybe I have taken on too much...

In preparation for Thursday I joined John Baxter's Walking Tour which was being filmed with Sherry as part of the group. Tom carried an enormous camera on one shoulder and saw the afternoon through one eye set flush against an eye piece. He tripped over a lot of obstacles. It was cold. The film crew were tired and even a glass of wine while sitting on John's wonderful balcony overlooking Notre Dame, the Sacre Coeur and St Sulpice did not appear to inject them with new enthusiasm.

I collected what I thought I was going to wear for Thursday and took it Margaretha. She poured us a glass of champagne each and then wrote a list; event description, clothes, weather, accessories, makeup, jewellery, shoes... 

By 9pm we were through. Clothes - white linen trousers, grey top, beige cashmere cardi. Make up - none (an error I think in retrospect). Bag - none. Jewellery - Kate everyday jewellery inspired by a Spanish sculptor. M, S and I went to Le Petit Pontoise for dinner.

Viaduc des Arts

Many photos are best taken from an angle that is difficult to get to. Bridges are perfect for observing life passing on the street below.

Sheila, my reviewer and fellow-photographer, met at the Gare de Lyon to climb up onto an old viaduct which has been transformed into 2km of sequential gardens and walkways, covered with arbors of roses and filled with narrow rectangular ponds reminiscent of the Taj Mahal.

Photography is usually a solitary activity. It was good to walk, talk and observe together. It is time to start training my eye for filming on Thursday. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Le chien qui fume

"The smoking dog" would be a great opening to a chapter of a book. All this week I have morning classes in how to write Creative Non-Fiction. I chose this class with the intention of eventually doing something with all the journals Mick and I wrote in the USA. We are 5 in the class; Charles (host of last night's soirée and retired business man who has set up a Salon des hommes in Paris), Susan (an Australian business journalist), Jane (a Tanzanian/British professor of English at the University of Barbados), Min (a scientific writer based in Paris and Switzerland) and me (a photographer and graphic designer). 

Lessons learned today from Kevin Jackson, our teacher, are: identify your audience, how to capture your audience, thinking about structure and the importance of planning and how to test your prose through reading it aloud.

You can see why we (the 4 females) deserved lunch. In the restaurant we met Geoff (pictured), a travel writer based in Barcelona and all decided to attend his talk later in the afternoon.

Geoff told of the importance of reading around the subject you are writing about. Non-fiction writing involves extensive reading before you start.