Sunday, May 30, 2010


Dino Spreafico runs the Hotel Flora in Chiavenna, Italy. It's been in his family for sixty years. Although much of his time is taken up with the hotel, it was clear that his passion is photography. He showed me some of his published work and I was impressed. He seems comfortable making his living one way and indulging his passion in another.


Alesandra Matera runs Paitin Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast outside Alba, Italy. She has incredible energy and always seems happy and exuberant. Although she doesn't speak much English, she can usually make her point known through sheer enthusiasm.


Luca Elia is lives with his family outside of Alba, Italy. He's in his last year of high school and will be going to college in Milan next year. His father hopes he'll be interested in working for the family's wine business, but doesn't seem to be pushing him in any way. Luca loves riding motorcycles.


Giavanni Elia owns Paitin Winery in Bricco de Neive with his brother Silvano. The winery has been in their family since 1796. Their best wine is a Barbaresco. It's similar to the Barolos more common in the US, but many think is just as good. Giavanni was kind enough to give us a tour of his winery and spend some time telling us about the region's history. He was unassuming yet still obviously proud of his family's heritage.

Finally, a new post and a new adventure

I've gotten several e-mails asking me when I would post again, so here it is. The last several weeks have been a bit of a blur. Finishing the quarter in Lacoste was a marathon of broken printers, low paper and ink supplies, matting disasters, and generally panicked students. It all came together admirably with a Vernissage the students were all proud of. (And I was, too!) The weather was perfect, the sales were brisk, and the relief after so much time and effort was significant. A good time was had by all.

The last official dinner was a boisterous and bitter/sweet affair. Adam Sklenar put together a slide show of highlights from the "Spring in Lacoste" and made us all laugh before many started getting teary at the prospect of it all coming to an end. I must admit, I haven't ever had an experience like this with feeling so much affection for my students. I genuinely liked them, as well as admiring both their work and their work ethic. Eight weeks living and working together every day makes for much more intense emotions than "normal" college.

As soon as the students left on the bus for Marseille airport, Andrea and I left for Nice. We spent two days in the beautful town of Vence, ten kilometers from the Mediterranean. We walked around the old city of Nice, went to the Matisse Museum, and went to the Matisse Chapel- all delightful. The Cote d'Azur is very dramatic with huge mountains rising from the sea.

We headed east and north into the Piedmont region of Italy and happened upon a rural B+B outside the small town of Alba. This is wine country and is famous for it's Barolo and Barbaresco wines. They're hardy and heady wines and well know in the States. After two days touring and tasting, we traveled to north of Milan and stopped near the northern border in a town called Chiavenna.

Today, we drove into Switzerland and stopped in a tiny town called Guarda, halfway up a mountain and with a panoramic view of the valley. It's raining, so Andrea and I have holed up in a room in our pensione and are catching up with e-mail, pictures, and blogs. We're looking at snow covered, jagged peaks out our window. We're drinking wine given to us from the proprietor of a winery I photographed the other day. All is right with the world.

Stay tuned for pictures. . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monsieur Ariski Follow-up

The day after I photographed Ariski, Andrea and I were surprised by the sound of dogs fighting and yelling in the lane outside our apartment. I rushed out the door and a yellow Lab ran past me. I recognized her as a sweet dog who is often around the village, making friends, scrounging for snacks. She was closely followed by Ariski's dog. I stood between him and the Lab and he seemed satisfied with my presence as a deterrent to continuing the fight.

Ariski came up the lane, yelling at the top of his lungs. He was obviously incredibly angry and I was the closest object for him to vent at. I don't speak a lot of French, but I usually can pick some words out of most conversations. Not so with Ariski's tirade. It was completely incomprehensible to me. Je suis désolé, Monsieur, I said, although I had nothing to be sorry about. She wasn't my dog, after all. He came closer to me and I tensed up, but he then turned toward the path to the chateau. He continued yelling, screaming really, all the way up the path. Five minutes later, we could still hear him up by the chateau.

OK, maybe he was just upset. Or drunk. Or both. Or maybe he's not so gentle.

More Cemeteries

I've continued to shoot cemeteries here in France. Please go here if you'd like to see more.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monsieur Ariski

I was warned about Ariski long before I came to Lacoste. I was told he was crazy, that he had attacked a student, that the local residents tolerated him, but that he preyed on foreigners. Stay away, I was told, he's trouble. Especially when he's been drinking.

I had seen him a number of times, walking through the village with his dog. Here comes the Yeti, one of the SCAD chef's had said to me when he saw him coming our way. He approached and I saw he was holding a heavy rope slung over his shoulder. I turned as he passed and realized the rope was tied to two cowboy boots and each was stuffed with fresh daffodils.

This past Sunday SCAD organized the Sidewalk Arts Festival where students, local children, and Lacoste residents spend a few hours drawing with chalk on the pavement. Suddenly the ground under one's feet is an explosion of color and a good time is had by all. While we were setting up, Ariski came ambling through. On  the spur of the moment I asked him if I could take his picture. "Est'ce que possible prendre une photo, Monsieur? Un portrait avec votre chien?" I asked. "Yeah," he replied in English. "Parlez-vous Anglais?" I asked. "A little." "I'll be right back, OK?"

I ran up the hill and fetched my camera and lights as quickly as possible. He was still there when I returned ten minutes later. He understood me and took direction very well as I asked him to sit on a low stone wall. His dog clearly wanted to be close by. They were both as gentle as could be.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Christine and Jean-Yves

Andrea and I walked to Bonnieux a few weeks ago. Down the hill from Lacoste, across the valley, and then back up a hill into Bonnieux- it took us over an hour as we got a little lost and stopped often to inspect ancient stone walls, gnarled cherry trees, and the views in both directions. It was a perfect day with bright blue skies. As we came into the town, we passed a ceramics shop and decided to stop. We were immediately impressed by the quality of the work. The forms were graceful and perfectly rendered, the glazes colorful and painterly. The proprietor greeted us warmly and was pleased to speak English with us as soon as our basic French ran its limited course. He was Jean-Yves, the husband of the potter, he told us. It was quickly apparent he was her biggest fan as well. He gave us a tour of her studio and was interested in SCAD and the Lacoste program. We parted with his assurance that we could come back any time to photograph his wife, Christine.

We went back this past week, this time with a car so we could safely carry purchases of her pots, and my backpack full of photo gear. Jean-Yves was pleased to see us and after I had done a portrait of he and Christine we were surprised to be invited into their home. We were led through the living space into an airy sun porch were we sat for two hours, talking, drinking wine, and eating olives and crackers. We talked of our children, of our travels, we talked politics. Jean-Yves was particularly pleased to make a pun in English. Referring to me, he said, "Well, we like the Forest better than the Bush!" At one point he brought out an old family album of photographs of his childhood. His father was an avid amateur photographer and the album was filled with large black and white prints. He had a knack for capturing the subtle gestures of his family rendered in exquisite light. I told him how lucky he was to have such a detailed story of his childhood told in such a beautiful way.

Eventually we went back to the shop where Andrea and I bought several pieces to bring home with us as a reminder of our afternoon.

It was a perfect day.