Photographer Jamie Beck surprised herself when she swapped the New York City sidewalks for Provencal cobblestones several years ago. In this personal essay — written exclusively for My French Country Home Magazine in our July/Aug 2019 issue — she contemplates the profound changes that the move brought her and how she views life and the artistic process so very differently in France.
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Jamie Beck’s Portrait of Provence
It is fair to say that the French countryside is my muse.
It was like falling in love at first sight. I came to Luberon, Provence — with its famous perched hilltop towns and vineyards — five years ago for a photography job. The colors, the light, the stones… I couldn’t shake it from my mind. I knew I had to stop what I was doing and go live there for a moment in time, a year perhaps, which has now turned into three.
Rediscovering The Seasons
After over a decade working as a photographer in New York City, I was blind to how disconnected I was from the natural world, the seasons and the rhythm of life. I was accustomed to having anything I could possibly want available to me year-round. When I arrived in Provence, I felt like a child again — rediscovering nature! Bugs! Fruit and flowers! One day, my favorite fresh goat cheese from the local shop was gone, and I asked when they would receive more.
They were confused by my question. Didn’t I understand it would be back in the spring when goats have their babies and produce milk? Since then, I have grown an intense appreciation for seasonal food. Things just taste better in season — plucking warm cherries off the summer trees tastes like pure sun when they are made from the same earth that surrounds you and produced by your neighbors.
A Change of Pace
I began to look — to really see — life in its purest form. Perhaps, this is the magic of Provence. The noise gets turned down, and we change what we worship (money, celebrity, materialism) to all that is natural: seasons, rhythms, colors, diversity and time.
I think about the generations of humans that occupied the stone walls that surround me and will continue to stand long after I am gone. It is a humbling reminder that we are all just shepherds passing through on borrowed time.
It’s amazing what you can see when you begin to move more slowly. A look over the landscape unveils an awesome variety of green. Dusty green, sage green, winter green, yellow green… I count until my eyes trace up to the hazy blue mountains set against an even bluer sky. I feel alive here. The sun, the air, the food. Everything that creates life.
And then I get to work.
The Artist’s Eye
People must wonder — when I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth — why I choose to photograph so often alone in my studio, against a simple, lime-washed taupe wall. By putting the subjects against a neutral wall, I am directing the viewer to see exactly what I want to show them. Removing the noise and putting into focus what is beautiful, ripe and alive. Mostly, I want you to see and appreciate the simple beauty of life. Tulips in springtime, onions in winter, late-summer crickets and autumn’s apples.
Dress by Luxe Provence