One day while talking with my friend Patrick here in Vence, a native Frenchman who loves Texas, I mentioned that I was interested in photography. Now, I don’t consider myself a “photographer” by any means, but I love to take photos here in France. To be honest, I never really had much interest in photography until I took a class at Watkins College of Art called “Documentary Photography.” The course centered around choosing a subject and spending the entire semester documenting that subject through photographs. The course required that I have a DSLR camera (Digital Single Lens Reflex), which I did not have at the time. I didn’t take many photos and when I did I just used my iPhone, since it had a great digital camera. I ended buying a Nikon D3200, not too expensive, but definitely a big step up from an iPhone camera. I had always been fascinated with the small, rural country stores in central Tennessee that I would stop at when doing long cycling rides. I decided to use these stores as my subject. I spent countless days traveling around the countryside and taking photographs of the stores, their employees and their customers. I really loved the time I spent doing this and for the “final project” of my class I put together a large “coffee table” book that I was able to have printed via an online service.
[more info after photo gallery]
After that experience, and now that I had a “real” camera I became much more interested in taking photos. But, as I say, mostly in France. When I would come to France, usually twice a year at that point, I would spend a lot of my time traveling to small villages, exploring them thoroughly and taking lots and lots of photos. I’ve documented dozens and dozens of beautiful French villages and towns and one of my goals with this blog is to get more of those photos up on the web.
But, back to Patrick. He told me that there was an annual photography event in Vence called “Photomarathon.” Anyone could participate. We would show up on a Saturday morning in September and be given six “themes,” three in the morning and three in the afternoon. Everyone would head out into the town take photos related to the themes we had been given. At noon we would return with one photo from each of the three morning themes to enter into competition, go each lunch and then come back at the end of the day with one photo from each of the afternoon themes to enter into competition. The judges would then look through everything, choose winners and hand out prizes. It sounded like a lot of fun, so I was in!
We were given three “themes” for the morning portion:
1. ça coule de source! (it’s obvious, or literally, it flows from the source)
2. au ras du sol (at ground level)
3. insolite (unusual)
I headed out into Vence and began taking photos. I had about two hours so I planned to spend forty minutes on each theme. It was a lot of fun, but also challenging trying to think of new ideas. “Ça coule de source” literally means “It flows from the source,” though it is used to say “It’s obvious!” I took a lot of photos of fountains, some plants, some trashcans, some electrical wires, etc. For “Au ras du sol” I concentrated on shooting from close to the ground. Street scenes, etc. I really liked a few photos I took of some pigeons on the ground in a small, narrow street. For the “Unusual” theme I just looked for out of the way stuff. I took close-ups of odd things, visited a shop where I took some close-ups of a turntable and coke bottles and more. Odd looking door knockers were photographed as well. You can see my three final entries and a couple of other shots in the photo gallery.
After lunch we were given the next three “themes”:
4. l’accumulation d’objet génère un nouvel objet (object accumulation generates a new object)
5. ça tourne (it turns)
6. invitation au voyage (invitation to travel)
I spent some time thinking about how things combine to form new things and trying not to concentrate on clichés. I took photos of building materials, stacked up chairs, some signs, a mannequin and lots of others stuff. In the end I settled on a wooden, handmade box for displaying printed materials. For the category “it turns” I concentrated on bikes, cars, buses and birds, where I decided to submit a photo of a bird taking off from a fountain. The last category, “invitation to travel” I found lots of photos of mailboxes, street signs and more bikes, but in the end I liked a photo of me standing next to an arrow painted on the street.
In the end I didn’t win any awards, but I had a great time. The idea of presenting the participants with rather vague themes and categories was cool and it really challenged me to think outside the box and look at the scenes around me. I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.