Lunch with that View of Mont Blanc ...


Mont Blanc yet gleams on high: the power is there, The still and solemn power of many sights And many sounds, and much of life and death. In the long glare of day, the snows descend Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there, Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun, Or the sunbeams dart through them.

Percy Bysshe Shelly, Poet.

The excitement over breakfast these mornings is no longer about an espresso, toast and peach jam ... no.  These mornings it's all about my effervescent iron drink.  6 days into the 4 months before retesting and I can do the stairs a little more simply and the heart palpitations are almost gone.

I've stopped coffee for the moment and may not begin again until Genova, at the end of November.  Let's see it.

In the meantime, I've been torturing myself ... selecting, deselecting, and reselecting images for the exhibition that opens in 2 weeks.  Nothing is more guaranteed to leave my finding my photography lacking than imagining I can entertain a vast range of people with my images.

The only good news is that, while searching, I've found photographs of time spent in remarkable places ... like this table that offered a rather superb view of Mont Blanc.  At 4,810 m (15,781 ft) it is the highest mountain in the Alps.

Stavanger Konserthus, Norway

Located in Southwest Norway, Stavanger counts its official founding year as 1125, the year Stavanger cathedral was completed. Stavanger's core is to a large degree 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses that are protected and considered part of the city's cultural heritage. This has caused the town centre and inner city to retain a small-town character with an unusually high ratio of detached houses,and has contributed significantly to spreading the city's population growth to outlying parts of Greater Stavanger.

Stavanger is today considered the center of the oil industry in Norway and is one of Europe's energy capitals and is often called the oil capital. Forus Business Park located on the municipal boundary between Stavanger, Sandnes and Sola and is one of the largest business parks with 2,500 companies and nearly 40,000 jobs.

Source: Wikipedia.

I was walking back to Ren's place when we passed the Stavanger Konserthus.  I couldn't resist attempting to capture a sense of the place ... from the outside.

Denise Leith, 'What Remains' ...

I flew today, waking at 4am for a 6am flight from Stavanger to Copenhagen, Denmark.  And I have to confess, I love this feeling of the world making itself real as I travel.  Norway and Denmark were places that confused me back in New Zealand during those long-ago geography classes but today I learned where they were, having bravely taken a window seat, no longer fearing there may be dragons at the edge of my known world.

Copenhagen ... on an island so flat, or so it seemed from the air, that it looked like one big wave might roll over the city and cover it. 

But as I flew, I was reading.  Devouring one of the best fictions I've read.  'Best' because it was well-written ... best because it was written by a war journalist too, and their stories are the non-fiction genre I read most.

Denise Leith has a Ph.D. in International Relations, which she teaches part time at Macquarie University in Sydney. Her special interests are the politics of war, human rights and humanitarian action, peace keeping and peace enforcing, Middle East Politics, the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations and US foreign policy.

Denise has two published non fiction books, The Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia (University of Hawaii Press 2002) and Bearing Witness: The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists (Random House 2004) and the novel What Remains (Allen & Unwin 2012). She is also a contributor to the anthology Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (Pan Macmillan and Picador 2010) and 'A Country Too Far (Penguin 2013).

I was reading her book, What Remains, and I read as the plane climbed up out of Stavanger.  I read, glancing just briefly out as we passed over fiords in Norway.  I read as the pilot flew low over the North Sea, landing at the airport in Copenhagen.  And I read as I snacked there, breakfast, and continued to read after boarding that second plane returning me home.

And while I was curious about the view from those plane windows the book held me fast.  I dove into the story of Kate Price and war zones, of Pete McDermott, and a big love. 

I read the closing chapters on the 45-minute bus ride from Brussels Airport to Antwerp, wiping away the threat of tears while reading it right through to the end.  Then, still not quite home, I spun back to the start, just to be sure of what I had read there ...

I fell into bed here in Belgium, slept for 2 hours and was woken so that I would sleep tonight, only to realise I was missing the story that had carried me across a small part of Europe.

Denise Leith also knew the journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed while reporting in Syria.  She has included an interview she made with Marie.  It appears in her book Bearing Witness but that particular interview is there on her website.

If things are never spoken of, if people accept all without informing themselves, then incredibly horrific things can happen.  I so very much admire those who go out and bear witness for as long as they can.  The price is huge.  I'm recommending Denise's book ... so very highly.

Meanwhile, I'm still playing with my new photo-editing tool.  I was out on the Stavanger fiord yesterday and took the shot below.  It was stunning out there.  Just stunning.

Norway ... Just So Much.

I'm not even sure how to tell my stories from these days spent in Norway.

The days have been intense, the company superb, the food a delight, the weather ... all that I needed it to be.  I've met lovely people and smiled often. 

Today, after a session with some exquisite horses, Ren took me on a boatride out into the fiords here.   No words but here I am, doing the 'selfie' thing while out there on the boat.

Our Clients Wrote of Our Workshop

What can I write ...

I feel so extraordinarily grateful to the three women Helen and I invited on our A New Way of Seeing workshop, in Genoa, Italy.

Since then Lisa, Leah, and Laura have written of working with us in ways that have filled my wee kiwi soul to overflowing.

Leah, from Help. I Live With My Italian Mother In Law, wrote of her experience with us in an English magazine

Laura, from Ciao Amalfi, wrote up her experience with us over on her blog. 

Today, I'm just in from reading Lisa's account of her time with us over on her blog.  That would be Lisa, from Renovating Italy ... the Lisa who had me laughing so hard that I could barely stay standing out there on Via Porta Soprana.  She has a talent for laughter but the weekend was full of laughter, of stories and photography too.

I borrowed one of Lisa's photographs from her post about it all.  I love this particular image, taken by Silvana, wife of Pino.  Pino is the man nestled in-between Lisa, myself, and Helen ... late on that laughter-filled evening in Genova.

Silvana and Pino own the very best pizzeria in the world and I adore them.  Their pizzas too. And so it seemed entirely appropriate to be photographed together.  Silvana, after a hot and exhausting evening, decided she would be the photographer ... and no begging her to join us would change her mind. 

I have to admit, I'm looking a little rumpled at this point in the day.  We were almost home after that first workshopping day.

I would work with any of these women in a heartbeat.  They were magnificent.  All of them. 

Huge grazie mille's to Laura and Lisa, Leah and Helen. 

It was a most magnificent weekend!

You Know When That Bubble of Joy Rises Up In You?

That happened.

We moved from Genova to a most exquisite location on the edge of Lake Como.  It's only 8am but already my camera and I have been wandering.

I love New Zealand, I love Italy.  Lately, I haven't been sure which country I loved best.

Here, in Lezzeno, Italy becomes New Zealand and vice versa.  A lake, the mountains, the mist and the smell of the air ...

As for the food, I will try and write of it soon.  Dinner last night, on that balcony overlooking Lake Como ... exquisite.

That Photography Workshop for Women Last Sunday ...

I led a photography workshop for women on Sunday and all I can tell you is that I absolutely loved it.

My intention was to introduce this small group of women to their cameras ...  so that they understood how to use their cameras off Auto, how to work with light and take the best possible photographs.

But I need to mention how much fun it is to bring women together.  It's always so powerful somehow.  There's a different kind of energy that flies between us all.  There are the conversations over lunch, and the curiousity about each others lives, the sharing ...

I know that part of the pleasure I get from putting these workshops together is simply about the people I get spend time with.  Remarkable souls.

Drogheria Torrielli, Genova

Anna and Emanuela, from Beautiful Liguria, took me wandering one day …deep into the heart of the medieval section of Genoa. And it felt a little like a magical carpet ride but perhaps that was because we began at Drogheria Torrielli.

It's more than just a spice shop but, for me, the initial impression was that I had stepped into the pages of a book I read long ago … The Mistress of Spices A story about a priestess who knew the secret and magical powers of spices. Drogheria Torrielli seemed to promise ancient magic based on scent alone.

However the true story of this Genoese shop goes like this. In 1929 the grandfather of the current owners was working at the port of Genoa when an economic crisis hit and the work ran out. Way back then he decided to open a small supermarket, one of the first of its kind.

Moving forward, through time, into the 1970s and new people began to arrive in Genoa. Immigrants from Morocco and they were searching for spices from home. Over the years other immigrants followed and with them came the demand for spices from all over the world. 

Drogheria Torrielli began selling spices and, in the years since, this shop has become a place were a melting pot of cultures meet. More than that though, they are consciously attempting to maintain a balance between tradition while embracing the new.

Standing there, taking photographs, watching customers come and go, it occurred to me that Drogheria Torrielli represents a miniature version of what makes this city something special. The world wanders in through their doors.

Address: Via San Bernardo, 32r.

I Think I Have Stories to Tell Tonight ...

I'm almost sure I have things to say ...

I was accepted by the NYC gallery, as one of their photographers but I couldn't afford them.  There was a lot of money involved and, in the end, it seemed more about money than art.  I would have loved working with them but by the time Gert and I reached the end of the contract, it was clear.  And so very over.

Today a client ... a friend, the lines often blur, sent me a pdf of the book she's been writing.  It's full of my photographs from that time when I was working with her, having some of the most excellent adventures and wandering the world, photographing so many friendly and talented artists.

So I'm excited about that.

And I won a prize today.  Last Friday, I almost couldn't breathe for stress because I was two weeks behind on my rather intensive marketing course.  I sat here at the computer, Saturday, Sunday ... Monday, and mostly caught up.  And somewhere along the way, I posted news of my one-day photography workshop for women.  It sold out in 12 hours. So I won the prize that I had taken no notice of last week.  I was 'that' far behind.  I shared the winning with Chris, the one we all knew would win.

I transcribed two Genova interviews this afternoon, then wrote them up as short pieces for a most exciting new Ligurian website launching soon.  Photos were sent.   And now for the rest.  These were the shortest interviews.

It's been slightly manic of late.  Life is humming.  I'm attending a Māori hāngi in the months ahead.  Photos and stories shall surely be posted because I can see how that event might become one of those big old delicious stories, out there on Flanders Fields.

There's talk of Norway and a favourite friend at the end of summer.  Lots of photography.  And I'm organising a series of 5-day workshops in Genova.  If you have ever wanted to work with me then this is the one because I have a truly superb group of Genoese people willing to work with me.  However my webpage is still under construction.  It's all there, just not the 'Buy' button nor dates.  I'm currently looking at July, earlier if there's time for anyone to be interested, then September, October, November.

However, I will get that under control in the days ahead.

Amy Turn Sharp is one of the poets I love best and she has finally published her first collection.  I wrote. I have ordered.  News of that will follow.  Kay McKenzie Cooke is another favourite poet.  She has also published a new book.  I want to get there too.  And Ren Powell is writing and will publish again, I'm sure of it.

Life is good.  It's slightly surreal.  I'm busy.  I'm babysitting Miss 9 for this week-long crocus vacation, and sure enough, there are some little yellow beauties out there in the garden.  And in-between everything else, I'm reading my way through a most excellent book ... the Man Booker prize-winning book, The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton.  I shall be sad when it comes to an end.

Road-Tripping ...Things I'm Learning

The best random car radio I've heard anywhere in the world so far was between Rijeka, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  I guess it's music I know so perhaps there was some nostalgia from the 70s and 80s involved but honestly, excellent music for that 4+ hour journey.

If you have a rental car that doesn't charge your GPS as you travel, chances are you might have some challenging experiences when attempting to reach your destination

First hint of trouble was in Verona.  Many people were approached for directions to our final destination in the heart of the ancient city.  Rijeka, and voila, although we tried to leave the GPS alone and simply rely on it for the complicated city-leaving and arrival parts ... the GPS battery started to die about one kilometre from our destination.

About then we became suspicious of the coincidence of the destination flag appearing and the battery warning appearing.  Maybe it had some kind of bug in the machine. 

Budapest ... about a kilometre from our destination, having really rested the GPS, up came the battery warning along with the destination flag. We were caught in a long traffic jam on the other side of the river.  Julie laughed.  I was not amused.

We crossed over into Austria yesterday and barely used the GPS.  No flag appeared as we neared our Vienna destination ... the 'bug' in the GPS suspicion is over.  The rental car has a faulty charger.  We shall proceed with caution, relying mostly on the big highway signs.  It's Trieste today and a longer journey that will take us through Slovenia.

But back to other things learned ... be clear on destinations programmed into the GPS. We had hoped to call in for lunch in Zagreb but managed to miscommunicate on programming that idea in.  We passed by and realised, after a conversation, that we love the journey as much as the destinations so we continued on.  4+ hours of road-tripping was a really excellent Plan B, although we did detour to a secondary road and visit a lake before leaving Hungary.

Budapest, brilliant city.  Loved it but more to follow in another post. 

Julie's handbag.  The one that sits behind us on the floor of the backseat.  Yes Julie, it is a marvellous bag that holds so much but ... let's be sure that I pull out your sunglasses, your normal glasses, your lip balm, your iPod music player (although that's more useful if charged), and every other thing I have had to grapple with on the road trip while you have driven us across Europe.

But okay, yes, perhaps it would have lacked a certain sense of achievement had we been that organised.

Air B&B, a great way to travel. We've stayed in local homes and apartments, met excellent people that I have to write more about when I have all the information and life isn't about the journey.  I'm writing this from a student flat in Vienna, where one of our hosts is a lovely Croatian guy studying architecture.  He was just in Rijeka last week.  They are a delightful couple and we're glad that we did it.  Julie organised it all and she has made me a convert because I do love meeting people where ever I go.   

It's another big old apartment complex with at least two inner courtyards.  The Budapest apartment was my favourite so far ... directly behind the opera house and truly exquisite, inner courtyard, beautiful ironwork on the inside and that delicious sense that you are experiencing something of an everyday life in each place.

Learned while living in Istanbul ... always look for cafes and restaurants that are full of locals. Do not be tempted to do anything else.  If you know someone, all the better, ask them where to eat.  We have eaten divinely while traveling.   It's been less about expensive and upmarket and so very much about good local food.  Hungary has been my absolute favourite so far. 

If in doubt about where to eat, stop someone who looks like they might eat in places you would like to eat in.  Asking politely worked every time.

Wines ... some countries you can barely go wrong, other countries have a wine culture to be explored with caution.  Perhaps that's as specific as I'll get but I do love countries where I can find my beloved Italian red wines. We enjoyed this Croatian red wine.   And were really impressed by Hungarian red wine ... absolutely lovely.  Thanks to Jennifer.

Men from Manchester on stag weekends in Budapest ... very friendly, quite naughty but with a lovely humour that meant we always wandered away on laughing.  We met 3 groups on our second night there.  Yes, they made us laugh.

Croatians in Rijeka speak beautiful English.  We were told by the lovely wine guy that they start studying it in fourth grade.  Hungarians in Budapest also speak beautiful English. 

Maybe that's enough for this post.  I wanted to finish up with a photograph of the most divine fish and chips I've had any place so far ...located on Andrássy Avenue, we would absolutely recommend The Bigfish restaurant because their cod and chips were sublime.

Verona, Italy

It's been a freefall into life and people and adventures lately ...

A.  Free. Fall.

Sometimes I've found myself wondering if I might hit the wall, other times it has been about 'when' I would hit that wall.

And people.  It has been a festival of folk I adore, or folk I have come to adore. And family.  And everyone else too.

But tonight ... tonight finds me, in Verona, Italy, listening to Zucchero, Pavarotti, and Bocelli singing Miserere.  Introducing Julie to the music of Zucchero actually... because we need him in the car as we roadtrip tomorrow and because she confessed that, like me, she loves Pavarotti.

We ate dinner at Locandina Cappello tonight and matched a delicious pasta with a delightful red wine ... a Valpollicella Classico Superiore Ognisanti Bertani DOC.  I wouldn't mind finding some more of that particular red wine. 

You see we had wandered through the old city centre, in search of the perfect place to have our 'first night in Italy' dinner, and realised that we are really looking forward to wandering in tomorrow morning's first light.  It seems like a pretty city ... and while Genova has my heart and soul, it seems my head could be slightly turned by Verona.

Although that turn of head might be because of the kindness of strangers here.  You see, just before we arrived at our 'tricky to find anyway' destination, and after Julie had driven 201kms, our NEW GPS died.  For some reason it wasn't receiving a charge from the car's cigarette lighter ...despite me pressing it in there when we got the low battery warning.

So there we were, in the ancient part of the city ...without directions.

I saw a man walking along the street, and stopped him to ask for directions.  He turned on his phone, pulled up his GPS, frowned, sighed a little, and gave us a couple of options on locating this difficult to find street.  He apologised for the complications we would encounter.

We set off and ended up taking the most difficult option while managing to follow his spoken directions then we saw two young men walking along the street and we stopped so I could ask them if they could help a little. They turned on their phones, turned on their GPS function ... our street didn't come up  and they admitted that while they were studying in Verona, they weren't from Verona.

We 3 stopped a woman walking by ... as you do, gently and politely, and she had no English but the young men spoke with her.  I saw some head-shaking and heard muttering.  I asked if it was complicated and yes, I was told.  Very.  She apologised and left.

We drove on.  I saw a guy walking along the street and stopped him to ask.  We had parked the car by now. He was a local and said he was in no hurry to go home and that he would walk us there.  And he did.

But, of course, we had no street number and so it was that another kind stranger, seeing us looking confused and staring at our papers while talking to our rescuer, came out and asked if he might help.  But he wasn't sure either ... and then another neighbour came over, and she offered her advice, and then another neighbour.

And suddenly, just as we were wandering off to the viccolo with the same name, The Guy arrived and we were rescued. He took up up upstairs to this cute little student flat/summer Air B&B.  And here we are, after a delicious dinner in this ancient city ... the location of a story I studied so long ago, back home in New Zealand, never imagining that one day I might wander by Juliet's balcony while searching out a place for dinner, one September evening in 2013.

The Rainbow Seat, Piedmont

Diana and Micha have created an extraordinary space here at their B&B in Piedmont.

It's a photographer's delight really.  Everywhere you look, there is some exquisite detail.  Yesterday, swimming in their pool, I would stop sometimes, lean on the side and just concentrate on how much beauty there was there in front of me.

And perhaps it seems like I'm exaggerating, or that I don't get out much, or I'm easily impressed but really, I'm almost sure that it's just about the fact that B&B Baur is beautiful.

In These Days ...

I have 3 projects to work on and there's only one me ...

Can you hear the sigh in that sentence?  And I love all of the projects equally, so it's not about the one or two that are a nuisance.  It's about wanting to do all of them beautifully.

And then there's the house, and other events, and a pile of books that I'd love to read.  I caught one of those books as it slid off my desk when I sat down here this morning.  The pile is very precariously stacked.  Interwoven with papers and notes, covered in ideas of things I'd like to remember to do.

But anyway ... I made the 2.5 hour train trip to Ieper (Ypres) on Monday and met a family of 6, with 4 of the most beautifully behaved children I've ever met ... without any exaggeration.  I went allowing for the chaos that can be a family portrait session and came away stunned by those kidlets. 

Rolling across Belgium in a train has to one of my favourite things.  I love the fact I'm in the world but out of it.  If I find the right seat, then it's the perfect place to finish a book and/or nap.  I did both, passing out in the 30 celsius+ heat after the photo-shoot. 

You meet interesting people too.  I met a young guy who was studying journalism and we talked for a while.  I had been lost in my book and he heard me asking the conductor where we might be.  I was quietly worried I had missed my train-changing stop.  So I asked him about his studies and it was interesting to hear the state of journalism today, as told to him by his professors. He talked of the book he is planning.  I love that about trains, well ... and planes too, the conversations you get to have with people you've never met before.

In other news, I'm back in France in a few days.  Photographing a wedding that promises to be exquisite.  Then over to Italy for the 5-day workshop where I get to work with some lovely women in a dreamlike setting

September finds me back in Genova.  Anna, at Beautiful Liguria, is working with me on a project that is so close to my heart.   Perhaps that one will take me right through the winter.

And I have an editor for my book and an exhibition space for my photography and so ... work must be done.  Perhaps if I stop for a moment and simply organise the books and papers piled up on my desk, then my day can go forward in the best kind of way. 


Anyway, I called the image below 'painting with light'.  Sometimes, for me, it's all about the attempt to capture light where I find it ...


Colours ...

There are two devices which can help the sculptor to judge his work: one is not to see it for a while. The other... is to look at his work through spectacles which will change its color and magnify or diminish it, so as to disguise it somehow to his eye, and make it look as though it were the work of another.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1590 -1680

As I work though my photo folders, putting together a collection of work for the exhibition, I began to see I have this thing about colour but it's not limited to one colour ... it seems that each place has had its own colour for me.

Genova is, for me, predominately gold/yellow/orange.  Naples was red.  And Rome was that grey/off white found in the exquisite marble sculptures.

As I recall, New Zealand was blue and green, and so vivid in a different way.  Now to 'revisit' France, Cairo and all those other places, see what colour they were ...

Meanwhile I'll leave you with one of my favourite angels in Rome, by Bernini.

A little more on documentary photography

I wanted to come back to documentary photography once more and just say, never stop watching.  For me, it's a little like hunting ... perhaps. 

I don't go in with a plan beyond the attempt to capture the story.  To tell it true.  I picked up a 3-day documentary shoot, over on Flanders Fields, working with the New Zealanders a few years ago.

The image that follows is one of my favourites and I have to confess, it really was about swinging round and capturing this exquisite moment without thinking too much about settings.  A hongi ... a Maori greeting, was being exchanged. 

I had been traveling in France with the New Zealand veterans the day before and so they knew me a little. The New Zealand London Rugby Club were playing a commemoration match in Zonnebeke. 

Moments like these make documentary photography a big love of mine ...



I found the words ...

I believe that our way of 'seeing' the world is as unique as our fingerprint. I believe that the technical elements of photography are simpler than most people realise. With this in mind, I am offering photography workshops, women only.

You will receive a pre-course workbook that invites you to explore and come to know your camera via a series of simple exercises, with virtual assistance from me, if necessary. Then we come together, one-on-one or as part of a very small group, to put those new skills into practice out in the city, to create images that reflect your way of seeing and experiencing the world, and to develop your confidence with your camera.

Contact me.