Did you know that the world’s first electronic music remix was produced in the 1940s by a Cairo composer? I certainly didn’t, and the opportunity to discover new worlds is one of the things I love most about being an editorial photographer. Egypt is home to a strong musical tradition, and it is not just about belly dancing, folk music or Middle Eastern pop. A vibrant underground dance music scene is growing fast, and I flew from Nice to Cairo on assignment for Aramco World magazine this summer to photograph its rising stars.
I had a trip planned last weekend, but as soon I got a call about this Saturday night assignment, I knew that I would move mountains to make it possible. It had it all: creativity, a giant laser, a middle of the night rendez-vous, an international space artist and a first of its kind event worldwide. How could a photographer possibly refuse? It would doubtless be the closest I’d ever get to space travel.
Wine and France. The two just go together. Le vin is of ultimate importance to the French economy, its way of life, history, gastronomy and, quite simply, to a sense of Frenchness. Yet the very nature of many established wines is under threat today. Global warming, and the slow increase in the temperature of the planet, is starting to make its presence felt in France’s vineyards. The impact on winemakers could shake the French wine industry to its core. This summer, Stern magazine, sent me as photographer, and journalist Marc, to the Languedoc and Rhône, two of France’s biggest – & hottest – wine-growing regions, to investigate.
Its probably best not to read this post if you’re hungry. I headed to Marseille on a recent magazine cover assignment, to investigate the city’s vibrant cuisine and the influence that migrants have had on its evolution over the years. As both food and portrait photographer, I had the privilege of photographing – and tasting – some extraordinary dishes that combine South of France flavours with African and Asian influences, and making portraits of those who created them.
Ouarzazate, ‘the doorway to the desert’, is home to Morocco’s biggest film studios. Sent on assignment for magazine Aramco World, travel writer Tristan Rutherford and I had a fascinating insight into the town and the film industry for which it is known. Thanks to its range of semi-desert landscapes, sheer space and local resources, this exceptional town has welcomed the filming of scenes from hundreds of international TV series and feature films, from Game of Thrones and Gladiator to the original Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia.
A mere 30-minute drive from France, on a hilltop high above the Italian Riviera, lies a rather unusual village. Located at the end of a long, winding road, this sleepy, medieval bourg is home to little over 300 people and looks like countless others in Italy or the neighbouring South of France. Yet it is a one-off, both in historical and contemporary terms, and has garnered more than its fair share of international press interest. It has declared itself is a micronation, proclaiming independence from Italy. I recently had a somewhat unique photographer assignment there: one that included portraits of sect leaders, knights and a princess…
France is holding its breath. The first round of the presidential election is but a few days away, and it is arguably the most unpredictable one for some time. At the very least, France will see a change of president, and it is likely that he or she will be affiliated to a party that hasn’t governed before. One hot topic for the press is the unprecedented – and, for many, alarming – popularity of the far-right Front National party candidate, Marine Le Pen. Swiss Sunday newspaper NZZ recently sent me to western Provence, to the traditional heartland of le Front National in the South of France. My photographer’s mission? To go boldly forth and make portraits of the people who will cast their vote in favour of the ‘FN’ [Front National]…
The remote mountain valley of Breil-sur-Roya has something of a rebellious history. Word has it that the community once tried to make a break for administrative independence from Nice; in wartime, Jews were harboured there; it is also a rare commune in the South of France to have voted in a left-wing mayor. Now Breil-sur-Roya is rebelling again. Villagers have been breaking the law by providing shelter and food to illegal migrants who have crossed the Italy-France border on foot.
Lavender is often seen as the quintessential symbol of Provence. Every summer, visitors flock to the South of France to see lavender fields, generating a thriving tourist trade around them. However there are still hidden areas of Provence where lavender growers are left entirely in peace. Last summer, I was chosen as photographer to join Stern magazine’s writer making a travel reportage about off-the-beaten-track lavender growing in France. The assignment involved excessive heat, mud, espionage, getting lost, getting high and pushing a van. Life as an assignment photographer is rarely dull.
Summer is well and truly under way in the South of France. A few weeks ago, in its anticipation, flocks of sheep across Provence were moved from lowland farms to high mountain pastures in the Alps. This annual transhumance (seasonal moving of livestock) has been a French rural tradition for over 2,000 years. Sheep, and their shepherds, spend summer where the air is cooler – and the grass actually IS greener. I packed as light a photographer’s bag as I could and joined a farmer, his shepherds, family and flock in this ritual migration. It was a rather extraordinary trip of 3 days and nights on foot.