I love a road trip and have been fortunate to enjoy many...
Recently, the owner of LUX Magazine and Condè Nast Editor in Chief, Darius Sanai asked me to create an editorial story on Philippe Sereys de Rothschild at his home at Château Mouton Rothschild and highlight his passion for wine and the family’s support of the arts, in this case, ballet. The story, due out in September, will feature images of the magnificent Ballet de l'Opéra National de Bordeaux who performed at Château Clerc Milon in celebration of the continued support from The Baroness Philippine de Rothschild Foundation. What a wonderful opportunity and the perfect excuse (if ever needed) to set out on a little road trip from my home here in Edinburgh down to Bordeaux and as it turns out beyond... more of the LUX magazine and Rothschild story later this month when published.
Who doesn't know of Bentley and the reputation the company have earned over the past almost 100 years... I'd never experienced first hand the craftsmanship nor the pleasure of sitting in the driving seat and taking one of these magnificent machines out on the open road. Graeme Russell (of Bentley Motors UK) and I had spoken often in the past about the "character" and "energy" these cars offer and of course the company’s heritage which speaks for itself. Mr Bentley built the best engines around... back in the day when you bought a Bentley from Mr Bentley, however, that is exactly what you got... you bought an engine...and it came with nothing else. Today of course they come with a little more than just an engine... a "little" being very much an understatement. I mentioned to Graeme about the trip I was planning and he suggested that was the perfect opportunity for me to visit the Bentley museum and factory in Crewe and see "what goes into the making of a Bentley", thereafter to take one and "enjoy the experience" for 10 or so days. What an experience it turned out to be. After a very informative yet informal tour of the factory in Crewe I set my sights on Europe, parked my rear end in a new £300k plus Mulsanne Speed and set off on a little adventure in what would become fondly known as "The Black Swan".
Bentley cars are handmade from start to finish with the care and attention to detail reminiscent of what I hope for in my own work. I'm no car expert nor piston head, I'm not even a car enthusiast if I'm being honest. Well that was then... and this is now and after my Bentley "experience" I will admit to have fallen head over heels in love with these gorgeous works of art. An adventure is like a meal... it's rarely one event or purpose... It's many ingredients that make it memorable and what a meal this turned out to be. If pushed for one word... INSPIRING.
There wasn't any pressure to make images indeed it wasn't even mentioned... and all the above are phone snapshots for a little personal journal. The only hope was for me to enjoy the experience and on that account all boxes were checked.
Over 10 days I drove more than 3,000 miles and stayed in some of the most characterful places I've enjoyed in a long time. I had the run (and keys) of a medieval castle, surrounded by a sculpture garden, a moat and it's own pair of black swans... of course. I stayed at a 15th century rickety old farmhouse and chatted for hours to the owner, a wonderful older gentleman who couldn't speak a word of English to balance the fact I can't (regretfully) speak any French. But we smiled, a lot, laughed at the unknown and communicated with energy that was full of interest in the other and genuine hospitality and appreciation.
When all said and done there's some experiences when life smiles and all seems pretty much "perfect". This trip was one of those magical journeys. I ate great food, walked round a rural lake bare feet as the sun rose, talked to nature about all things, enjoying the quietness of the surrounds. Early morning birds singing reassured me of much and said all that was really needed.
Then just when I thought it couldn't get any better I received a call to say 'Axel' had agreed to the portrait I hoped to make...
For many years I've been an admirer of the art collector and visionary designer Axel Vervoordt. Therefore I was delighted to hear from Anne Sophie, his press agent, saying Axel was very happy to be part of the "Friends & Artists" personal project I'm working on. There was only one day I could make it work on this journey and that was the day of my return to the UK, but as fortune would have it, Axel could make that day work also. I drove from Bordeaux to Antwerp and the following morning entered the drive at Kasteel van 's Gravenwezel, the home of Axel and May Vervoordt. Anne Sophie met me and made the introduction to Axel. What a lovely, kind and considerate gentleman... Hand outstretched he welcomed me in. It was very evident by the amount of folk around he was busy working away with a team on what I imagine was one of dozen projects. Another photographer was working on a new book for Axel and constantly asking Axel's opinion. Surrounded by staff he took the time and not only asked me if I'd like a cup of coffee but made the coffee himself before briefly going back to what he was doing before I showed up. I'd asked to arrive early to look around and would be with Axel later. Little things matter to me and not always the obvious. I said to him after I made the portrait that some folk have magnificent houses and I've seen many, his is a magnificent home and he knowingly smiled understanding the difference.
Before I made the portrait I explained what I hoped he'd wear... his reply was "I know exactly what your mean" and he did. They'll be more on this meeting and portrait when "Friends and Artists" goes to the next stage but in the meantime I've included two images of the morning's portrait. A very calm, considerate and peaceful gentleman.
Experience has taught me over the years and on countless travels I've rarely found only what I hoped to see... the real magic and all that I hold dear has somehow always found me.
...It's all good.
During this journey I made a couple of quiet images which I now have titled "Considerations Nos. 1-8". These were made out-with the scheduled projects and in reflective times. Over the coming years I hope to develop these small portfolios. In the meantime I've decided to offer these prints from the initial series.
Titled "Considerations Nos. 1-8" see below. For further details, sizes, availability and pricing please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.