Through My Eyes
A Journey through France
It was never an intended destination within my dream to ride a motorcycle from Athens to Edinburgh, although I had always wanted to see Mont Blanc. As a linguistically challenged Australian, with little knowledge of a country that has such a deep history and influence on the rest of the world, I wanted to capture some of the 'essence' that is France without any bias or preconceptions. My plan was to photograph France 'travers mon regard', disregarding most of the clichés that many non-French seem to have accumulated. I found it to be the most friendly, warm and inviting place that I have visited.
My route was clockwise around the country from 'Le Nord', Bourgogne, Haute Loire, Provence, Auvergne, Dordogne, The Loire Valley, Normandy and finally Paris.
It is not my intention to pontificate about France or its people. However, for me, it is a country known for, and to a large extent defined by, enjoyment of 'their' culture/lifestyle, its intense pride and patriotism.
To select 31 images that reflected my experience of the country and its people was somewhat difficult especially for a novice but made easier with the kind support of Jean-Philippe Bottin and the staff of Alliance Française de Melbourne.
For me, there are four highlights to my 'Deux mois en France':
- Hearing 'la Marseillaise' sung in the shadow of the Palais des Papes (Avignon) during the May Day rally to protest against the right-wing Jean-Marie Le Pen's succession to the second round of the Presidential Election.
- Experiencing the produce and people of the Montbrison market (Haute Loire). In particular, the cheese vendor who would not let me take his photo until he had arranged his produce to his liking.
- To pay homage to those fallen in past wars (both sides) and to recall visions inspired, during my youth, by the writings of Wilfred Owen, Rudyard Kipling, Siegfried Sassoon, et al
- The emotion as I rode into Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. It is a symbol known worldwide but no photograph can really capture its significance and to see it in real life is truly a moving experience.
At the time of the exhibition, I dreamt of one day returning to France to capture some more of this truly remarkable country... and in 2009 I returned.
Riding a motorcycle through Europe has been a long-held dream of mine and so far removed from what I envisaged upon graduating from the University of Queensland in the early 1990s. 10 years in the corporate world saw me approach the new millennium with a yearning for something more fulfilling; something to nurture my soul via artistic expression. Not to mention a bit of an adventure.
I recalled my childhood interest in photography and realised it was that creative outlet that I longed for as it may provide the rewards I was seeking.
Excitedly I looked at the reality of photography combined with my dream ride through Europe and, despite advice from many colleagues and friends that it was just some sort of whim, I packed up from Australia and followed my wanderlust. In February of 2001, I purchased my first digital camera and a Triumph motorcycle in Athens.
My 32,000 km took me through Greece, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, England, Wales and Scotland. The fabulous city of Edinburgh was where I hibernated for the winter and plan my next assault, France!
I departed Edinburgh in the spring of 2002 loaded with camera equipment, laptop, and luggage and headed off for a 60-day motorcycle tour of France.
On returning to Australia in late 2002, I realised I must now find a way to get my work out into the public arena if I am to make a living from this passion and find a way to explore and photograph my own country.
I was humbled by the opportunity of my first exhibition that arose after approaching the Alliance Française de Melbourne and am eternally thankful (particularly to Jean-Philippe Bottin and Francoise Libotte who helped me see my dream through to fruition)
The one thing I know from all this is, be careful what you wish for...