Cross-Cultural Fairy Tales, or A Yarn Well-Spun
One fine Saturday in June the stage was set for a celebration of Love and Life at the historical Château de Maulmont located in the Auvergne region of France. Having fallen in love with France first, and her husband-to-be second, my girlfriend discovered this quintessentially French hunting lodge not far from her fiancé’s native town of Vichy and planned a fabulous wedding party where their guests could lodge on premises. In a miniature re-enactment of a French Court assembly, she booked the entire château including rooms for family and friends traveling from afar, local friends with small children and couples who would enjoy partaking of a true Château experience.
A little history about this charming location: Originally a Templar’s stronghold in the 13th century built by Renaud de Vichy after returning home from the crusades, the château was acquired by Guillaume de Maulmont in an exchange with Phillipe Le Bel (then King of France). In 1829 it became the property of Princess Adelaïde Louise d’Orléans, sister of King Louis Philippe d’Orléans, who also owned the royal estate in Randan. Princess Adelaïde demolished old Templar ruins and commissioned the construction a hunting lodge by the architect Pierre Fontaine (famous for designing the “Galerie des Batailles” in Versailles). Maulmont was used as a hunting lodge by King Louis Philippe when he came to Randan with the Court.
Guests of the wedding party found themselves on a stunning promontory in a 19th century brick castle with oak molding from ceiling to floor, turrets and an interior courtyard with a panoramic view overlooking hill and dale. While the civil ceremony was not conducive to introductions and exchange ( are they ever? ), the family-led exchange of vows held under a tent in the château garden and the subsequent two-day celebration presented beautiful opportunities for discovery and connecting.
A curious preference for being backstage, or the desire to be a fly on the wall rather than in the limelight, has propelled me to choose the camera as my visual storytelling tool. It is a joy to watch a story unfold over time, weaving a complex and profound web of human relations, whether it be through my own children, friends, family or commissioned stories. Therein lies the challenge; to exercise patience, observation, compassion and engagement in the story being told and with the actors telling it.
In this instance, as one of the actors myself, I was not expected to witness the event as a photographer. Temptation was too strong, however, and I soon began to gather a collection of images “behind the scenes”. While the official photographer photographed the bride and groom, I photographed the mingling of the groom’s childhood friends from Vichy with the bride’s childhood friends from Ohio, the bride’s friends from America meeting her Parisian friends, friends from Ohio found friends from Chicago and Seattle… worlds collided, spun together by the bride and groom’s spinning wheel.
In fine cross-cultural fairy tale tradition, a beautiful fair American fell in love with a handsome dark Frenchman, owner of the apartment that she was renting during a year-long photography course in Paris. A year passed by and the photography class ended, to be replaced by a seven-year relationship that was celebrated one memorable day in June. Family history in the making, photographs for the taking.