Gustav Leonhardt at a window during the Begijnhofkerk organ recording in Leuven. Dutch harpsichordist, organist and conductor b. 30 May 1928- specialist in both the theory and practice of early music. Harnoncourt connection.
I came to the realization, upon leaving New York City, that life was happening too fast to be captured in words. As I was leaving, and going in the direction of Europe, I desperately needed to freeze-frame the world I was leaving, and the one ahead of me.
I borrowed a camera and my upstairs neighbor, photographer and painter, Fred Bell, gave me a crash course in photography. It was a totally emotional decision.
My actual field was music, the piano. I studied piano, loved to teach, and was working for RCA Records, Red Seal, and I had the chance to move to Hamburg to work in the new Sony Classical venture in 1991.
There was a period of courtship – arrangements to be made on both sides – time was short. Photography became for me, a kind of short-hand, a log of the great changes that one experiences in going from one world to another. I was very conscious of the voyage that I was making from New World to the Old World. I wanted to record it.
After studying music, photos by contrast, immediate gratification. I could steal two words from Frank Lloyd Wright, and call it “frozen music”. The first camera that belonged to me was a Pentax K-1000, I still have it, and I will always keep it.
By coincidence, my office in Hamburg was close to “Leica bei Meister”, which was at the time a specialty camera shop in combination with a baby clothing shop. It was one of the many oddities of Hamburg, that caught my attention. You could call it a true hybrid!
In the end, I succumbed and bought a Leica M6 from Martin Meister. By that time I had become a photo freak, and was shooting not only my own personal journey, but I had begun to catch some of the recording sessions at Sony. The ancient music producer, Wolf Erichson, liked to work in old churches rather than studio situations. He found that the acoustic properties of wooden beams, stone and space were perfect for his recordings.
These churches, abbeys, of all sizes, in Amsterdam, Dutch Haarlem, Bavaria, Belgium, and later Venice, were visual treasures, I became part of the team and I managed to interest Sony Classical into using my session photos in their booklets and marketing. For the listeners, and collectors, it was a point of interest to see the musicians working in these historical settings.
Many of the musicians in the Sony Vivarte Series were scholarly individuals with a deep interest in performance history, and did not have a large selection of photos on hand. I made many portraits for them which have been used in music magazines, the press, CD packaging, and later, for reissued materials. Many of those are also with Lebrecht in London.
The “Sony Villa” office space where we worked in Eppendorf, in Hamburg, experienced a rise and fall of sorts in its five year span. Just before the Hamburg center closed, my life changed again.
Wolf Erichson and I married, and moved to France in the summer of 1995.
It was a gradual move to France, because Wolf was still actively making new recordings, and my photos were part of that. The new Sony heads in New York, were very supportive of using the photos to make the mysterious world of early music accessible to the public. We were living in the agricultural, unspoiled atmosphere of SW France, with rolling landscape and ancient stone houses, but for a decade, were travelling back and forth for recordings, festivals, Sony events and concerts.
During these years, I contributed heavily to a biographical collection of photos and interviews about Wolf Erichson, his life and his artists, edited by Thomas Otto and Stephan Piendl, entitled “Erstmal Schön ins Horn Tuten – Erinnerungen eines Schallplattenproduzent” (“First Blow the Horn – Recollections of a Record Producer”) a book published by ConBrio in 2007.
South West France, or Gascogne, where we are living, is a landscape that cries out. One day I saw a woman who had stopped her car in the middle of one of the departmental roads, she was standing in the middle of the road on a hill with the engine running, taking pictures of the sunflower fields outside of Lectoure. As silly as it is, and as dangerous, it describes the feeling one has here. An ordinary trip to run an errand, can be visually explosive. The light is changing, the textures, and reflections all make it a seductive place to “practice our art”.
In the past century, the countryside has not become over-populated, the photographs are already there, they seem to be waiting for us.
I purchased a Hasselblad 501 cm during the time here. I have used it a great deal for portraits, and in the present period, have used it as a work horse in landscape photography.
In 2009 I presented a one-man show at a local gallery, called “The Rolling Stones of Gascogne” devoted to ancient stone artifices in the area, especially the ruins of chateaux, churches, abbeys and graveyards. It was quite successful and I sold half of the show during the opening. I framed and matted 30 color pieces, all shot with the Hasselblad, printed by Jan Kopp Foto Labor in Hamburg.
There are many good aspects to working in the faraway atmosphere of South West France. I say that every time we travel from here into (even) Toulouse, which is an ancient city itself, it is like travelling through three or four centuries! It is an incredible leap in time to the modern world from a place so untouched. To a great extent, I am working in my own way, in my own world.