“Oh LOOK! It’s the AMERICAN!!!!!!!!”

You may or may not have heard that I am participating in a photo exposition in France right now. You may be wondering how this awesome situation came to be.

It all comes back to the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Well, I know that I am a photographer and that as a photographer, I would love to participate in exhibitions, particularly in France. However, I know also that having the desire alone is not enough. These facts constitute “what” I know.

So how did I move from the want to the do?

It all starts with my vacation back in February/March. On Feb. 26 I sprained my ankle in Nîmes, France and did nothing about it because it was my first day of a two week tour, during which I would be experiencing incredible things, meeting incredible people, and taking WAY too many photos.

So, a little while after I came back to Saint Etienne, I happened to get sick. So, I decided that with my ankle still hurting and my pending illness, that I should take the chance and go to a French doctor. That left me with the problem of finding one…

So, I spoke with the mother of my completely unofficial host family and she made me an appointment at her doctor’s office. To make a long story short, the doctor prescribed me 8 appointments at a physical therapist. Sounds great, but same problem – where do I go?

Well, lucky for me, Cathy (the mother of the family) knew a PT to suggest, and I started to go there.

As it’s a bit awkward to sit in silence with a physical therapist, we talked. Naturally I mentioned I’m a photographer. She then went on to tell me that her husband is the president of a photography association in the town St Genest Lerpt (where the PT office is) and that the group was in the middle of organizing a photo festival in that town! I asked – because if you don’t ask for things, they are less likely to happen – if it would be possible for me to expose as well. She picked up her phone and called her husband to ask. Apparently he said yes and she took my website information and email address. THAT night I received an e-mail from my physical therapist’s husband telling me how much he liked my work and how happy he would be for a young American to take part in the festival!

The opening was this past Saturday. There were some speakers (the mayor, the person in charge of culture, the president of the organization… and some others). Apparently my PT’s husband had told people about me because everyone seemed to know there was an American taking part in the exposition. Every time I meet someone, they seem to know who I am already. It’s weird. During the opening he acknowledged me and the fact that I’m a young American in the exhibition. It was a bit embarrassing. But what’s more, it’s strange to be considered to exotic. Maybe I should be used to it by now, being here for so long, but honestly, most people do not treat me so differently. But now, it is plain to see: “Oh LOOK! It’s the AMERICAN!!!!!!!!” (In French…)

Anyway, other than that embarrassing part, the opening went really well. I had some really great conversations, met interesting people, and got some really nice complements. My favorites: someone told me they wished they had taken one of my photos themselves and someone spoke about how they could see the emotion of my models and also how I felt about the photo/subject. There were some others, but I’m struggling to find a good translation in English. Suffice it to say, I’m feeling quite honored by some of the things people have said.

The other thing that stood out during the opening was a conversation I had with a professional independent photographer who is also participating. We spoke about a lot of things, but most importantly our relationships to photography, such as why we do it, our methods, how we started, etc. and we actually had a lot in common. I have not met many artists in France, so it was a really refreshing experience to meet someone here that thinks exactly the way I do.

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