Last night Sarah and I attended a dinner party at our neighbors. It was Wild Game Night. Our neighbor is an avid hunter and fisherman and at least once per year he invites friends he has either worked with, hunted with, or gone fishing with to come together for a feast of shared fruits of their labor. Sarah and I don’t hunt so we just bring wine.
It felt like a classic winter meal. During the snowy months traditional hunters and gatherers would live off of diets of meat since there wasn’t any vegetable garden growing in 5 degree weather. Some root vegetables like carrots and potatoes could be stored in dug out cellars but you wouldn’t have things like lettuce and tomatoes.
Last night’s feast was attended by the largest group I had seen since before the covid pandemic. Shortly before dinner it was determined that there wasn’t enough seats at the table for everyone. Another long table and a set of benches were needed. By the time we finished arranging the tables and seating the house took on the appearance of a viking feasting hall. There had to be at least 20 people gathered.
We each went through a line that snaked through the kitchen to load up our plates with duck filled pastries, duck hearts and livers, elk tongue, smoked salmon, pigeon, and meatballs made from unknown ingredients. Someone was kind enough to bring a caesar salad.
It was a feast suitable for 18th century royalty. Sarah and I sat down at the far end of the tables across from our neighbors from across the road. It was the second time I had seen Janelle and Stefan that day. Earlier I had made some new headshots for Janelle to use on her work’s website. Tonight we ended up talking about France. It turns out she had lived in the Burgundy region as an exchange student. The wealth of the family she lived with afforded her an entire apartment building of her own on their estate. Of course we soon got talking about Paris and the Palace of Versailles.
Janelle told us that she and her family are planning a trip to Europe next summer. The thought of all the crowds made me glad that the two times I have gone to Europe were during the off season. This week marked 10 years since I went to Paris for seven days and an additional eighth day to see the wonder that is Versailles.
Reflecting on last night’s dinner conversation and the experiences I had in France this morning reminded me of something significant that illustrated just how uncrowded Paris and Versailles were at the end of January in 2013. I made this photograph of the Hall of Mirrors WITHOUT ANY PEOPLE. It is virtually impossible to take a photograph in the hall of mirrors without capturing crowds of people reflected in the mirrors. You point the camera in one direction but the mirror reveals the opposite at the same time.
Sometime what makes an image special is not what is in the frame but what is missing. My heart longs to go back to Paris with Sarah but I think it will have to wait for retirement as neither one of us can imagine leaving our dog for a long trip. In the meantime I have the memories and the photographs that I am finally working towards publishing in a portfolio later this spring.
PS – These three images from Versailles were made on my Mamiya 6 film camera on 120 B&W film and are low quality cell phone reproductions of the original darkroom prints.