Last weekend I was in Chalon Sur Saone, France, to visit the Musee Nicephore Niepce. It was an extraordinary experience…made more so because it was completely unexpected. To be sure, I had planned to visit, but the unexpected part was the breadth of history and an incredible collection of contemporary photography. Click the link above to visit the site for the museum and learn all about Monsieur Niepce. In brief, he was the first person to fix an image on a photo (light) sensitive plate using a camera obscura. After several years of trial and error, he invited Monsieur Daguerre, a chemist, to join him in a partnership to develop this budding technology. Niepce died just four years into their partnership and Daguerre went on garner wide acclaim.

Monsieur Nicephore Niepce

Monsieur Nicephore Niepce

After deciphering as much of the history as possible (the exhibits are mostly in French), I turned a corner to be confronted with Arnold Newman’s great portrait of Igor Stravinsky. Turning left I saw that I was in a very large room with walls hung with images from the greatest photographers, living and dead. Hanging was a selection of photographs from Florence and Damien Bachelot, passionate collectors.

Arnold Newman's iconic portrait of Igor Stravinsky

Arnold Newman’s iconic portrait of Igor Stravinsky

Bruce Davidson, Mitch Epstein, Saul Leiter, Luc Delahaye, Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Willy Ronis, Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, and so many more were in this one room. I was in heaven. It was one of those unexpected moments that was so perfect, so sweet, and entirely captivating. I spent the next several hours enthralled, and then in true American fashion, went to the boutique to buy gifts for other photographer friends!

One of the things I encourage my students to do is to fill themselves with great imagery when they are not photographing. Attend a ballet, an exhibition, take a walk in the woods, browse a great book…life is enthralling and the creativity and genius available to us knows no bounds. So this last weekend I was busy feeding my soul, my brain, and expanding my visual literacy. Happy girl.

“If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it?” ~ Ernst Haas.