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Photography, travel

Wanderlusting for: Slow Traveling in Tuscany

The hillside village of Gavorrano in the afternoon. © Erin Zaleski 2012

Sweden is in the grip of its chilliest, rainiest summer in centuries, and shortly after my arrival in late-May I began pining for Mediterranean heat, sun-baked terraces, and humid evenings laced with ice cream and strapless dresses.

So in July I  fled  south to Gavorrano, Italy.

Never heard of it, have you?

Neither had I, which I immediately took as a good sign.

Straddling a steep hillside in southern Tuscany’s Maremma about 25 miles northwest of Grosseto, the medieval mining village is free of grand hotels, “menus turisticos,” chain stores, and gourmet gelaterias (basic, perfectly tasty gelato is available at the local bar). When the midday sun is at its hottest the main square and nearby roads empty out; the sounds of voices and footsteps replaced with the buzz of cicadas and the mistral wind barreling over the hills.

It was as middle of nowhere as you could get for Tuscany in July, thrillingly devoid of the summer tourist crush, and with the bonus of the exciting (and alarming) possibility of running into a pack of wild boar after dusk.

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Photography, Postcards, travel

Postcard #6: At last, winter! Sort of.

Abandoned cabin in winter, Lake Tahoe. © Erin Zaleski 2012

Lake Tahoe has been struggling through one of its driest winters in history, so when the forecast predicted snow on Tuesday, I dashed up to the ski house late Monday night.

On Tuesday I awoke to the winter wonderland I have been craving since December, and by Wednesday I was hitting the slopes at Northstar. Alas, the winter interlude was fleeting. By the end of the week the temperature had increased to a balmy 60f, the snow was melting fast, and hungry bears were roaming the region in search of food.

I snapped this photo off Highway 267 on the way to the Northstar resort. The lonely cabin appears as fragile as this season’s winter.

Photography, Postcards, travel

Postcard #3: Deliciously Frenetic Weekend in NY

Crowd at Radio City Music Hall. © Erin Zaleski

The blur of people streaming out of Radio City Music Hall perfectly captures all that is mad, frustrating, beautiful, electric, and delicious about a weekend in New York. There were monsoon rains, humidity more fitting for Miami than a Manhattan autumn, champagne at Griffou with a good friend, more drinks in the East Village, ravenous pizza noshing at 3am, a rainy train ride to Long Island’s North Shore, chocolate cake and red gloves in a weathered art studio, Cirque du Soleil, taxi rides with Nordic Lad under a damp, gray sky, a giant, white breast on the wall at Trattoria dell’Arte, a first glimpse of the WTC construction site, the crush of bodies and the blare of sirens, and the sensation of loss and relief as I board the plane to San Francisco.

Friday photo, Photography

Friday Photo: Shanghai Sylphs











I recently stumbled upon Lina Scheynius’ flickr stream and was struck by both her use of light and her bold rendering of raw, everyday moments.

Many of her images suggest a wistful sensuality, albeit one with slightly dark undercurrents: loss, longing, and those desires that can overwhelm us, smother us, or drive us mad.

Oyster Magazine has described her photographs as a combination of “brazen sexuality and fragile intimacy,” and reports that Lina is inspired by work that leaves her “feeling slightly uncomfortable.” Indeed, some of her images are intimate to the point of being nearly claustrophobic, while others hint at a prelude to obsession and violence.

Born in Sweden, Lina left home at 16 and divides her time between London and Paris.  Self-taught, she has shot for Elle and British Vogue and her work has been featured in numerous galleries in Europe and the U.S.

In May, Lina released a third book of photographs that is available for purchase on her website. You can also check out her polaroid scrapbook here.

Journalism, Photography, Photojournalism, travel

Friday Photo: Street, Naples

Naples in the Rain, BLN. March, 2006

One of my favorite guilty pleasures, La Strada is a pictorial rendering of Italian daydreams. Run by a couple of well-known journalists, most pictures are taken on the fly with point-and-shoot cameras or phones. The resulting snapshots depict Italy at its most appetizingly authentic.

Photography, Randomness

Pictures that Tell a Story: The Girl at the Creperie

Photo by Robert Redfield –

A balmy afternoon during the last year of college. I had settled in at my favorite table by the window at my beloved crêperie in downtown Santa Barbara when I caught sight of one of the most striking young women I had ever seen.

She passed my table with a stack of menus and headed towards the kitchen only to reappear by the register. Trying not to stare, I instead risked a few furtive glances over the top of my menu.

Santa Barbara is known for pretty women; the genetically blessed are hardly a rarity there. Still, the girl possessed such a striking ethereal beauty that she would have stood out anywhere.

“Did you see her?” I asked my then boyfriend during our next lunchtime outing to the crêperie after she had glided past our table. “She is gorgeous.”

“You should go make friends with her,” he said, flashing a slightly lecherous smirk.

“Yeah, I’m sure you’d love that,” I responded in mock annoyance gently elbowing him.

Little did either of us realize that these initial sightings of the then-anonymous girl at the crêperie would develop into a decade-long friendship.

Her name was France (“like the country,” she always told smitten male admirers in her thick accent). She grew up in the small town of Vichy, and had come to Santa Barbara on a study-abroad program to learn English. Soon she had fallen in love with the sunshine, the beach and an American college student with whom she shared an apartment not far from the waterfront.

In the months that followed, we bonded over the typical post-college conundrums that befall any young woman trying to make her way: relationships gone awry, unsettled career plans, the reality that university was over and that bona fide adult life was fast encroaching.

We took evening walks to the Santa Barbara Mission, gorged ourselves on chocolate biscuits and tea, and stayed out too late drinking champagne. For her beach birthday party I came dressed as a Tiki God, much to the bewilderment of many French guests—“A what? A Gigi God? C’est quoi ça?”—and she braved long hours and multiple takes as an extra in one of my director boyfriend’s short films.

The summer after graduation I traveled to Europe with my sister, and met up with her in her home town, where she laid out croissants and jam for us each morning and encouraged us to “stay in the shadow” during sweltering afternoons.

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Friday photo, Literature, Photography

Friday Photo: Paris Ambiance

+ by Alex Grazioli
+ a photo by Alex Grazioli on Flickr.

Another jaw-dropping example of the exquisite use of natural light.

Alex Grazioli’s “C’etait un Rendez-Vous” evokes a scene from a Jean Rhys novel- Good Morning Midnight, perhaps?

There is also an undeniably cinematic quality to this shot that makes my inner ex-cinema student turn to mush. Not suprisingly, Alex has a film background.

In his flickr profile Alex says photography has “become the vehicle of his need to do something more personal and direct, the way to remember, narrate and fully experience the past and the present, and at the same time his link with the fascinating world of cinema.”

I am impressed, inspired and looking forward to seeing more of Alex’s work in the future.

Friday photo, Photography

Friday Photo: Child of Kalash Valley

PAKISTAN KALASH by oliviermatthys
PAKISTAN KALASH a photo by oliviermatthys on Flickr.

I have had Pakistan on the brain today, and was taken by this striking photo by Olivier Matthys.

The eyes, the timid expression, the composition and the contrast between the vivid clothing and the gray stove make for an extraordinary image of what is otherwise an ordinary moment for this young member of Pakistan’s Kalash tribe.

Olivier has more than 60 images of Pakistan on his flickr stream–some beautiful, some disturbing, some shocking and all worth a look.

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