Last spring we were sent by Condé Nast Traveler to cover the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Like the infamous power lines that clog the sky like massive bird nests, the valley is a place full of chaos. It is a wild and beautiful jumble of smoke, soot and ash, brilliant colors and absurdly beautiful faces. The challenge with this job was that we were on the ground for six days; this is a short amount of time in the scope of a travel job. We usually have more time but we only needed to cover three towns so it was booked as a short trip. Honestly we could have spent a month. There was a photograph around every corner and alleyway. We love shooting travel and are so thankful that Traveler continues to send us on such extraordinary adventures. We have been around the world for them and it feeds all of our other work. The things we see always provide new inspiration. Each time they send us, we get to reconnect to what initially drew us to photography. Shooting travel takes us back to photography as a personal experience. We are alone with our cameras in hand, we often split up (at the crack of dawn) and dash off to cover whatever we may find coming back together periodically to share what we have found. It becomes just us alone looking through the viewfinder... searching and searching and searching. Most days in New York we spend our time in the studio around a monitor collaborating with art directors and stylists. Travel assignments are different from this kind of collaboration in that they are a solitary adventure and that is what makes them unique. Our assistant is usually somewhere between the two of us keeping notes and staying organized which is no small feat when shooting reportage. There are moments when I am at a market foraging produce for a still life and I look up only to see my husband cantilevering off a roof somewhere above us. He is famous for hanging out of car windows or tying himself to the side of a truck. He will go to all lengths to get a shot. (Think MacGyver) There are of course moments on these assignments when we are side by side shooting the same portrait but for the most part we come back together to load cards and see how the story is shaping up. There is a bit of competition between us but it only fuels the process, in the end we don't remember who took what picture.
It is a collaboration of a different sort.
I wanted to share some out takes from Nepal. You can see the full story in the August issue Condé Nast Traveler.
Hope you enjoy, the chaotic frenzy. xx
We are back in New York after our week out West and spring is definitely in the air. The light has shifted and changed and it is a little brighter and crisper. The shadows seem suddenly stronger. I am hopeful that my winter coat will soon be put away for good and the days will lend themselves to dresses and flip-flops.
Our mother daughter trip was really nice. It has been ages since I could get Lula all to myself. She really loved California. Everywhere we went she imagined herself living. She felt a strong connection to the desert.
I wanted to share a few places to stay and eat and thrift while it was fresh in my mind. We started our trip at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. It has its charm but is not with out a very hipster scene. We spotted the depressed brother from Little Miss Sunshine checking out as we arrived. It happened to be a super busy spring break/Easter week and the hotel and pool was filled with families and kids. The Ace was originally a Howard Johnson's built in the 1960's. It has a funky vibe. The staff is super friendly and the rooms are no nonsense. Make sure to check out the vending machines in the lobby stocked with cool items from Opening Ceremonyand don't miss the photo booth! The restaurant attached to the Ace is called The Kings Highway, a former Denny's, it totally serves its purpose, dishing up gigantic pancakes, burgers and fries. Local and organic ingredients are used whenever possible. The atmosphere is great but the service in the restuarnt is a little spotty. If the pool gets to be too much of a scene head to the totally hidden Commune pool at the back of the hotel or rent a scooter and head into town which is only minutes away.
The town of Palm Springs has some decent restaurants but we were pretty holed up in the Ace with the exception of our visit toNatures Health Food Cafe recommended to us by our friends at The Wild Unknown. It is a great health food store and cafe with an awesome juice bar. There is little thrift store next to it called Palm Springs High School Thrift, we didn't find very much but one man's junk is another's treasure, so. you never know! Palm Springs can be full of hidden treasures and Mid Century Modern finds if that is your jam.
We stopped by a kind of wacky crystal store called Crystal Fantasy where you can get palm readings or tarot card readings.
After the Ace, we stayed at Hope Springs Resort in Desert Hot Spring's. Hope Springs is a little ten-room boutique hotel on the top of a mountain with a view of Palm Springs. Hope Springs has three natural mineral pools to soak in day or night. The hottest one being 105 degrees, perfect for cooler desert nights and star gazing. This place is seriously mellow, we kind of felt like we had it all to ourselves. they don't have a restaurant, but you are close enough to drive into Palm Springs or Joshua Tree for dinner. We ate a little family run Mexican restaurant right in the town of Desert Hot Springs and it was perfect. Hope springs has a communal kitchen and serves a light breakfast. When we were there they were serving fresh fruit and a frittata. They have a full list of Spa treatments.
Desert Hot Springs has a plethora of thrift stores as does the town of Joshua Tree which is quite close. From Desert Hot springs you can drive to Joshua Tree and enter the Western most entrance of the park. The distance from Joshua Tree to 29 palms is only about 30 miles but it can take you all day if you stop occasionally and hike in. There is no where to get food or water so bring your own and be prepared! The drive through the park to the Town of 29 Palms is really quite beautiful, it is very different in the morning and evening. Yucca trees line the landscape and you will pass the giant boulders if you take this route. Be sure to make time to stop at Keys view for Sunset. You can see the entire Coachella Valley all the way to The Salton Sea from there. It is really stunning. Bring something warm to wear because it gets quite chilly and windy towards evening.
A highlight of our trip was our crystal sound bath at the Integratron. A Dome structure in the desert in lander's California, not far from the town of Joshua Tree. The Integratron was built in 1954. You can read more about it here. Call to make an appointment in advance, they can be full months ahead of time!
From the Integratron website..
" The Sound Bath is a 60-minute sonic healing session that you can experience while resting comfortably in the deeply resonant, multi-wave sound chamber. A sequence of quartz crystal singing bowls are played for you, each one keyed to the energy centers or chakras of the body, where sound is nutrition for the nervous system. Imagine lying on comfy mats in the center of this relaxing and resonant high-energy field, while having your body bathed in exquisite sound for 25 minutes. You have the balance of the hour to relax. The results are waves of peace, heightened awareness, and relaxation of the mind and body. "
I have to say it was pretty cool and like no sound we had ever heard before. The pitch of the sound waves rising and falling completely transports you to another place.
We headed to Pioneer town after our visit at The Integratron, blissed out and mellow. Pioneer Town on first glance was a little hokey but it gives you an idea of what Wild West town would have looked like a hundred years ago.. It's fun for photos at any rate. The real draw in the town is Pappy and Harriets Pioneer Palace. They have decent barbeque and are known for their open mike night and the bands that they pull in from LA. This whole Northern High Desert area is kind of funky and trippy; there is definitely a more hippie vibe than in Palm Springs. The desertvibe is kind of electric out here.
On our way back to Desert Hot Springs we stopped at The Natural Sisters Café in Joshua Tree. We ate a sandwich LOADED with sprouts (very California) and had a Rock Climbers Revenge smoothie. (Weird name for sure but a really delicious combo of bananas, cashews and dates.) This cafe is right at the Western Entrance to Joshua Tree so it is actually a great place to stop and get supplies before heading into the park.
On our last afternoon we hit Gypsy Land Thrift and Angel Thrift in Desert Hot springs, before heading to the elegant Le Parker Meriden for a late lunch and stroll through the 13 acre grounds. At The Parker you can play baci ball, croquet, swim in the pool or play a giant chess game amidst beautiful roses and bouganvilla, it kind of feels very Alice In Wonderland here.
We didn't get to all the things we wanted to do in and around the area, we really needed a couple more days. We are saving the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach and Salvation Mountain for next time.
Here is little list of Things to do in Palm Springs and surrounding area:
Swim/ Stay at The Ace Hotel
Visit the Town of 29 Palms
Stay at 29 Palms Inn or just stop by for a drink and a dip in the pool.
(They have a fairly decent restaurant and super cute Adobe cabins with fireplaces)
Stay at Hope Springs Resort. Super relaxing. Chill vibe. Great Spa Services. Overlooks the mountains.
Visit the Waterfall at Tahquitz Canyon located about twenty minutes from Palm Springs. Hike in. Take a dip.
Listen to some great music at Pappy and Harriet's. Try the barbeque.
Thrift in the towns of Desert Hot Springs and Joshua Tree.
You can pick up a guide to thrifts in the area from the Ace Hotel.
Take ride in the Tramway. The gondola going from palm springs desert up into the mountains!
Visit this very funky Botanical Garden.
Stay at the very modern and secluded The Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot springs.
Visit Salvation Mountain.
Movie to watch before going:
Pick juniper and Sage Brush from the roadside to make your own smudgesticks.
Get lost in all the desert wierdness.
Some good reference material for the area:
This article in Travel and Leisure
This article in the Huffington Post
Greetings from Sunny California. Lula and I are having a girls week out West. We started our trip at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs and day tripped to the desert and Joshua Tree from there. Today we head to the Integratron for a crystal sound bath (trippy) then on to 29 Palms and later to Hope Springs. It is a mini break from what seems like a long winter in the North.
Here are a few photos from along the way. More deatails of places to eat and visit in part two.
Have a lovely day.
This morning as I look out on the grey city skyline, I am anticipating some extreme weather. I can't help but think what a perfect sky we had last Saturday as I headed up to a small town in Western Massachusetts to visit friends and babes. The remnants of summer’s leaves had turned a brilliant yellow and were positively glowing and illuminated. We did not even wear coats as the weather was so unseasonably warm.. It was pretty much the perfect fall weekend. Plans were a little loose, as they have to be with so many little ones around. So we kept things mellow and cooked quite a bit. On Sunday, we made a big brunch and went to a fall festival at a local CSA, Natural Roots, which is a horse powered small family farm on The South River in Conway. At the festival, the kids participated in feed sack races and beet in spoon races, which was pretty cute. We all climbed up onto the wagon for a horse drawn ride through the river and into the woods beyond the farm. We bought local apples and when we got back to the house I hunkered down and made a pie with Odette, one mini one for her and one big one for us. We were a little short on the crust due to the mini pie and a little underestimating on my part, so I winged the top and just made triangle shapes, something I picked up from the blackbird girls during our book shoot.
In the afternoon, Anna arrived to make cider with her recently purchased cider press. We started with five bushels of apples of a mixed variety. In the end after an hour or so we had ten gallons of cider. We bottled it up in a hodgepodge of old bourbon bottles and mason jars. After one last meal, we headed out into the early blue evening and wound our way back to the city.
I am in the midst of editing twenty years worth of work shot with my Deardorf 8x10, faced with the bittersweet passage of time.
Written post October snow storm.
Soho was very quiet the morning after the bizarre and historic October snow. While everyone slept, I found the perfect moment to escape into Nomad a global approach to interior style, a new book from Sibella Court. Nomad, follows her previous books, A Stylists Guide to NYC and Etcetera. Her book is a personal journey of her travels that inspire her sense of style , her interiors and her soul. There is a story about about her mother that is both incredibly real and personal. This is not just a book of suggested places to visit, it it a personal journey. I worked with Sibella, a kindred spirit, many times during her stay in New York and I was always inspired by the bits and pieces of travels she carried with her to every shoot. Like a tiny Weaver or Bower Bird she constructs the most elaborate nests wherever she is, pebble and shell, pieces of string, fragments of fabric all find their way to her into her pockets and onto her walls, sets and tableaus.
Nomad is divided into sections by country. She covers Italy, India, Syria and Mexico. Sibella gives a personal account of travels through these countries and takes us to some of her favorite places. There are many beautiful travel photographs that make me want to pack my bag and hit the road. I have said before that I too collect things on my travels, like sea salt and honey, but it really goes far beyond that. On my last trip to Istanbul I had an entire fleet of paper cups wedged into my tripod bag, as they were just too beautiful to leave behind. I am a pilferer of matches and menus as well. I too am always looking for bits to bring home, things that remind me of a place or something I can later use in a shoot. I am a bit of an obsessive collector in that way and that is one reason I enjoy working with stylists who share that same obsession. Last April, I was in India on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler. The days were hectic and the weather in the Northern Himalayas was unseasonably bad! A monsoon had rolled in and threatened to eradicate all blue skies with blinding rain and wind. It was one of those times that we had to wait it out a bit, something which is very hard for me to do when I am on a job. After giving in to the weather one evening we decided to take a couple hours and travel the twenty minutes down to the town. The town of Rishikesh is really very special as it marks the beginning of the River Ganges as it comes down from the Himalayas. The river is very clean there and it is a very sacred place. The Beatles wrote most of the White Album in Rishikesh in 1968 when they visited the now closed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram. Even in the rain, the little riverside town at the edge of the Ganges was busy with activity. We sat through Ganges Aarati ceremony, performed each evening at sundown at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram and listened to the most beautiful chanting and watched brilliant flowers and candles of offerings float silently along the river. After the ceremony we walked across a suspension bridge over the Ganges to the other side of town where the evening market was taking place. Single light bulbs hung on cords illuminating each vendors stall like a perfectly styled theatrical stage. One thing I have found is that markets stay open quite late in other countries ( it was on this same trip, though in another country, that we found ourselves making our way towards a hidden spice market on the outskirts of Dubai at nearly midnight!) It was in that hour or so in Rishikesh that I found some of my favorite souvenirs. A brass Ganesha, some ribbon, two pairs of tiny handmade shoes a pair of scissors some prayer beads and a medallion, but more than these it is the image of the little town in the blue evening , music floating up between the mountains that I will never forget.
Like Sibella, I am inspired by travel and try to make the most of wherever I am at any given moment. I carry my finds home where they work their way into our lives. These bits are always there whether in a box of treasures or on the wall to remind me that I really did stand at the edge of that river clear across the globe.