France smiled upon us with sunshine for our first full day as we sailed across the English Channel, the smudge of Normandy coastline on the horizon growing more distinct throughout the morning. After breakfast, we were treated to a talk by National Geographic photographer Gianluca Colla, who will be helping us over the next week to be our own best image-makers. While some photographers focus on one type of photo—portraits, say, or wildlife—Gianluca’s are wonderfully varied. His work brings us to the heart of everything, from his family’s warm and lively home in the Swiss mountains, to the cover of National Geographic magazine. In his beautifully illustrated talk, we traveled with nuns sequestered behind a spiky wrought iron fence in Bergamo; mummies (6000 of them!) in a cave in Sicily; and spiders—whose brains, as we learned, age in the same way as the human brain, and whose powerful webs make for stunning photos. One of the most poignant parts of Gianluca’s talk involved his photographs of the working poor—those who, despite working hard every day at grim jobs, cannot meet their basic needs. These moving portraits were images of humanity such as we rarely see.
My own talk followed, entitled simply “French Food.