Hi, my name is Anne Darling. I'm a photographer, and I live in the Cognac region of France. I live in a converted station master's house right next to the old railway line which is now a traffic-free pathway for walkers and cyclists.
I love living here because of the wonderful climate, not too hot in summer, not too cold in winter. It is a beautiful area too. In early spring there are fields of young wheat and bright yellow canola flowers. In summer there are miles of vineyards and in autumn sunflowers that grow taller than me.
My house is surrounded by woodland. Hoopoes flit through the garden during the day and nightingales lull me to sleep at night. Frogs and cicadas sing while I eat - yep, it's noisy here at times but I love it and feel blessed to be here. But first things first. Let me go back in time and tell you about...
I have been involved in photography since I was 18 when I bought my first SLR camera - and fell in love with it! At first it was just a hobby, but before long I was developing my own films and printing photographs in a make-shift darkroom in my bedroom.
I used to have all the windows blacked out and the door taped up to stop light leaking in. By the time this task was completed, it was difficult to get back out the room!
And so I would spend hours happily watching for 'magic' to happen when the print began to appear in the tray as a result of a mysterious interaction between light and chemicals.
I taught myself everything about my camera until I knew it like the back of my hand and using different settings became second nature. I didn't have a light-meter so I used the 'Sunny 16' rule which is a sure-fire method of working out which settings are best for the the available light. So I learnt the hard way but I gained knowledged that has stayed with me all my life.
I began to exhibit my work locally and over time started exhibiting abroad in places like Beirut, France and beyond. I enjoyed immensely the whole process from taking a shot to seeing the final print to seeing it hanging on a gallery wall. And of course selling a print to someone who really likes your work is what makes the job most satisfying.
I have used many cameras down through the years, including a wonderful Mamiya RB67 which is a medium-format camera, built like a tank and weighs just about as much! But nowadays everything I do is digital, although I do still love film for the wonderful tonal qualities that you can achieve.
But I find it impossible not to be captivated by the creative possibilities inherent in digital cameras and of course, the modern-day darkroom, Photoshop. I believe that digital technology has opened up vast realms of possibilities to people who ordinarily wouldn't think of themselves as artistic or creative.
Back in 2006, I was living in Scotland, on the south coast, the part which is supposed to have the best climate - nine months of winter and three months of bad weather! The first summer I lived there it rained every single day - I couldn't believe it! But naively I thought this must be a fluke, next year would be better. Well, the truth is it wasn't quite as bad but the summers never lived up to my expectations and as a photographer who loved being out and about taking pictures it is hard to understand now, with hindsight, why I stuck it out so long.
After many years of struggling with my love-hate relationship with a land which is incredibly beautiful at times, and very harsh at others, I decided to abandon it all to live in a country where "the weather suits my clothes".
I spoke reasonably good French and had exhibited and worked in France on several occasions and in fact was a confirmed francophile. I wanted to live near Cognac in Poitou-Charentes but wasn't sure that even with my fairly good language skills I would be able to make a living as a photographer.
So I began to think deeply about the possibility of sharing my knowledge and love of photography through teaching and perhaps running some kind of internet-based business that allowed me to continue to explore photography but also involved using my own photos.
So fast forward to the present moment, and here I am today, living in a small community of 270 people, in rural France, running this site on all aspects of photography. I love it here and feel so grateful that I am able to work from home, earning my living by pursuing my passion and sharing it with so many people through the world wide web.
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