france, polaroids, and slowing down

by Beau Ward

There's a little square in Cognac, France, the town where I lived during the Spring of this year. Along one side is a row of stores. A convenience mart, an eyeglasses shop, a laundromat. Across from these is a bakery where, on lazy Sundays, I would purchase my fresh baguettes to devour while waiting for my laundry to run. I lived and worked in this town, nourishing myself with at least one pain au chocolat per day, just long enough for the bakery's smell of warm bread and the weekly flea markets in the square to be normal. Just long enough for the novelty of French living to wear away, and for the old rhythm of the place to become my daily life. It took this slowing down for me to notice the real jewel in the town center, a tiny photography store with vintage film cameras glinting in the windows. 

On a rainy day I popped in, and the owner, a wrinkled man who spoke no English, descended a ladder from a hole in the ceiling. Making a friend, I purchased a vintage Polaroid from him and some film. The photos I took while I was in Europe became my favorite souvenirs, and the process of creating them reminded me how important it is sometimes to slow down, think about the image you want to take, compose yourself and your shot, and create a one-of-a-kind piece of art.