Food Stories From Gascony

Our girl on the scene Monica Shaw went to Gascony in south west France for photographer Tim Clinch‘s Natural Light Natural Food workshop held at writer Kate Hill’s Kitchen at Camont. Monica tells all…

“Slow down, think, fill the frame, get in close.” Such were Tim Clinch‘s summarised lessons from his Natural Light Natural Food workshop. But to call this a “workshop” doesn’t really do this justice. The workshop was more than a lesson in food photography; it was a lesson in telling stories, told through the amazing landscape, produce and people of Gascony.

Dominique Chapolard, at his charcuterie stall in Nérac market

Central to the Natural Light Natural Food Workshop is Kitchen at Camont, Kate Hill’s 18th Century farmhouse, a culinary retreat where Kate runs various programmes and food courses on the gastronomic pleasures of Gascony. Kate Hill in her Kitchen at Camont

Camont is an oasis in its own right, tucked away amongst the trees next to a canal, feeling very much like the stuff Francophile dreams are made of. The kitchen is vast, with stone floors, vaulted ceiling, a wood burner and a doorway to the garden. This too is idyllic: think hammocks, chickens, retro caravans, lush greenery, veg garden, raspberries, the canal and even the houseboat that Kate used to live in.

Chez Camont and Gascony may be destinations in their own right, but it was the food photography experience that made all of this come alive. Here, Tim Clinch ran the show, bringing his thirty years experience as a professional photographer to his own style of teaching that is all at once friendly, relaxed, intense, fun and wickedly useful.

Kate and Tim’s approach is all about telling “stories”. And so, our days weren’t limited to photographing mere ingredients and plates of food. We photographed everything: the Gascony countryside, French markets, purveyors and their produce, Kate’s cooking and the beautiful dishes she created with their wares.

Kate making pastry

We spent almost a day on the story of the apricot tart, in which Kate bought the mother-load of apricots from the market, perfect props for a lesson in still life photography. When we were done with the apricots, Kate made pastry with organic flour, grown and milled by Gascony’s Cecile Berthelot from Ferme le Roc, Porte Ste. Marie. Then finally, the main event: Kate’s apricot and goats cheese tart.

Apricot Tart

Beyond Camont, we ventured to nearby Nérac with its expansive market, narrow streets, shuttered windows and peaceful perch on the River Baise.

Nérac, Lot-et-Garonne Garlic at Nérac Market

Tim’s tutelage also included some mind-blowing lessons in Lightroom: it’s amazing what a little crop and a few filters can do (I was seriously giddy over this).

Natural Light Natural Food

There were, of course, plenty of not-so-photogenic moments that often came late at night after many glasses of rosé. But those photos, too, tell a story. In fact, beautiful pictures are such a tiny fraction of what I took away from my time in Gascony. Sure, we took some great photos, but what I think about when I think of Gascony is how much fun I had with Tim, Kate and my fellow pupil, Mardi from eat live travel write. We were essentially creative all day long, be it through taking pictures or cooking food. It was intense. Exhausting. And yet extraordinarily fulfilling, with hard work balanced by long meals, great conversations, afternoon siestas and walks on the tow path. It was one of those weekends where you instantly feel at home with where you are and who you’re with. I just fell in love with the whole thing – the people, Kate’s kitchen, and incredible, edible Gascony.

Sunday Lunch

You, too, can have a Gascony experience. Visit Kitchen at Camont and Natural Light Natural Food for information on upcoming programmes. Also check out Kate and Tim’s new publishing project, Food Stories from Gascony, which brings together Kate’s writing and Tim’s photography into a series of regularly-occurring online magazines celebrating Gascony’s food scene.

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All photos were taken by Monica Shaw, and brought to life in Lightroom thanks to Tim Clinch’s attentive tutelage.