When Arlington-born photographer Jamie Beck moved to France in 2016, she planned to stay for a brief sabbatical from her career in photography. Fast-forward six years, and she’s still there — with a body of work to show for it. Her new book, An American in Provence, is her collection of photos and essays about her life and journey as an artist overseas.
The Martin High School grad left behind a life in New York City, where she struggled to make time for passion projects amid commercial photography work. In France, her passion for photography was rekindled, or in her words, reawakened. “Everything started waking up, and I started waking up,” Beck says.
Beck studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in the early 2000s and was also working as a commercial photographer. Beck stayed in New York City for a decade after graduation, and her work included shooting for well-known brands like Google, Nike and Chanel.
In August 2016, Beck was on a flight from Copenhagen back to New York City, during which she thought the plane would crash, and she had an epiphany that moving to France was something she had to do before she died.
“I made a promise to myself that, if the plane landed, I would move to France,” she says.
Roughly a month later, with her visa secured, she moved to Provence. She arrived in the fall and planned to stay for a year.
Beck said that one of the things she noticed after arriving was the way people in her newly adopted home “live by the seasons.” It took her a few months to wind down and reset from her prior life. It wasn’t “until the next spring when the nature started blossoming,” she says, that she began to feel more creative.
Beck maintained some client accounts while she was living in France, traveling back to the United States or working on location for commercial clients. Because the cost of living in France was much lower than in New York City, Beck says, she was able to work with fewer clients and free up more time to explore the region and work on her art.
The seasons play a key role in her story and in her book, which is divided into four sections: fall, winter, spring and summer. Her photographs showcase sprawling French landscapes, seasonal food, beautiful homes and cities, and self-portraits that often tell a story. Also included are personal essays, seasonal recipes and photography tutorials.
At the end of her first year in France, in the fall of 2017, Beck decided to stay in Provence. Beck still lives there, with her husband and their daughter, Eloïse, who was born in France.
“The year came to an end, and I wasn’t done,” Beck says. “I felt like I was still just beginning.”
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