A few years ago, I developed a love for photography. I was given an incredible camera as a gift and I became obsessed, intrigued. Behind my lens, I felt like I could see a different view than everyone else, exclusive only to me.
On my most recent visit back to Paris, with my husband, we took a short journey by train out of town to Auvers Sur Oise – the petite village where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last few weeks of his life. There, I captured one of my all-time favorite photos.
The sun peaked out from behind a single solitary cloud and shed its light on the small boulevard through town and warmed our faces. As we meandered through the winding streets, I thought I heard a bike behind us, so I turned around to see that I was right. There was a bicycle but its rider had just dismounted and turned away from us to ascend the hill, leading away from town. She began to walk her bike up the hill and I fumbled for my camera, popped off my lens cap and captured a small moment of daily life.
Seemingly insignificant, this photo represents what France is to me. Classy – the skirt she wore for her ordinary ride into town. Old Fashioned – a bike with a woven basket on the back. Historic – the brick wall that frames the photo. Magical – the sun shining down on her at just the right moment. Familiar – she could have been my grandmother (though I never saw her face).
When I see this photo, hundreds of questions are raised. Where was she going? Was she on her way home? If so, why was her basket empty? Was she delivering something? Bread, perhaps. Where did she live? Beyond the hill, there was a large open field that inspired many paintings from Van Gogh but no housing. Was she on a similar pilgrimage, like me, to follow in the footsteps of this tortured, talented man?
Questions, yes. But no answers, only speculations. What I do know, is that I was lucky enough to capture this small moment and catch the briefest glimpse into the daily life of a women in Auvers Sur Oise.