Hasta la Vista

Our home, Villa Roquette, is in a small Mediterranean village surrounded by vineyards. Walking the dogs in the evening we usually wander along small lanes, by river banks, and through the local “Garrigue”, the shrubby dense covering on many of the hillsides.

We give these walks names – “Kingfisher”- “Nightingale” – “Lonesome Pine” – “Pooh Bridge” – “Figtree Lane” – “Oompa Loompa” – “Green Lane” – “Roman Bridge” for example.

Most of the year I scrump fruit along the roads, grapes, figs, pomegranates, blackberries, quince, wild asparagus and edible snails (but I do not collect the snails as cleaning them is such a faff) – there are hundreds of other edible plants but I don’t know these well so, to avoid killing off our guests I leave them. I also tend to ignore the nut trees as many seem to be bitter almonds and getting the rascals out of their shells is frustrating.

The figs are fascinating, I have found every fig tree has a different flavour, often the smallest green ones are the sweetest, so far I have identified 17 completely different varieties on my walks, yesterday I found sweet bright green and dark black figs, fully ripened, on the same tree.

In the fields there are many abandoned buildings, some were old houses for people, others agricultural huts, probably for shepherds and for the harvesters and workers to use – today, with the monoculture of vines and automated harvesting, these just fall into decay, but being made with thick stone walls, some of them centuries old, they will take many many years to disappear. I like to think of furtive lovers using them on warm summer evenings.

As the days get shorter, the setting sun brings the Pyrenees mountains, to the South East, into strong relief and I can see them clearly from some of the walks – in the evening the mountains covered with snow seem only a couple of fields way, this is our border with Spain, so from some of the walks I can see another country over 100 miles away. There is no pollution and moderate humidity in this region, so the air is often crystal clear. Sunsets can be dramatic, is is as if nature was using photoshop.

I rarely carry my cameras on the walks, preferring simply to be alive in the scenery, but I am thinking I should record some of the old roads and buildings before they go and to hold some of the light more closely to share. I am only working with old analogue cameras now, so it will be a slow process – I am sure they will wait.

New Wetplate Workshop at VillaRoquette

Wetplate collodion photography workshop at VillaRoquette

John Brewer using a 19th century camera at Villa Roquette

Our next workshop at Villa Roquette wetplate collodion workshop september 2025 will be on the weekend of September 26/27 2015.

It is run by John Brewer wetplate collodion workshops.

The cost of the two day workshop is £325, or £475 which includes two nights full board accommodation. All materials are included and there is a wide selection of cameras and equipment for your use. Payment can be made in UK Sterling or euro

The accommodation includes a double room so you can bring your partner, there is only a small extra charge of £25 if the second person wishes to join us for lunches and dinner on the two days, breakfasts are included already.

Students on the course can come earlier and stay later, as many days as they like. All darkroom and lab facilities are available and our cameras can be used. There would be a charge for extra materials and chemistry used

An interesting feature of this course is the availability of a fully equipped mobile darkroom designed for wetplate work.

Wetplate collodion workshop at villaroquette with mobile darkroom

Mobile Darkroom camera on roof

Students on the collodion course can get into the beautiful local countryside and make wet plate collodion work. We use both tin and glass plates.

Wet Plate Collodion Workshop September 2015

Our next wet-plate collodion workshop in the South of France will be on September 26 and 27.

This is a two day residential course at Villa Roquette http://villaroquette.com run by John Brewer – http://johnbrewerphotography.com.

The course includes two days full board accommodation, two days practical hands-on experience, chemistry and literature. The inclusive price is £475 – this includes accommodation for two people so you can come with your partner at no extra cost (this includes the course fees for one person, for lunch and evening meal if required for the second person there is a small supplement).

All equipment is available for students use, including our classic 19th century cameras and lenses up to 24cm x 30cm, full darkroom facilities are in-house and we have a mobile wet-plate darkroom for location work. You can also use our modern studio cameras, even converted Polaroids if you wish.

Low cost flights to Beziers airport (20 minutes and we can pick you up) makes coming to the South of France cheaper than going to London from Manchester.

You don’t have to come only for two days, you can come and stay at Villa Roquette for a long as you like and the darkroom facilities are free to use for all guests – come earlier or stay longer.

As a bonus, we are in the center of the largest wine producing area in the world and the harvest will be finished and the wine festivals will be in full swing in many local villages.