This past March we had the wonderful opportunity to go to Paris! We’ve been there many times however this time was definitely different as we went with the bébé! When you’re sans bébé navigating through the Paris Metro, wandering through the cobblestone streets and feasting your eyes on the artwork of one or ALL the museums is a synch. With bébé, everything has become more complex, and think again about taking that stroller into the metro. This is reserved for the very brave (or foolish) souls out there. We were foolish… I mean brave…. but only once. Can I get an amen from all the baby-carrying mamas!?
Number one on the list for this trip was the Grandes Serres du Jardin des Plantes. And it did not disappoint. If you caught our feature on Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus (you can read it HERE), you know we love exploring botanical gardens and wandering through their marvelous collections of plants.
The Grandes Serres originally started to protect and preserve a collection of orangeries. These orange trees were housed in utility buildings and were off limits to the general public. It is only later that we see the appearance of the first greenhouses made of glass and wood; built for the chief purpose of conserving the botanical collections that naturalists would bring back from their explorative voyages outside of France.
In the early 19th Century, the concept of combining metal with glass was introduced to the construction of greenhouses. This allowed for stronger structures and better insulation for the varied temperatures that the plants needed. England spearheaded this innovation and architects, most notably Charles Rohault de Fleury, were sent to bring back this innovation to France. Between 1834 and 1836, Rohault de Fleury built two greenhouses: the Eastern Pavilion and the Western Pavilion (both would later be renamed). These two structures were the prototypes of modern greenhouses and significantly are the first greenhouses in the world of such large dimensions made of glass and metal.
The tropical greenhouse constructed in typical Art Deco style was built in the 1930s by Rene Berger. It is here that we started our visit and it was absolutely incredible. Our senses were captivated by the biodiversity we found there. Every step we took seemed filled with so many different varieties of plants: cascading banana leaves, gorgeous ferns, dangling orchids and a waterfall of monstera deliciosa (my favourite) just to name a few. It was a treat for our souls. They had built a structure at one end of the greenhouse that you could climb up inside to have a panoramic view. It was gorgeous, and of course gave me a chance to get up close and personal with their breath taking monsteras.
Monstera deliciosa is a type of flowering plant common to southern Mexico and Panama, but they have been introduced worldwide. I was always taken aback by their name: why monstera (a.k.a monstrous)? It refers to the sheer size that these beauties can grow to… over 9 meters in some cases! That may be indeed monstrous! They are a member of the Arum family Araceae with very impressive aerial root systems. What fascinates me the most is the fenestrate leaves—although each leaf is similar, they are each so unique with different perforations and lines.
From the tropical rainforest greenhouse, we ventured into the deserts and arid environments greenhouse – a complete change of atmosphere and certainly temperature. Their collection had cacti and succulents from all over the world: USA, Mexico, the Andes, South Africa, the Sahara and even Madagascar! I am always so intrigued how these plants have each a different way of conserving water, reproducing and their fascinating defense mechanisms for deterring predators.
From there you enter the greenhouse of New Caledonia which contains plants from… you guessed it, New Caledonia. New Caledonia is a French territory in the southwest Pacific Ocean about 1,210 km east of Australia. Discovered by the British navigator James Cook in 1774 it came into the hands of the French in 1853. What makes this collection so special is that it contains several plants that are actually quite ancient in origin and are ancestral to the genealogical tree of the plant kingdom. New Caledonia is only 19 058 km², but it is incredibly rich in more than 3000 species of fauna and flora that do not exist anywhere else in the world. In fact, 76% of plant species and 72% of known animal species are endemic. Amazing! The greenhouse presents this flora through five environments: the humid forest, the dry forest, the maquis, the savanna and the mangrove. You can see a brochure of this collection here.
Finally, you enter into the history of plants greenhouse where the evolution of plants is traced beginning from 430 million years ago. Here you see a wide variety of gorgeous ferns (another favourite of mine) including breathtaking tree ferns, as well as cycads, a Ginkgo Biloba, lianas and the tour ends with flowering plants.
Botanical Gardens aren’t just beautiful places where one can admire and marvel at the beauty of plants or learn about their history. In a world where we are losing so much biodiversity in the name progress and economic growth, these places become safe havens for our rarest flora. Many botanical gardens including the one in Paris and the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam contain rare and endangered plants. They are “banks of plant biodiversity.” If these plants multiply, they are spread and shared between a network and community of botanical gardens. This becomes very important as botanical gardens are most notably places of research and of course knowledge dissemination to the wider public. Thus, it’s another place where we can learn the importance of taking care of our dear home. You don’t just learn about the plants themselves, but their part in a wider ecosystem including their relationships with the flora and fauna you would find in their natural and wild environment.
If you’re ever in Paris, the plant lover in you will find great joy in visiting the Grandes Serres du Jardin des Plantes. The greenhouses are just a small part of the Jardin de Plantes. They also have an Alpine Garden, Ecological Garden, Rose Garden, Peony Garden (next time we come in June!) and an Iris Garden, just to name a few. And if you come with others who aren’t so botanically inclined they have something for everyone: the Gallery on Evolution, the Gallery of Minerals and Geology, a zoo, the Museum of Man and special exhibitions.
I brought back a treasure trove of new material that I making my way through, so keep your eyes peeled for a new release of fine art prints.
Make sure to check out our web shop for beautiful fine art botanical prints to adorn any space you call your own. Let nature in with us!
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I was the quintessential city girl. Thanks to my parents I’ve had the privilege of living in Milan, Sao Paulo, Paris, Toronto, and now as a 30-something adult, Amsterdam. But regardless of the city, there were some sounds that made up my daily sound track: the hustle and bustle of traffic, the roar of motorcycles, the halting brakes of the metro, the pounding of jackhammers, the tiresome beeps of reversing trucks, the dings of a departing tram and now in Amsterdam, the clinking and clanking of passing bicycles. Animals were minimal, and whatever bird life there was, quickly drowned out.
The sounds of nature were not part of my daily repertoire. Fast-forward to my nature-loving husband whose mantra is, “Let’s thank God for the bumblebees and the butterflies,” and a whole new world opened up for me. I remember on some of our first forest walks together being mesmerized by the sweet cacophony of different birds singing away in the canopy of the trees. To me, it felt like nothing short of miraculous. Call me crazy, but it stirred something deep inside that I was (and still) unable to put into words.
It reminds me of a quotation from Shakespeare, “The earth has music for those who listen.” For me, so often I am unable to hear the beautiful music of the earth. One, because I am usually too busy making my own noise, and two, I’ve forgotten to listen (something I’m working on).
Recently, I bumped into an article published by the BBC that explored how plants have senses. They can see and hear, AND respond. Obviously, their senses express themselves a little differently than ours, however, there is no doubt that they are present, and are continually responding to the world around them.
A fascinating study conducted by Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft from the University of Missouri found that the munching sounds of caterpillars caused plants to release chemical defenses to their leaves for the purpose of deterring these little predators. Isn’t that amazing?! You can read their findings here.
It seems that even though plants do not have ears, in the traditional sense, they can sense vibrations and frequencies, and thus react accordingly. But what else do plants hear?
Birds singing in Hilversum Forest, Netherlands
What astounded me the most was a recent mini lecture that I listened to that explored the relationship between birdsong and plants. Plants receive most of their nutrition through their roots from the soil. However, there are also micronutrients found in the dew that descend in the early morning. Plant leaves have what’s called stomata. A stoma is a tiny opening or mouth found on the under-surface of leaves. Two cells (guard cells) make up the stoma that open and close with resonant frequency or vibration. These stomata are able to open up to receive the micronutrients that come from the air when the dew falls, and thus impact the plant’s growth.
A correlation was made between the opening and closing of the stomata and when birds sing. When do birds sing the most? Usually just before or at dawn precisely as the dew begins to settle. The frequencies from the birdsongs allow the stomata to open and receive all the micronutrients that descend upon the surface of their leaves. Is this not absolutely incredible!!!??
I’ve been able to find a number of articles discussing experiments regarding the link between the opening of stomata with certain frequencies (i.e. musical tones or types of music) and plant growth. There are even businesses in the USA capitalizing on this. They sell a whole sound system, recordings, and fertilizers to farmers that they can use to incorporate this phenomenon. Imagine a farm setting up speakers with surround sound around their fields playing birdsong while simultaneously foliar feeding (spraying water-soluble fertilizers on the surfaces of leaves). I wonder if they turn up the bass on that?! The scientific community seems to be divided on some of the research, however, it has me riveted.
It also brings into question all the pesticides being used for farming, and how it affects birdlife. Of course, there is the known fact that pesticides can have a deadly impact on birds. Like DDT and DDT’s chemical relatives killing bird population. But an indirect effect is bird starvation. One of the main objectives of pesticides is to kill insect threat to crops, but as a result, there is now no longer a food source for birds. So, if they aren’t able to migrate to another location to find food, they die. (You can read more here).
And isn’t it wild to think that the very animals we need to help support our plants and crops to grow and thrive are the very ones we deter or inadvertently kill? Perhaps the issue at hand is much more complicated than my current understanding, nonetheless, it speaks to me about the wonderful balance we find in nature.
It’s miraculous to see and understand how plant and animal life are so interconnected. In the blog post, Amongst Wolves, I mentioned how the reintroduction of wolves had incredibly changed the landscape of Yellowstone National Park. There is so much we can learn from nature. I can only imagine the transformation and flourishing we would see if we prioritized bird life when it comes to the impact that they have on plants (and as a result, our food source).
This brings a whole new meaning to allowing the music of the earth to fill our ears and to allow it to touch our hearts.
Although I have a deep admiration for our feathered friends, I definitely do not have the patience for bird photography. Mike Agiannidis has patience in spades. He is a typical renaissance man- photographer, fisherman, and car whisperer, who is brilliant at all three. Based in Toronto, Canada, him and his wife specialize in landscape and automotive photography. He was kind enough to showcase some of his wonderful bird photography for this blog post. You can find them here, on Instagram, and here. Make sure to check out their superb photography.
Make sure to check out our web shop for beautiful fine art botanical prints to adorn any space you call your own. Let nature in with us!
One of my favorite films growing up as a child was Disney’s The Jungle Book. Not only was this film full of animals and some pretty jazzy music (Bare Necessities never fails to bring a smile to my face), but the idea of a little boy being adopted and raised by wolves had always fascinated me. I consider wolves to be such beautiful creatures, but wary of their reputation (think of Red Riding Hood or Aesop’s Fables).
Earlier this year, we bumped into BBC’s Ingenious Animals. In Episode 3 (See a clip here), they delve into the world of animal communication. Specifically, they discuss communication amongst wolves. Previously, it had always been thought that the wolf pack was held together by the aggressive and domineering alpha male. With further research, they found that this was not necessarily the case. During experiments where they took turns removing different members from the pack, the rest of the pack would howl for their missing family member. It was discovered that the wolves would utilize a different call depending on who was missing. They realized that these calls changed depending on the closeness they felt for the missing wolf, in the same way that you would feel different if an acquaintance left the room or your best friend. Thus, this was not necessarily a top-down hierarchy in the traditional sense.
Furthermore, in experiments where they were comparing differences between wolves and domesticated dogs, they found some fascinating results. They performed experiments in which they observed the difference between how wolves share food versus dogs, thus measuring the animals’ tolerance. What they found was that dogs don’t share their food. Whoever is the alpha dog, goes in and eats everything, while the subordinate dog does not even attempt to get a bite. There’s no dinner for the underdog. In all the experiments where the wolf alpha male was released with a subordinate, the wolves always shared their food.
The reasoning behind this behavior? Dogs are scavengers and less likely to share. Wolves have always hunted in packs to bring down their prey, thus they have a need for tolerance, communication, partnership, and friendship, ensuring their success and survival. We could learn a lot from these fascinating and marvelous creatures, don’t you think?
So, why am I telling you this?
Firstly, because we cannot assume that our postulations or the knowledge we have is correct. This is something I am definitely working on :)
Secondly, because this past September we had the incredible privilege of visiting The Wolf Conservation Association in Belgium. Although almost extinct in Europe at one point in time, the wolf has slowly been making a comeback.
This association rescues wolves from private citizens, animal parks, and zoos that no longer wish to keep them. They are often mistreated and when they are no longer wanted are euthanized. It’s heartbreaking to hear of their mistreatment and that once the entertainment value dissipates many of these animals are killed. This association believes that this is not responsible behavior neither does it show love or fair treatment for the animals in question. They champion the cause of wolves by rescuing them, educating the public and making sure that these wolves live in nature or in the very least semi-natural conditions. It’s not just about the protection and preservation of the species but also of the ecosystem. They apply pressure on public authorities for changes in laws for the protection of animals in Belgium and Europe. Wolves aren’t pets.
And if you ever doubted their role within the ecosystem, take a peek at this incredible video which explains what happened to the natural environment once wolves were reintroduced at Yellowstone National Park in the USA.
Our day at the association was wonderful. We were able to see all different types of wolves from all over Europe. We even saw some beautiful Hudson Bay wolves which are native to Canada. All these were semi-wild and very wary of us.
However, we had the amazing privilege to enter into one of the massive enclosures where we were allowed to interact with two Swiss wolves (a brother and sister) that had been hand-reared and were unable to be released into the wild. It was incredible and I’ve been reliving it in my mind and heart ever since. It was like receiving the most loving greeting from your best friend or a wonderful relative you haven’t seen in years. I don’t know if it was the pregnancy hormones that endeared me to them, but I was so moved by their affection. I almost started to feel guilty, as the brother wolf barely left my side. They of course made their rounds to all the guests who had entered in the enclosure, but the brother wolf stayed with me most of the time allowing me to pet him, talk to him, and even feel the pads under his feet as he cuddled with me and sat or laid by my side. I know this wouldn’t happen in the wild and neither should it, but it made me imagine how a perfect world would be without fear. The sister wolf would of course come around, say hi, give a short cuddle, make sure she wasn’t missing anything too exciting, and then would be off on her way.
Unfortunately, time was limited within the enclosure (I think that was the fastest 35-40min ever) and we were not allowed to bring our camera equipment, but I trust that these images we captured with our phones can give you a sense of what happened.
When I think back to that day, I have tears in my eyes, because it’s what I imagine heaven would be like—no fear, only perfect peace where, “the wolf...shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion… together; and a little child shall lead them," (Isaiah 11:6).
It's a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. And one which encourages me to keep the discussion going on how we look at, think of, and treat our world around us whether it be how we treat each other, nature or wildlife. Please remember that when you invest in a piece of fine art with us or any product you purchase in our online shop, a percentage of all proceeds will be donated to one of three organizations whose sole mission is: wildlife and habitat conservation, offering medical care to displaced persons in war torn countries, or rescuing children from the sex trafficking industry (You can read more about it here and here).
I’ll leave you with Jane Goodall’s extraordinary words,” Let us develop respect for all living things. Let us try to replace violence and intolerance with understanding and compassion. And love.”
When I first started dreaming about the relaunch of Mona Elisa Fine Art Photography this year, my hope was not only to provide beautiful botanical inspired fine art, or to build an online community focused on appreciating and marvelling at the beauty of nature, but it was also essential to me that it would somehow be a conduit for good in this world.
As I contemplated on how that would look like in the beginning stages of the relaunch, I pinpointed the causes that touched my heart: wildlife and habitat conservation, and PEOPLE! Specifically, rescuing children from sex trafficking.
As I researched different NGOs and organizations, it was vital for me that the organization in question had a) principles I could stand behind, b) received a high charity rating, c) had a good reputation, and d) transparency. In my research, I bumped into Agape International Missions (AIM) and was blown away by the work that they do in Cambodia. Their mission is to prevent, rescue, restore, and reintegrate survivors of sex trafficking. One aspect that highly impressed me was that they work in conjunction with the Cambodian government and local officials to conduct investigations, perform raids, make arrests and rescue victims of sex trafficking. In 2016 alone, the AIM SWAT team successfully performed 40 raids on local brothels and rescued more than 600 people, 100 of which were children!
Image courtesy of agapewebsite.com
Once rescued, these children are sent to Restoration Homes (under 18) or Transitional Homes (18+) where they can be safe and where they are prepared for successful reintegration into society. How do they do this? By meeting their physical, psychosocial, educational, vocational and spiritual needs. A totally holistic approach. An approach that some believe, "should be scaled and replicated on a global level." (Watch Mira Sorvino talk about AIM.)
As I looked more into AIM, somehow, I couldn’t shake off this feeling that it sounded familiar. I soon discovered that a friend from high school was working as the principal at one of AIM’s schools in Cambodia! After reconnecting, and hearing about her journey, I was convinced.
So, it is with the utmost pleasure, joy, and with the deepest respect that I introduce you to Shauna Weir, who has graciously allowed me to interview her for this post to give us a behind-the-scenes look at what she does within the AIM organization.
Hello Shauna! Thank you so much for joining us here and sharing some of your experiences with us. Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
My name is Shauna Weir, and I’m an 80’s born Canadian (yup, we will leave it at “80’s born”), who grew up in Toronto, Canada but took off to Seoul, Korea after finishing my undergraduate degree. I taught Elementary expat. students at a fabulous International School for 7 years, and during that time began learning about the world wide epidemic of human trafficking. During my time in Korea, God really grabbed ahold of my heart for this cause and began directing my path toward serving in an anti-trafficking ministry. At the same time, He also called me to complete a Masters of Education degree in Administration. I didn’t particularly see the way the two would go hand in hand until I was finishing up my degree and He guided me to apply to serve with Agape International Missions (AIM); an anti-trafficking NGO in Cambodia that needed an Elementary Principal. I have now been serving with AIM for just over a year a few kilometers outside of Phnom Penh.
For those who don’t know very much about Agape International Missions (AIM) can you tell us a little bit about the organization, and how you and your team fit within the organization?
AIM was founded on the ground in Cambodia in 1988 as a humanitarian aid and church planting organization. Since 2005, our programs have focused on ending the evil of child sexual slavery that is prevalent in Cambodia. AIM takes a holistic approach to fighting trafficking, restoring victims and transforming communities, in order to defeat trafficking. Our projects and programs Prevent, Rescue, Restore, and Reintegrate. One of our main prevention programs is our Elementary School in Svay Pak, a village that was once the worst spot in the entire country for child trafficking but continues to significantly improve. I am the Elementary Principal of this school and we exist to give the kids of Svay Pak the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education and greatly decrease their risk of being trafficked.
What do you find the most fulfilling about your life and role there? What have you found to be the most challenging, both personally and as a school?
By far the most fulfilling aspect is the people. The Khmer people are absolutely incredible and awe-inspiring. They are full of life, senses of humor and love; a true illustration of their resiliency since the Khmer Rouge. It has been an absolute honor to build relationships with so many of them this year, and to be able to pour into them the blessings that have been poured out upon me. As a school principal in Svay Pak, I have had the chance to get to know the stories of my teachers, students and the community at large, and their un-relenting attitude to keep going and hold onto hope in adversity is positively compelling. There are many challenges to serving in Cambodia, but they do pale in comparison to the blessings. Personally, the poverty, brokenness, crazy traffic and intense year-round heat tend to be the things that most drain me. It’s also a challenge to keep focused on what I would call, “the one.” That no matter how big the problems at hand may be and how many are affected by them, it's worth helping "the one" and keeping my eyes fixed on that.
Images courtesy of Shauna Weir
What are your hopes and objectives as a school?
Our objective as a school is first and foremost to provide protection and the love of Christ for all of our students. We want to provide our students a quality education with teachers who care about their well-being not only academically, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. We want these kids to experience the freedom to learn and dream without fear. Our hope is that with the education they are receiving, that they will go on to be leaders in Cambodia that stand for things that are just, true, and right.
What do you do in those moments where things don’t make sense – when you see suffering, injustice, heartbreak, and/or cruelty, etc? How do you re-center and pick up the pieces?
I’d love to say that I just take it in, swallow it, and move along with joy, but most of the time it looks more like wrestling with God as Jacob did. This past year, I’ve personally realized how crucial preventative health and self-care is in my life for combatting this. If I am not…finding pockets of time to rest and do things that fill my soul back up, those moments I experience suffering, injustice and heartbreak that don’t make sense, can quickly take over. They can create a lot of bitterness, anger, and hopelessness...I have been really blessed to receive regular encouragement from my pastor, a counselor, and some close friends who are very intentional in providing me regular reminders to stop and take care. I can only pour out from an overflow, so it’s crucial to take the time and find rest in Jesus to be filled.
This blog shares a lot about appreciating the beauty of nature, conservation, and taking care of our earthly home for ourselves and for future generations. Is there any natural wonder or place that you found that touched you deeply? Perhaps on your travels, or in the many countries where you’ve lived? And how did that natural wonder make you feel?
I could probably write pages upon pages for this question, but to keep it short, the Sea of Galilee in Israel is the first natural wonder that popped into my head that deeply touched me in a personal way. I’ve seen countless man-made wonders of the world that left me completely speechless when considering their intricacies and grandiose architecture, but nothing touched my soul like the natural wonder of the Sea of Galilee. When I was there, I was so overcome with how much of Jesus’ ministry occurred there: recruiting apostles, the Sermon on the Mount was given on the hill just overlooking the body of water, miracle upon miracle occurring directly in that sea including Jesus walking on water, calming the storm, and feeding the five thousand close by. Knowing all the powerful work Christ had done there, right by that unassuming and untouched body of water, left me with such a deep sense of peace and assurance.
What are the best ways that we can support AIM as an organization, as well as, your school, and you personally?
Pray. I know that seems like a buzzword or very cliché, but we thrive on the prayers and encouragement of friends, supporters, and churches. Also, I am personally so encouraged by letters or notes that are sent to me, as they show me that people are intentionally going out of their way to try and communicate with me and let me know that I’m not forgotten. Sometimes life in Cambodia can feel a bit lonely and isolating, and it’s such a gift to feel remembered and loved from afar. If you feel led, you can financially support our AIM programs by making a donation on our website. Your donations and generosity are what allow all of our programs to run and are so crucial to the ground work that is done here.
As I read Shauna’s words and the impact that she is making in Cambodia it reminds me again about how important it is for me to leave the space in which I inhabit on this earth (hopefully) better than the way I leave it. And how I want it to be a part of my business model, without question.
When you invest in a piece of fine art with us or any product you purchase in our online shop, a percentage of all proceeds will be donated to one of three organizations whose sole mission is: wildlife and habitat conservation, offering medical care to displaced persons in war torn countries, or rescuing children of sex trafficking. One of which is AIM and the incredible work that they do in Cambodia. You can choose who you wish the proceeds to go to at the checkout.
I encourage you to visit their website and get more acquainted with their programs, their mission, and the work they do. You can also follow them on Instagram where you can see updates and amazing rescue stories.
Whether you support AIM directly by making a donation at their website or indirectly by purchasing an item from our webstore or both, we hope to inspire you to make a difference in the lives of these children.
There’s a little unsightly nook in our apartment just between the couch and my favourite Calathea. And regardless of what I do, it is always a mess of jumbled white wires, plugs, and chargers. Sometimes it reminds me of the scene in Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is dropped into the Well of Souls where he comes face to face with a slithering tangled mess of pythons. I exaggerate… but between the wires for the mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-reader, camera equipment, modem, and our lamp; it gets overwhelming.
We live in a digital age of touchscreens where we can have anything we want at a swipe or a tap. It’s amazing but I’ve realized it comes at a price.
When I was studying for my Montessori certification years ago, one thing that made such an impression on me was when we discussed sensorial learning and its importance in child development. See, everything that is not digital but tangible engages ALL our senses and gives our minds and bodies feedback. This feedback is what allows us to learn and experience the world with all of our faculties.
There’s a huge difference between reading your favorite novel in a paperback or limited edition or on an e-reader. The e-reader is fantastic, you can carry an entire library in your bag and even read it in the dark (no flashlight required!!). Practical and extremely convenient. However, your experience dramatically changes when you pick up a physical book. The weight of the book in your hands, the act of opening the book and turning a page, the minute breeze you feel against your face when you turn a page, the texture of the paper against your fingertips, or even the fragrance that the page wafts to your nose. It’s not just about the words on the page.
And over time, the experience changes. You can always tell which book has become a favorite; the fingerprint marks on the pages, the creases in the spine, the dog-eared corners, or the underlined passages that are adored. All of this tells a story. It’s a story of experience, enjoyment (or lack of) and value.
I have no qualms with my Ipad or my other digital devices. They are so unbelievably practical. But to me that’s all they are: practical. On their own, they tell no story, but must be turned on and used as a vehicle to get me where I need to go (digitally). But we forget. I forget! What began as a tool to get me somewhere or something can itself become the SOMETHING that I strive for.
When I started this journey on rediscovering how to marvel and relaunch monaelisaphoto, I debated whether to create digital products or physical art. I’m embarrassed to say that the last time I printed a photograph must have been at least 4 years ago and I was still doing portraiture at the time! A photographer who doesn’t print their own photographs? Insane!
While in the testing phase over the last year we printed many samples on so many different types of papers with diverse finishes, textures, weights – and it was GLORIOUS. The photographs and images became so much more alive than what I could have hoped for or even imagined. There’s such a difference in seeing your art for REAL, as opposed to on a digital screen. It’s mind blowing.
And the story these pieces tell changes every day and throughout the day—and that’s all thanks to the light or lack thereof where they decorate our walls.
A little background on our printing process…
We’ve found a phenomenal laboratory in Germany that utilizes excellent archival inks with an exceptional color gamut. With much testing, we decided on a bright white torchon archival paper (285gsm) as our medium. Torchon comes from the French word that means “course structure”. It has the same texture as watercolor paper and it’s simply sublime. The details that you see in the highlights and shadows are beautiful, and gives the image a sense of three dimensionality that other paper simply cannot.
It was almost a pity to frame these pieces as it felt like it took away from the sensorial experience of the paper, and how the light influences what you see as it hits it or is reflected from it. And yes, the texture of the paper on your fingertips even feels lovely (although I don’t recommend ‘feeling up’ your prints).
Our paper is museum grade which has 82 years’ longevity if displayed framed under glass or 132 years if displayed framed with a UV filter. (I’d like to see a tablet survive that long. And absolutely no charging required ;)
I’m so very proud of our final product. I wish there was a way that I could have each of you over so that you could see with your own eyes the difference between seeing our work in person versus on a digital screen (preferably with a glass of wine, and your favourite song playing in the background).
In an age where we tend to value things on the cheap because they are fast, convenient and fulfill our immediate desires, we often forget the beauty that comes with craftsmanship, quality and longevity. It’s difficult to remember amongst the clutter, the noise and all the various things that vie for our attention what it is that truly speaks to us, restores us from our weariness and makes us marvel again. In a digital age, something real is so worth the investment.
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