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Words & Photography by Thomas Ling

Our friend Thomas Ling loves a European adventure.

We know this because we crossed paths in south west France six years ago and shared his trip via one of our first ever vignette submissions.

Thomas is a practicing photographer, artist, and educator. He splits his time between Adelaide and the coastal town of Port Elliot, South Australia, hence why his euro adventures are few and far between. Sadly we missed Thomas this summer. So this lovely recap below will have to do.

“It’s 9:00am, the apartment window is open and there’s a gentle breeze floating in. Across the street a woman hangs out her towels on the rooftop courtyard while sipping a freshly peculated coffee. Downstairs local delivery trucks jostle for space in the street to stock up the soon to be inundated café’s, restaurants, and bars. Down the road in the small protected harbor of the fishing village the local men slowly dry off from an early morning swim. There’s a calm feeling that today, like yesterday, is going to be another dreamscape spent under the warm, European summer sun. 

Traveling through Europe, especially the Mediterranean, during the summer months of July and August is an interesting scene. The weather is incredible, the food some of the best you’ll eat anywhere in the world, Aperol’s are drunk like cordial at any hour of the day, and it feels like everyone else in Europe is doing the same thing. Who could blame them? Rolling hills, villages nestled into cliffsides, thousands of years of history, sparse dusty towns meeting the turquoise blue coves, effortless class, vintage convertibles, a dash of Gucci, undeniably attractive men and women. Greece, Italy, Spain, France (amongst others), it is hard to explain with words the beauty of this part of the world. Hopefully these photographs can do it some justice. After a six-year hiatus, we had the chance to return to the cultural epicentre of our western Anglo European heritage. One thing is for certain, it is hard to forget how visually and culturally stimulating the European summer really is. 

I love Europe in the summer. It’s like a young crush, fresh, exciting, and always enticing you back for more. There’s a romanticism to imagining the elite traveling the Mediterranean coast in the 40’s and 50’s. It is hard not to have the imagery of Slim Aarons in the back of your mind as you walk the small cobblestone streets, suck back Vogue Blue’s at packed bars, or take an afternoon break at any of the picturesque swimming holes. He knew that highly sought after sense of elegance; famously making a career out of “photographing attractive people who were doing attractive things in attractive places.” There is something about the graceful style of the local Europeans and their zest for life that can’t be extinguished, it is a breath of fresh air, fresh perspective and appreciation of the daily values that can’t be diminished. Hemingway summed it up when he said “sometimes I think we only half live over here. The Italians live all the way.”

The evenings epitomise Hemingway’s reflection on Italy, as with much of the Mediterranean or West Coast of Europe. Holiday months are peak season for spotting some of the most confusing human behaviour, especially in busy zones. Regardless, afternoons are undoubtably spent sipping cheap beers while people watching in the sun. As the sea breeze fills in, and your shoulders begin to become crusty and pink with a healthy coating of sunscreen and sea salt, it’s time to start thinking about dinner. Cue aperitif. Not just a drink with complimentary snacks, but a stiff cocktail designed to prepare the stomach to eat and drink more later, what an incredible concept. As the sun sets and it is time to eat, follow the narrow streets towards the coast and wander into a cliffside restaurant serving some of the freshest local seafood cooked and served by multiple generations of the same family. Forget restrictive liquor laws, wash it all down with home-made limoncello, grappa, cognac, or whatever your poison. Whilst cuisines change across regions, this scene is surprisingly common throughout towns and villages. 

This is why traveling and photographing is so important for me, photography as a way of seeing and experiencing the world. Beneath the hedonistic layers of consumption, vanity, and a highly curated Instagram presence, there’s endless lessons to learn from these moments of time. The value of community and family is present over and over again, time spent sharing meals, sharing wine, and sharing stories from the day. It is hard not to miss the value of slowing down, tradition, and doing thing properly. Food is made from scratch, there’s often limited ingredients with only the best produce in some of the most incredible meals you’ll eat, and families have an immense amount of pride in their traditions which have been passed down through generations. Arguably, this is evident in Australia, but not to the extent of our European brothers and sisters. It’s not cheap, but if you have an open mind and a sense of curiosity, the investment in travel pays dividends. Hopefully this series of photographs is the motivation needed to start funnelling away cash to book flights next year.”

©Wasted Talent Magazine
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