Handmade advent calendar.

Sarlat Christmas Market

The beautifully presented and colourful Christmas market in Sarlat livens up the tourist city after the sunny weather has long since disappeared. Continuing my theme of photojournalistic coverage of the region, I headed on down to the marketplace to take some photos.

I had two main aims for my photography this week. I wanted to present the market itself, showing the general installation as well as some of the decorative detail that is designed to create a festive feel. My second (much more difficult) aim was to capture some images of the products and traders that occupy the cheery wooden chalets.

For the second aim, I wanted to avoid taking awkward ‘shoot and run’ images by taking the time to enage with the traders themselves. By engaging them in conversation, finding out a little bit about them, their products and their impression of the Christmas market before asking their permission to take photographs, I hoped to get more natural, composed images.

I originally visited the market on its opening weekend and found that there were way too many proper customers around to be able to talk to the stallholders about anything other than business. Lesson learned, I returned mid-week to try again.

I’m still fairly new to this aspect of photography (most of my image making to date has involved friends and family who will easily give in to having their photo taken) therefore it was with some trepidation that I approached my first subject (victim). I generally like meeting and talking to new people and my experience as a travelling salesmen certainly helped me develop these skills. However, in my mind there’s a significant difference between simply talking to people and asking them if I can take their photo. For my first encounter, the conversation was interesting but I unfortunately received my first refusal on the photos.

The stall I had chosen was selling handmade arts and crafts produced in developing countries and sold by a German fair-trade association. The stall holder, Hervé, was warm and engaging when presenting the association and its products but felt he ought to consult the owners of the association before agreeing to let someone photograph anything to do with it. I think his viewpoint is fair enough and he promised to email the organisers over the weekend if I would return next week to see him again.

The next stall that caught my eye was selling handmade, organic soaps . It was owned by Soleya who exhibits at a number of markets around the area under the name ‘La Petite Marchande de Savons‘. Having spent four years perfecting her own recipes for making soap, she is currently selling soaps made by others until laboratory testing on her own creations is approved by the state.  You can see photos of Soleya and her soaps below and can find out more on her blog using the link above.

Once Soleya had let me photograph her and her stall, I was on a roll as three others followed suit and let me photograph them and their products. As you can see below they were the ‘music man’ who sells quirky instruments and beautiful handmade wooden objects; a couple from the Basque country who were selling products such as cheeses, sauces and chutneys invigorated with the ‘piment d’Espelette‘ and a beekeeper named Lionel Petit who makes a honey, almond and chocolate delicacy in the shape of a traditional ‘saucisson’.

I am reasonably happy with the resulting photos, it was a brilliant experience and I certainly learnt a few things. However, I also think that my nerves got to me a little and the photos are not as great as I would have hoped. I guess nobody gets it perfect first time and I shall have to persist if I want to get better. Maybe I will get a second chance with Hervé next week.

Thanks for looking and if you have time, let me know what you think below.

4 thoughts on “Sarlat Christmas Market

  1. Nice photo’s. I am surprised that you were nervous. You must need more practice…… 🙂

    Keep on taking these opportunities and you’ll be so confident it will get to the point where your “victims” will soon be thinking that if they don’t let you take pictures they will be losing out on something.

    1. Thanks Dad,

      In all honesty, no matter how good my French is, a part of me is still convinced that when I meet someone new in France, I’m going to spout some incomprehensible nonsense and look like a womble. It has been a while since that actually happened but you never know. I think it’s the same fear that stops beginners practising their foreign languages with natives and ironically stops them progressing to the stage where they are no longer paralysed by the thought of not being understood.

    1. Bonjour Laura,

      Merci du petit mot et d’avoir figurer sur la photo.

      N’hesitez pas à me proposer d’autres projets si vous en aurez en tête 🙂

      A bientôt

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