A most exquisite sunset: Lelarge-Pugeot champagne set appropriately against a French tablecloth. Much to celebrate every day, now.

After the chrysalism last night from the tempest that knocked out our electricity and relegated us to gazing at one another through the sexy glow of candles, a fellow wordsmith friend sent this, cited from http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com.

  

South Philadelphia

June 21, 2015

street art adjacent to South Philly Tap Room

Grabbed some grub at our favorite little S. Philly spot just before going in to see Sir Paul McCartney perform an incredible sold out show! We’ve attended many concerts together in the past 3.5 years, from Neil Finn to Dr. John, Jimmy Cliff to Van Morrison, and many more in between. Our first date was a Ray Davies concert! Each show is impressive and special for individual reasons but we don’t think anyone could love and respect his fans more than Macca. He gave 3 solid well-paced hours of music and anecdotes leaving the audience wanting for nothing. It was a brilliant, generous performance mere days after his 73rd birthday! 

MAWFF debrief

May 28, 2015

Two weeks ago 60+ chefs and 23 winemakers from around the world convened in seven counties in four states in the Midatlantic region on the U.S.’s east coast for the fourth annual MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival. I have had the privilege and honor of being one of a handful of photographers enlisted to help cover this marathon 4-day long festival since it began.

Here are a few humble snapshots from this photographer’s point of view:

(more images can be found on Instagram by following @Alessandra_Official)

a Night in Shangri-La in Nectar Restaurant, Berwyn PA

Von Buhl brut sparkling Riesling (Germany) started off the Night in Shangri-La dinner held as part of the 4th Annual MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival

MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival 2015 “A Night in Shangri-La” ::Third Course by Chef Laurent Leveque:: Seared New York strip and octopus carpaccio, Barolo star anise reduction, confit potato, poached shallots, morels. Paired with: 2014 Sula Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 Chateau Lagrezette Purple The Original Malbec

MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival 2015 “A Night in Shangri-La” ::Fourth Course by Chef Patrick Feury:: Tea-smoked squab, parsley and garlic sausage, rainbow Swiss chard, red beet dumplings. Paired with: 2006 Domaine Kikones Limnio, 2008 The Old Faithful Shiraz

MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival 2015 “A Night in Shangri-La” ::Fifth Course by Chef Douglas Hernandez:: Tiramisu, espresso-soaked biscuit, marscapone mousse, caramelized white chocolate, espresso sauce. Paired with: 2012 Savage White, 2013 Rioja Vega Red Tempranillo-Garnacha

        

Duncan Savage, Head Winemaker (CPV), Owner / Winemaker (SW) for Cape Point Vineyards and Savage Wines – South Africa

Eduardo Sáinz of Príncipe de Viana in Rioja, Spain and winemaker Duncan Savage of Cape Point Vineyards in Noordhoek, South Africa pose for me at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

::Second Course by Chef Gyanendra Gupta:: Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad with pine nut pesto. Paired with: 2013 Cape Point Isliedh, 2013 Hook & Ladder Chardonnay. The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

::Second Course by Chef Gyanendra Gupta:: Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad with pine nut pesto. Paired with: 2013 Cape Point Isliedh, 2013 Hook & Ladder Chardonnay. The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

::Third Course by Chef JD Morton:: English pea soup, lardo, charred ramp oil, shad roe bottarga. Paired with: 2013 Rioja Vega Red Tempranillo Garnacha, 2008 Kikones Ippeas. The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

South African winemaker Duncan Savage talks wine with the guests at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Chefs enjoying a rosé break at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Chef JD Morton plates the third course at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

A beautiful, wise old tree that deserved to be photographed 💕 The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Chef Fabio Raiola of Italy at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Chef Fabio Raiola of Italy at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

::Fourth Course by Chef Fabio Raiola:: Veal fillet with crust of beans and brown sauce with dried tomato pesto. Paired with: 2013 Chateau Lagrezette Purple The Original Malbec, 2013 [Ee’Z] Zinfandel. The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Chef Fabio Raiola of Italy at The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Chef Gérard Ménétrier of France treating the guests to the Fifth Course: Butter biscuit with caramel mousse, flambéed apples. It was paired with: 2006 Old Faithful Shiraz, 2013 Lagarde Malbec. The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival’s Winemaker’s Dinner at a private residence in southern Chester County, PA

Summer

May 23, 2015

the hammock happened tonight: it’s officially summer here!  

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.55.53 AM

Words and Photographs By Alessandra Nicole, As appeared in the spring edition of Landenberg Today, April 2015

filming of White Deer, Photo © Alessandra Nicole 2014

Three chili peppers, some rocks, a honeybun and three cigars. Four white plates containing these objects were lined up on the hardwood floor in front of a fireplace in a cozy Landenberg apartment all awaiting their screen debut and their sacrificial destiny — on the strikingly cold and misty Saturday morning when I performed in a music video, on assignment from Landenberg Today.

I was greeted at the door by the broad Cheshire Cat smile of writer/film director/musician /Renaissance man Chris Malinowski, who was creating a music video titled “White Deer” that would soon serve as part of the soundtrack for his latest film, “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir,” which has been screened at several festivals around the nation and is now available through Amazon on DVD.

I stepped through the doorway of his cottage, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, that simple step forward was as good as signing my name on the dotted line of a contract issued by a distant and unknowable Supreme Creator. Stay with me here.

After returning Malinowski’s smile, I very shyly offered my own to a small group of five other women, all strangers. Gathered to one side of the virtually empty living room, they were completely clad in black just like myself, as Malinowski’s email a week prior had requested. On the room’s other side, a man with a camera adjusted a rig, holding it belted firmly around his waist.

Filming of White Deer, Photo © Alessandra Nicole 2014

In the rain, still others were positioning a large light just outside of a bank of windows that led into the living room. A flick of a switch and Ahh: Instantly the cold, misty Saturday morning was transformed into the fantastical mind trickery that was a perfectly realistic sunny afternoon. The “sun” streamed luxuriously across the floor of the room and the women flocked toward it, smiling.

I knew little about Malinowski, beyond his unapologetically gregarious and dramatic stage performances (at times in full makeup) at the Deer Park Tavern in Newark, with his band, The Collingwood. As frontman and lead guitarist, he seemed to be a man possessed. His eyes would roll back into his head in an inner-lighted bliss.

A well-known fun fact about Malinowski is that his favorite place on earth to visit is New Orleans, and that not only does he bask in the well-known undercurrent of ・voodoo・ central to the core of the city, he channels it, often, in his creative work.

For me, it wasn’t the most absurd thing to agree to show up to the set of a music video. Years ago, I was an art student at a college in Savannah, Ga. There, I found myself participating in courageous filmmaking and acting projects, convening with my fellow students in basement coffeeshops until the small hours, fleshing out their visions. We all worked tirelessly on film shoots, propelled forward by the natural electricity of inspired artistic discourse and execution.

After college, I was a production designer on several short and lengthy projects, grim horror stories, high-concept dramas and dark comedies. I lost hours and days without realizing it while in production.

In Landenberg, I was totally in my element.

Filming of White Deer, Photo © Alessandra Nicole 2014

The six of us sat cross-legged on the floor around the white plates. We held hands. Malinowski sat in a wooden chair in a corner of the room with one more statuesque and masked woman standing at his shoulder. We fumbled with our ill-fitting masks, offering one another rolled bits of paper to keep the masks from chafing our faces.

Someone pressed ‘Play’ on a boombox that sat on the floor by the door, and suddenly, the room was filled with the haunting, melodic sound of Malinowski’s guitar on the track “White Deer.” It was the first time I heard the tone of the song, and the first time I would get a real feel for what our director was looking to achieve. The song was played with saturating volume, the tempo slow, and it cast a spell over us. I am a hyper-aware introvert and holding hands with a stranger of the same sex was a hyper-real experience on its own, but I barely noticed the camera hovering around us.

Filming of White Deer, Photo © Alessandra Nicole 2014

At first, we were to sit as still as possible. Severals takes were made. In between, we smiled, and fixed one another・s hair and masks. I was in the company of extraordinary women; it was as if the setting and the music had peeled off our earthly bodies and we were these radiant young souls. The more vulnerable and transparent one of us became about a wrinkle or an ill-placed strand of hair, the stronger we became, and the greater we were as a formed circle.

When I stole looks across the plated offerings at our knees to the ladies facing me through the ill-aligned holes in my Zorro mask, I saw our manufactured golden sunshine creating angelic halos around their heads. Something quite special was happening to us. Soon, we were on our feet, dancing in slow motion, hands waving around.

Malinowski coached us in that the footage was going to be slowed down so that we would appear to be in slow motion, but I felt that it was already happening, in that way you feel when you are aware that you・re going from merely buzzed to full-blown drunk. Although we were all clearly sober, time was slowing in the most peculiar and special way.

There was one part to the shoot left. Alhough it was raining, Malinowski asked if we would be willing to go outside and dance in the elements. I looked to the other women, and it was a universal understanding that this was the perfect evolution of the day — to ground our collective heightened spiritual experience by dancing in the rain in the cold Landenberg afternoon.

A few of us removed our shoes and decided to dance barefoot. We ran outside and gathered at a tree behind the cottage, and without any external music guiding as at all, we danced together, slowly, beneath an overcast sky while rooted to the earth beneath our tender feet. The more I trampled the frozen world beneath me, the more I felt vested by the women around me, and existence itself, to stay vibrant, new, open.

a frame from

a frame from “White Deer” by cinematographer Robert James Stuart

I left the set of Malinowski’s music video feeling transformed. His cottage and his song provided the backdrop to such a special synergy that I will not easily forget. It’s wondrous when you’re open to brand new experiences to begin with. My own reaction to life prior to this had been one of isolation, but to meet creative women who are all on the same stage, was like seeing the glow of a lighthouse after having been at sea for too long, and getting to dance with that beam of light.

I want to live in that light, to bask in that light.

Still from

a frame from “White Deer” by cinematographer Robert James Stuart

Alessandra Nicole is a writer and photographer. Her essay, “Like a Ballerina in the Air,” appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Landenberg Today. To learn more about her, visit www.alessandranicole.com. Other published essays include: “Sunlight, Held Together by Water,” which appeared in Fall 2014’s edition of Kennett Square Today magazine, and “Requiem for a Tree,” which first appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of West Chester and Chadds Ford Life magazine.

To view the “White Deer” video, visit: The Collingwood: “White Deer” Official Music Video, on YouTube.

Alessandra's article in Landenberg's 10th Anniversary edition, spring 2015

page 3 of Alessandra's article

Landenberg Today Magazine, Spring 2015

Parting Shot

April 11, 2015

I always try to grab a little snapshot of the NYC skyline after emerging from the tunnel in New Jersey.

Though the day was seasonably warm last week when we left the City, it wasn’t remarkable weather. That’s alright though, unremarkable snapshots are fun to play around with using iPhone apps and a friend of mine turned me onto one that gave me this result:

via Instagram @Alessandra_Official

So, who cares? It’s fun. Don’t judge the bad snapshots, use them to experiment. I create something, however small, daily. Sometimes an unremarkable snapshot inspires sketches, paintings, illustrations, short stories, down the line. I open my eyes and explore. That (and a little bit of love) is the stuff of life.

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