some more regional magazine work 

We picked up a stack of magazines from the studio over the weekend that included a note from my wonderful editor:

   
I was dispatched last month to meet a writer in Cecil County, MD to photograph farmer Robin Way and her circa 1700s cruelty-free, nonGMO, organic, grass fed, non pesticide working farm Rumbleway. Here are a few of the many images I took there that were published as part of a great profile written about Rumbleway.

  
Robin Way has run the farm with her husband since the 1990s.

 
Local artist Bill Dunlop painted this mural to greet visitors as they drive up to Rumbleway Farm.

   
An intern collects eggs from a mobile hen house. 

Komorebi

  
The Brandywine River. Has nurtured, inspired, and been the backdrop for generations of fine artists in southern Chester County, PA. The house where i live backs up to it and a few inches out of frame is a fantastic and simple old wooden tree swing that invites you to kick your legs out over this river of great heritage.

Autumnal Mums

It’s that time of year again! I bought purple mums to greet our guests at a wonderful little soirée we threw at the studio a couple of weekends back. The stunning marmalade-colored mums were given to us that night by our favorite friends Chris+Albert as a host gift. 

We mixed and sipped and mingled and then all headed to Longwood Gardens to see my friend’s brilliant light and sound installation “Nightscape”. It’s gotten incredible press and is only up for a few more weeks- a Must See!  More info: http://longwoodgardens.org/nightscape
 

catskills gravity

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

   
 

  My pistol of a great aunt Freya from Amsterdam. She grew up in nazi occupied Holland. She makes award-winning dandelion wine, is a consummate storyteller, sharp wisecracker, and is a well-read, multi-lingual, vibrant, inspiring, formidable spirit. There really aren’t enough words to describe the All of her! 
 
 
Great aunt Bunny, her twin sister (my paternal grandmother), their brother in front of the little chapel on the Karsch family farm in upstate NY, early 1930s)

   
The little chapel on the Karsch family farm today, 2015

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It’s really cool inside, the family has Christmas Eve service annually and hold occasional memorial and wedding services there

 
Twins, their brother, and my great grandmother on the family farm I visited every summer growing up. Apparently, the twins worked the farm as their father preferred to play music and on any instrument around. My grandmother finally “escaped” the farm to go to Temple University in Philly to become a nurse. To this day she’s still a hard working woman and my favorite pen pal. Her “little” brother- my well-spoken great uncle Willard- and wife Freya reside on the land now.  Willard rebuilt the house pictured, preserving many of its original elements. 
  

Mural in Middleburgh, NY

   
  
   
  My second great grandmother Dorothy (first one passed away before I met her and my great grandfather remarried) lived here in town for years and I stayed with her often as a young girl. It’s just ten minutes’ drive from the family farm up on the mountain.
 
Here’s lookin at you, Kid  


Next- to make it full-circle to my birthplace of Stuttgart (when there was still a West Germany) to reconnect with the maternal side of my family. 

  
My very first passport as a German import – ha!!

  
Me with my EU / German passport 

Up to 100 wishes an hour

  

This is a screenshot from the lovely Sky Guide™ app (download it if you don’t have it already- it’s magical).
 

We enjoyed a sweet 3:55AM shooting star date and saw more than 20 brilliant meteors in a half hour! We sat in lawn chairs near the big open field across from the house and, necks craning in the inky small hours, counted.

I’ve adored the Perseids shower since I was a little girl summering with family in the Catskills. Although in southeastern Pennsylvania we’re pretty much at sea level unlike in the mountains of upstate New York, the meteors and their long champagne trails were still very visible. 

As a girl in the Catskills, I have vivid memories of being so close to the shimmering firmament I felt as though I could reach a hand up and pluck wishes directly from it, or that the effervescent glitterings would come to land in my hair and on my eyelashes like pixie dust. We were so close to the sky on the mountainside and it was stunning, breathtaking, ethereal.

Being in PA was special and surreal for other reasons. The early sounds along the Brandywine River were riveting. We listened to barn owls in the trees call hauntingly to one another as bull frogs croaked in unison down on the banks of the river. The air was refreshing and brisk at the 4:00 hour and the field behind us smelled sweet and alive. 

The Earth has music for those who listen. 

                       George Santayana

At first we sat looking over the house, northeast toward West Chester and found many fiery meteors draping their trails over the rooftop, but soon realized facing south and west toward Kennett Square afforded an even livilier view. The meteors were almost countless, spectacular in their number and intensity.

If you missed seeing the Perseids this morning, do get up and do it tomorrow; a phenomenon like this is worth a bit of lost sleep. It’s the stuff of life 🎆
Here are a couple of informative links about it:

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/perseids.cfm
http://www.iflscience.com/space/dont-miss-annual-perseid-meteor-showers

New York, New York

Enjoyed an unforgettable couple of days in the big apple with an important, beautiful (and camera shy) girlfriend of mine. We stood mere feet away from U2 at Madison Sq Garden (eeeeeee!!!), walked the Brooklyn Bridge, took a ferry ride to see the skyline from the lower Manhattan perspective, strolled through a heavenly italian market in Chelsea (Eataly!) and revisited Ground Zero together, having not been back since everything unfolded around us there on 9/11/01. It was thrilling, deeply memorable, and cathartic. 

   

South Philadelphia

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

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

Three chili peppers, some rocks, a honeybun and three cigars

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

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.

Zuppa Toscana, a recipe for staying warm

While spring is struggling to maintain altitude in the northeast and midatlantic, we are keeping hearty soups on the menu. It was below freezing last night, will be again tonight, and again this coming weekend! Philadelphia forecasters warn that we won’t be able to put our snow shovels away for good until after April 15th! 

Here is a photo from a lighting test for an upcoming cooking shoot on an icy day in southern Chester County, PA recently. This is Chez Dejardins’ Zuppa Toscana, a similar recipe below.

    

 Zuppa Toscana 

  • 1 pound(s) Italian Sausage (spicy)
  • WE RECOMMEND Esposito’s sausage, located in the heart of Philly’s Italian Market mmm
  • 4-6 Russet Potatoes :bite sized cubes
  • Onion :minced
  • 1/4 cup(s) REAL bacon pieces
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Garlic :minced
  • 32 ounce(s) Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 bunch(es) Kale (or Swiss Chard) :destem & cut/torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup(s) Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Flour

Prep Time: 20 Minutes 
Cook Time: 5 Hours, 30 Minutes 

  1. 1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan.
  2. 2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices.
  3. 3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker.
  4. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
  5. 4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.

  6. 30 minutes before serving:
  7. 5. Mix flour into cream removing lumps.
  8. 6. Add cream and kale to the crock pot, stir.
  9. 7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly.
  10. 8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
  11. 9*. Serve with Alsace, stoke the fire in the fire place, and nosh leisurely while gazing out over the hilly serenity of quintessential horse country in southern Chester County, PA
  12.   
  13. *substitute for enjoying the best of your unique surroundings 🙂

unexpected Snow!

I am cozy, hot coffee in-hand, in my creative nook today editing last night’s event shoot while listening to Neil Finn as the snow falls softly outside- this late in March! I can’t believe I’m hearing snow plows scraping along the curvy bend outside the house. It was 65° just three days ago! Some craggy old seasons truly don’t know when to let go, move on, stop it’s petty vanity and let the new season settle in- WE ARE ALL READY for it. Your grace has withered away and you have Long overstayed. Winter, you are OVER! As Neil Finn sings in his song Recluse, you are like a “dog pissing on a statue,” trying to mark your territory and get your last shots in before delving back down below the equator. Go bully another continent! Give us fresh flourishing sun-kissed Spring! Freedom and light and colour and life-giving inhales and exhales! 

A morning glance from my personal Instagram account:  My day lily looks forlornly out at the snowy vista. She was looking forward to being planted outside this weekend but we’ll likely wait another week. 

I have seen the world turning
in time you’ll find that some things
travel faster than light
In time you’ll recognise that love is larger than life 
-Neil Mullane Finn, Faster Than Light

We got to see Neil Finn perform last year on Apr 11th at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA, front and center, and were sent home swooning on a moonbeam of love. Such a great show!