It’s been just over a week since I returned from Sweden, and it feels like a sweet distant memory that jumps into my mind a few times a day. I catch myself daydreaming about sitting on our little private dock over the lake in the high sun, feeling my skin start to prickle and burn but having too much fun to ever go inside. Jumping into the icy black depth to cool off, and then quickly climbing out when a fish (unidentified object) stirred against our legs. Dinners outside, under a sun that watched over us until late into the night and mornings with sleepy eyes and steaming hot coffee on the pot. But most of all I remember the laughter, so much laughter. Memories that I can never forget.
I decided to join the First We Eat workshop after feeling that I had finally outgrown my old camera, but I had little idea of where to start with an actual DSLR. The thought of shooting in manual made my brain hurt a little, and when Evas' newsletter arrived in my inbox it felt like the stars were aligning and I knew I had to sign up. And boy, was it worth every last penny.
With my swanky (rented) camera in tow, I set off early on a misty Saturday morning from London to Copenhagen to meet up with a few of the other attendees, and take a train across the bridge, all the way through Sweden until we reached a cute little town called Växjö.
After many emails back and forth and a whole host of introductions it was finally nice to put faces to the names behind the emails. We took up camp in a little restaurant on a nearby lake, ordered a bottle of wine and got to know each other before Carey came to take us up to the big red house. Pulling up outside I was awestruck with how beautiful the girls had made it; freshly picked wildflowers in random bottles lined the sweeping old wooden table that led down to the lake, linens hung from the ceilings in the house, and welcome packages wrapped in cloth and twine awaited us on our pillows. I imagine it was a little how Harry felt when he first came to Hogwarts.
We finally settled in and made our way to the table outside for a dinner of peppers stuffed with quinoa, garlic and spices and a strawberry, basil and tomato gazpacho with freshly cracked pepper. To finish it was a berry crisp that was just so delicious. Everyday Izy (the queen of crumbles) would manage to ‘throw together’ these incredible desserts while the rest of us looked on in wonder, some people are just born with it. We ate, laughed and let the excitement build for the coming days. And that night, after a long day and with a full belly, I slept like a log.
The following days were a blur of lessons, styling and outdoor photography with an abundance of delicious food to work our way through. I was finally able to let go of automatic and switch to manual with the help of everyone around me. My absolute favourite moments were when we worked together using fresh produce and props in the photography. I truly love it when pictures have people in them, it’s as though they come alive and you can feel yourself in that moment. It adds a depth which I think comes from that human connection and touch, suddenly everything looks so much more real and tangible.
Working with Renee was the best, she’s like the little sister that I never had and it was simply impossible to take a bad picture with her in it.
I’ve come away having learnt so many useful skills, and finally the confidence to go it alone. But the thing that surprised me the most was meeting such an incredible group of women to share this with. We connected in so many ways, all there with the same passions and ideas, bouncing off one another. Telling our stories into the night and captivated by everyone else’s. No one bats an eyelid when you stand on the chairs (table) to get the perfect shot, and no one minds standing around for 10 minutes, chasing the light whilst holding a heavy dish of fresh watermelon and figs. Breakfasts are created like works of art and you’re only ever the odd one out if you don’t take a picture. Finally, I feel as though I have found my people.
My mind is filled with memories of sneaking off into the moss filled woods with Renee, when others were resting in the afternoon, still desperate to keep taking pictures and learn more, searching the house for rowing oars to take our little white boat onto the lake, leisurely breakfasts laughing at the previous evenings antics, late night trips to our little wooden sauna and jumping into the lake at midnight to cool down, telling horror stories well into the dark of the night, tastes that I have never experienced before and people I will never forget.
Sweden, you’re forever etched in my mind.