Rachel Cobb: Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence

Rachel Cobb Photography

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Rachel Cobb and Bill Buford
Rachel Cobb Photography
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Mistral is a portrait of Provence seen through its legendary wind. Photographer Rachel Cobb illustrates the effects of this relentless force of nature that funnels down France’s Rhône Valley, sometimes gusting to hurricane strength. The mistral is not just a weather phenomenon: it is an integral part of the fabric of Provençal life impacting its architecture, agriculture, landscape and culture. Houses have few or no windows on the northwest, windward side and the main entrance on the southern, sheltered side. Rows of trees lining fields create windbreaks to shield crops. Artists have long been drawn to the area for the clear skies that follow a mistral. Nobody who lives or spends time in the region can escape the mistral. It is everywhere yet nowhere to be seen. How do you photograph the wind? With images of a leaf caught in flight, grapevines lashed by powerful gusts (“You can taste the wine better when there’s a mistral,” a winemaker says), a bride tangled in her veil, and even spider webs oriented to withstand the wind. Out of thin air Cobb makes us feel the unseen.

Including an introduction by Bill Buford and an excerpt from Paul Auster about his life in Provence. Cobb draws from writing by Jean Giono, Frédéric Mistral and others. The book is designed by Yolanda Cuomo Design, NYC.