Robin Siegel

BY Elisabeth Biondi, March 2, 2018

It was love at first sight when New Yorker Robin Siegel visited La Tagnière, a small town in southeast Burgundy, France. Little did she know then that it would become a long-term relationship. Siegel first visited the town when she went to see a distant relative who had moved there from Paris. She has been back to visit La Tagnière seven times in five years and photographed many of the tiny town’s inhabitants as well as the town itself and the surrounding countryside. La Tagnière counts 242 residents, one grocery, one restaurant, a one-room schoolhouse, and a church. Life there is the opposite of Siegel’s busy Manhattan existence. She relishes the beautiful countryside, admires how people care for each other, appreciates their traditional lifestyle, loves the food – all of which comes through in her photographs. She has been accused of being a Francophile, an allegation she accepts with a smile. Siegel started photographing in 2001, after a career as a graphic designer and an art director. She credits her teachers, especially those at the ICP school, where she took classes after she decided to change her career path, as a great influence. But by the time she started photographing La Tagnière in 2013, she had already developed her own slightly off-center way of looking at things. Her pictures are quirky and spontaneous and often zero in on what seem to be unimportant details, making the mundane beautiful – like her extremely soft-focus close-up of a rose in which the wall, rather than the flower, is in focus. She does not intellectualize her photography, but relies on her intuition and her in-the-moment response to what she sees. The images are light and airy, charmingly French. I think of Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, or Francois Truffaut’s Jules & Jim – without the tragic ending. They are lovely – and technically imperfect. She says it took her years to have the courage to make imperfectly composed images; they may not follow the classic rules, but they reflect her deep affection for her charmingly unconventional subjects.