Interview: Henrie Richer – fine art photographer and artist
Welcome to the ‘MyFrenchLife™ Member Interview Series’ – interviews with savvy Francophiles from all around the world capturing their passion, secrets and tips, all about their favourite places in France, from Paris to Gascony.
- As you read these interviews you’ll become immersed in the individual member’s ‘French Life’.
- Learn why France is so special in their eyes & how they came to be so passionate about France.
- Discover so much more about France in the process and
- also you’ll personally benefit from the tips & discoveries these savvy Francophile frequent travellers generously share.
Introducing Henrie Richer
I was born and brought up in the Kent countryside, known as ‘the garden of England’ in the south east of England. I’ve never enjoyed town living.
My great desire as a child was to be an artist, a painter like my mother, who brought her artist’s aesthetic to every aspect of our lives. However, I thought I had little talent for art, so I chose a safe option and obtained a BA Hons in French and Italian and after graduating promptly moved to France to marry my very own Frenchman.
We now live in the countryside near Paris, in a little village, surrounded by fields and woods, with our two cats and dog, who have replaced our grown up daughters.
My life and my creativity
Like many creative people and introverts, I have sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) which means that my brain has, “an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli”.
Most people instinctively block out stimuli from their senses that are of no interest or do not represent a danger. My engineer husband can walk through a crowded shopping centre/street and think of nothing but where he is heading. A person with a SPS personality is open to and finds it very difficult to block, all the sites and sounds that surround us, which is very tiring. I hear, see, read and register almost every single thing that surrounds me.
This is why I live in a quiet village in the countryside, west of Paris, in the Yvelines departement.
I have the best of both worlds, the calm and beauty of the countryside and everything that the city offers, just a train ride away. I usually go into Paris once a week, to do business, see friends, eat out and visit exhibitions.
My village dates back to the 11th century, so it is rather picturesque and it is surrounded by farmland, where crops are grown and where I walk my dog, Tess, everyday.
Having an SPS personality does have its advantageous, as I tend to see details, before I see the bigger picture. So, on my country walks I will naturally notice drops of dew on a spider’s web, the shape of blossom against the sky, shadows of trees on a wall, and I capture and share these simple daily pleasures on my Facebook account.
My morning and afternoon walks are an essential part of my routine, two interludes in my day when I can be present in the moment, both exercising my body and relaxing my mind.
Did you know that green is the only colour in the spectrum that requires no effort for the eyes and brain to register?
This is why it is so calming and that there is much talk of green or eco-therapy in the media these days.
Unfortunately, there are no shops in our little village, only one very good restaurant and there are only a few buses, so having a car is essential.
My second life: fascination, challenges and creativity
As a young bride, living in Paris, I had very different plans for what I wanted to do with my life.
I secretly wanted to be an artist like my mother, as I’ve said, but believed I had little talent, so I’d settled on teaching English Literature at university and writing fiction in my spare time. Then, when I was just twenty five, our eldest daughter was born handicapped, both intellectually and physically. So, looking after her and raising our second daughter, took up most of my energy and time for the next twenty years.
When our daughter moved to an adult care home, nearby relatively recently, I was so exhausted and burnt out, that I did nothing except the essential stuff of daily life for a year or more. Then, I had to decide what I was going to do with the second part of my life. I’m fortunate in that thanks to my husband’s hard work, I didn’t have to take a salaried job, if I didn’t want to.
So, I decided to explore my creativity and I took writing workshops with the American organisation WICE, local drawing and painting classes and photography workshops with American photographer Meredith Mullins.
It was photography that captured my imagination and it has been my main activity for five years now.
December 2018, I very nearly gave up trying to make a business with my photography. But thanks to the support and encouragement of family and friends, I decided to ‘niche down’ and to ‘follow my fascinations’, as the writer Elizabeth Gilbert recommends in her great book Big Magic.
My personal fascination is with the abstract possibilities of photography.
I use my camera to paint with the light, but I am also branching out into painting with paint.
I have recently launched a new website HenrieRicher.com.
There I’m able to showcase:-
- my abstract landscapes and other abstract themes,
- my sources of inspiration in art and nature and
- my joy in living a slow and creative life here in the French countryside.
My current abstract work has been attracting attention and recognition.
- I have two new series of abstract photographic images in the works and,
- I plan to sell painted art work on paper and perhaps even on canvas in the future.
- I am also available for photo shoots, specialising mainly on food photography and portraits and
- I’m open to requests for personal portfolios.
Paris: the first time
I first visited Paris on a family holiday, when I was eight years old.
I felt a kinship with the city.
I love the Haussmannian architecture of Paris, which can seem grey, but when the sun comes out, the stone is a wonderful soft sand colour. It seems to me to be a feminine city.
We stayed at the Hotel de Seine, which still exists, and I even ordered breakfast for my older brother and sister and myself, in French.
I promised myself that I would one day speak French like a French person and live in Paris. I have no idea why, except that my paternal grandfather was a francophile and my aunt was married to a Frenchman, when I was a baby, but then divorced.
I had only visited Paris three times, by the time I met my future husband at the age of eighteen, but the city had stayed with me as an obsession.
A passion for Parisian parks: peace and beauty
I love any park, because they are small havens of peace and beauty in any city.
I admire French style parks for the symmetrical designs, fountains, alleys of trees and lines of statues, that appeal to my need for order, but I also love the English style parks that have a more natural design with swathes of grass, abundant flower beds and statues hiding in the vegetation.
I especially love the parks in Paris.
The ‘Parc de Bercy’, in the east of Paris is unusual!
It’s off the beaten track and never crowded, perfect for an afternoon get away from the hustle and bustle. It was created in 1994-1997 as one of the major architectural projects of French President François Mitterrand on the site of former wine depots in the working class part of the city.
- the ‘Romantic Garden’, which includes fishponds and dunes;
- the ‘Flowerbeds’, dedicated to plant life and
- the ‘Meadows’, an area of open lawns shaded by tall trees.
My favourite area and restaurant
Most of the arrondissements have their own charm, but my favourite is the Marais, the old Paris, mainly because when my husband and I were still students, we used to stay in a friend’s flat in rue St Paul. So, I have very fond memories of our time there and it’s fairly quiet and calm in the old streets.
One of my favourites restaurants that the friend with the rue St Paul flat took me to some thirty years ago and where I still go, is Le Loir Dans Le Théiere. It’s off the beaten track, quirky decor, good food and not overpriced. The lemon meringue pie is a work of art.
Strolling and other tips
- Walking is the best way to discover Paris, which is relatively small compared to most capital cities. Rue Dénoyez, is always fun for the street art, which changes regularly. I love to stroll around the back side of the Montmartre hill as well.
- I prefer the small streets and calm areas of the city.
- Queue less by buying tickets for museums etc in advance.
- Beware of pick pockets, be street wise and you’ll have no problems.
What do I like to buy in Paris?
These are my favourite purchases in Paris, in no special order:
- Palais des Thés teas. I’ve tried many specialist teas, but this make is my favourite and the story of the founder, François-Xavier Delmas, a tea globe trotter, is very interesting.
- Bathsheba, my plaster skull, that I found in a rough antique shop, somewhere in the 11th.
- I love museum shops and like to buy note pads, birthday presents and jewellery there. There’s a big one on the ground floor of the Petit Palais and the café there has a wonderful small garden.
- My season card to the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, (MEP).
- A heavy linen tote bag from Poîlane bakery, great for grocery shopping, traveling or as a book bag.
- I do love macaroons. I don’t have a favourite make, but I often get them at Le Nôtre patisseries.
- My season card to the Chateau de Versailles, as I live near there now.
A recent magical Parisian experience
On July 14th last year, 2018, my husband and I were invited by friends for dinner at the Rotary club, which is on the Place de la Concorde. After dinner, we were able to watch the firework display at the Tour Eiffel from the club’s roof top terrace.
It was truly magical and only the second time that I’ve seen the show live.
Recommendations: Inspiration and exhibitions
I go to exhibitions regularly, as art is one of the main sources of inspiration for my own work.
It’s a terrible cliché, but I regularly visit the Museée de l’ Orangerie or the Musée Marmottan Monet, to gaze at the Monet paintings. Seeing his work, being able to examine each brush stroke, or admire the colours from further away, is one of my greatest pleasures in life.
The collection in the basement of the Marmottan Monet, is just stunning and never crowded. The temporary exhibitions, upstairs, and the interior itself are always a treat.
And, there’s a great restaurant, just up the road, that I usually go to called La Gare, built in the converted La Muette railway station.
My French self – am I different here?
And finally… I think that one of the reasons I wanted to leave England from an early age, was so that I could be myself and not what people expected me to be. In the English class system, as soon as you speak, you are catalogued and people know where you grew up, what education you had and what class you come from.
Here, in France, I of course still have an accent, but otherwise no one can guess anything about me from the way I speak.
I admire the Republican values of France.
And if you’d like to know more about Henrie Richer:
- You can visit her new website HenrieRicher.com – there you can view and buy Henrie’s fine art.
- You can follow Henrie’s instagram account @HenrieRicher – in English & French – check out the free wallpaper and much more.
- You can also connect with Henrie (the photographer) on Facebook and personally here.
Henrie, thank you so much for sharing your very personal challenges as well as your success. This second part of your life is sounding very exciting – we look forward to seeing more results of your creativity.
To read other MyFrenchLife member interviews of inspiring Francophiles:
1. Keith Van Sickle
2. Ray Johnstone
3. Henrie Richer – this one
4. Janet Hulstrand
5. Virginia Jones
Images: copyright all Henrie Richer Awards and Press:
1. Dodho.com: Horizons by Henrietta Richer
“I´m not interested in illustrating my time. Illustrating the reality of my time is limiting, it does not liberate me. I see no point in adding to the plethora of largely negative images of our time’s tragedies.”
2. Dodho.com: Walls and Windows by Henrietta Richer
“This series “Walls and Windows” was shot in an apartment in Budapest, where we were staying for the New Year 2017/18. The apartment was newly renovated and each room was painted a different colour and there were many windows and paintings.”
3. Photoawards.com: IPA 2018 Honorable Mention – Henrietta Richer Title: Walls and Windows, Budapest, Hungary.
Categories: Fine Art, Abstract