Mistral is a portrait of Provence seen through its legendary wind. Photographer Rachel Cobb illustrates the effects of this relentless wind that funnels down the Rhône Valley, periodically gusting to 120 km per hour—hurricane strength on the Beaufort wind force scale.
The region has, accordingly, adjusted to accommodate the mistral’s impact. Some houses are built the traditional way, with few or no windows on the windward side and the main entrance on the sheltered side. Heavy stones hold down terra-cotta roof tiles. Rows of trees lining fields create windbreaks to shield crops.
Cobb spent years chasing this capricious wind, challenging herself to photograph the invisible. As she became sensitive to its rhythms and effects, Cobb realized the mistral was not just a weather phenomenon; it was an integral part of the fabric of Provençal life. It was everywhere, yet always unseen.
Mistral captures this invisible force of nature through its effects: a leaf caught in flight, a bride tangled in her veil, spider webs oriented to withstand the wind and grapes lashed by powerful gusts (“You can taste the wine better when the mistral blows,” a Châteauneuf-du-Pape winemaker says). Writers have also tried their hand at conjuring this ungraspable phenomenon. Excerpts from writings by Paul Auster, Lawrence Durrell, Jean Giono and Frédéric Mistral are included in this volume, a luminous evocation of nature’s unseen power.
Photographer RACHEL COBB began her career twenty-five years ago in New York City covering news, and since then her documentary and editorial assignment work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Stern, and The Sunday Times magazine (London) in subjects ranging from herders in Mongolia, to anti-poaching tracking in South Africa, to the effects of sanctions in Iraq. Her images have been exhibited at the Miami Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, France, North Park Center in Dallas, Texas, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, the Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, Virginia and the Elizabeth Harris Gallery in New York City among other places. Her work has been recognized with a Pictures of the Year award, FOTOFusion Rising Star award, a Marty Forscher Grant for Humanistic Photography as well as a nomination for the ICP Infinity Award and has appeared in the following books: Modern Photograph: The Machine, The Body and The City from the Charles Cowles Collection, Prada Marfa by Elmgreen & Dragset, and Bosnia 1992-1995. Mistral, Cobb’s first monograph, will be published by Damiani (November 2018).