Tag Archives: being an intern

Ode from our Intern:: Meet Adri!

Ciao a tutt*,

My name’s Adri Tan, and I was this year’s summer intern at La Fortezza. I just graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in Computer Science and Italian Studies in May, and I found the La Fortezza internship to be the perfect transition from school to work. After having studied in Bologna last year, I was looking forward to immersing myself in the language once again, and my summer in the historic territory of Lunigiana definitely gave me the opportunity to exercise my conversational fluency.

My daily tasks included helping our chef, Phillip Meeker, prepare meals for guests during workshops, taking care of the outdoor plants, and figuring out the odds and ends to make everything run smoothly at La Fortezza. Beyond that, my fondest memories were my translation work for Annette as well as our artist in residence, Steve McKenzie, and getting to know some of the locals that live their quiet lives in this beautiful countryside.

As a photographer, I always have my camera on me, and I’d like to share a few of the photos of the experiences I had and the people I met:

Agriturismo Cà Vidè

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In a small village of Caprognano, situated in the mountains of Tuscany, two sisters Francesca and Sara operate a restaurant called Agriturismo Cà Vidè. Their family has been the sole occupants of this quiet village since the 1700s, and the sisters manage not only the restaurant but also the production of olive oil and wine. During my time in Fivizzano, I went to Cà Vidè for both lunch as well as dinner, and their corn-based focaccia is so incredible that I almost ate the whole bag while waiting for the main courses.

The China Clementi Factory

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During the second week in June, we went on a tour to the China (pronounced key-nah) Clementi factory, owned by the Clementi family that also owns the oldest pharmacy in the town of Fivizzano. Annette’s friend, Federica, gave us a wonderful tour through the factory and explained the painstaking process of maturation of the digestif.

I helped a bit with translating the tour for the rest of the workshop guests, and we learned a lot about how carefully monitored and balanced the drums are to produce a consistent flavor that truly speaks to the artisanal history of the liquor. As a small portion of each batch is left in the drums, each bottle of China Clementi is augmented by the remnants of dozens of years of maturation. We ended the tour with a cocktail of China Clementi and pomegranate juice, which I very much enjoyed as someone who loves bitter tastes.

Hiking in the Apuan Alps

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Last but not least, I drove to Equi Terme on a free day to go on an ~8km hike in the Apuan Alps. The Equi Gorge, where I started the hike, is known for its unusual landscape as a narrow valley incision that comes from the glacier and river modelling processes in the in the quaternary period. It has a unique geological makeup of marble, cavernous limestone, moraine deposits, and more. In particular, I came across a marble quarry adjacent to my trail and later heard some explosions from the site as they were working.

In Italy, all trails are marked with red, white, and red stripes, and I made the mistake of wearing shorts as the trails are certainly not as well-maintained as those in the US. Upon meeting an older Italian couple a bit into my hike, I was reprimanded for my outfit choice and was then advised to wear long pants next time I go hiking in Italy. We all got a bit lost going up the mountains but figured out how to get back on the trail. The trail passes through a beautifully-reconstructed village called Ugliancaldo that is home to only 18 inhabitants according to the most recent census, and ended in a loop back to Equi Terme. Before heading back and concluding my successful day trip, I cooled off in the Equi Terme streams while having lunch.


Thanks Annette for this opportunity! Starting a new chapter of my life in Brooklyn will certainly be a change of pace compared to my two months living at La Fortezza, but I’m grateful for this Italian summer of incredible food and new experiences.

Non vedo l’ora di tornare!

Adri Tan
IG: @atangerinee

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being #behindthescenes :: the rules for aspiring photostylists

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Sometimes you see me post #bts behind the scenes photos as I am working on styling jobs.

I love a pretty mess, and when you’re on set, pretty messes happen regularly, but sometimes they are not so pretty. One of the things that is most important when you work as a stylist is logistics. That means you have to be super organized. I cannot tell you how many times I have people want to follow me and when I tell them to organize and load props, they completely fall apart. ALL my interns for the most part want to “style.” When I explain to them that the “styling” is the minor part of our job, they NEVER seem to understand until much later down the road.

So for all you interns and stylists in training out there, here are a few rules for aspiring photostylists to think about before delving into the world of production and styling:

Ask yourself these questions::

1. Am I organized? Clients expect you to be organized and have everything at your fingertips on a photo shoot.

2. Am I physically fit? As a stylist your are a schlepper; you will be carrying, loading, unloading, and moving large pieces of furniture and backdrops, so workout. It’s imperative to your work.

3. Am I a good listener? Can’t tell you how many times I have asked an intern to do something, and they don’t hear me and mess up.

4. Am I a problem solver? Logistics and problem solving are the key component to being a great producer/stylist way before being creative!!!  Being creative is the easy part.

5. Am I patient? No you will not be touching the set to style for about 3 years. Learning to style takes patience, and in this “instant” generation, that’s a really hard concept to grasp.

Quick true story:: I recently took someone along on a shoot. She/he had never been on a “real photo shoot” before and made 3 big mistakes:

1.When I said load “your” car and head to the location ahead of me and unload, she/he loaded my car instead  of theirs and headed to the studio ahead of me. She/he was not doing #3: being a good listener or #4: being a problem solver.

2. In the middle of the shoot, we had our photo subject pouring Champagne…mind you the subject had been an experienced pourer. My new intern took it upon herself/himself to jump in and “show” our subject “How to pour Champagne”; a cringe worthy move that made the whole team and the subject super uncomfortable. Lesson here: Don’t jump in as the expert. You’re the intern. Stand aside, observe, and be quiet.

3.Later in the day the intern asked me if she/he should style up a a shot? WHAT??? “Why sure, I really want to wait around for a couple hours watching while you style up a shot for one of my clients. Um, no thank you.” I was gobsmacked at the arrogance. This person thought they could just waltz in having never been on a shoot, and having never styled in their life??? No.

Final question:

6. Are you willing to shut up? When you’re on a shoot as an intern, your JOB is to help. That means clean-up, be aware, be organized, and BE QUIET. Your opinion is not needed. If you have styling questions for me, save them. I am happy to talk about the shoot as we are loading up.

I know this all sounds very harsh, but lately with the interns and people that want to “follow” me, I have to be blunt. These are my clients, and your behavior on set is a reflection on me. Be professional, and you’ll be invited back. For all you stylists out there wanting to learn, remember it takes time to learn a skill, especially with a profession with a million tips and tricks like styling.

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Justin has been my styling assistant for over 4 years. He’s an amazing example of someone that is willing to put in his time and understands the value of being patient. I am happy to say that he will be styling all summer for one of my clients while I am in Italy teaching my styling and photography workshop, and I am sure he will shine and style with confidence and ease. I am so proud of him.

Just remember, assisting is worth all the time you invest;  it will benefit you greatly. I have seen so many people come in and out of my styling life, and the ones that stay the longest really thrive and go on to have great styling producing careers.

Let me know if you have any questions about styling as a career; I am happy to answer them because ultimately my goal is to help all those who want to pursue this amazing and creatively fulfilling career.



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