Travel: Lausanne

Words & Images: Josh Cohen

June 12 2016

I met Simon on a gig in 2010, shortly after graduating art school. Fresh from Switzerland, Simon’s english at the time was difficult to understand, and I only spoke about seven words of French, nevertheless we became fast friends.

Even though Simon and I became close, I still felt a cultural and familial disconnect, a lack of clarity as to what was at his core. How well can you truly know some one until you’ve experienced where they’ve come from? The time had come to head to Simon’s hometown in Lausanne, Switzerland and find out.

I got into Geneva in the morning on a red eye and was pretty out of it when Simon picked me up. “Bonjour!” and we were off on an hour drive to Lausanne. We headed straight to Simons favorite swimming spot around Lake Leman (Lake Geneva.) In my jet lag sleep deprived state, the bright blue lake was completely surreal, but as soon as I jumped in I came back to reality and felt completely refreshed.

After a quick bite at Simon’s childhood friend Kareem’s villa we headed back to the house where Simon grew up. A modest house on a hill with incredible sweeping views of the lake and alps. An idyllic place to grow up and nurture a creative mind.

Simon’s mom greeted me with a big hug upon arrival, she’s a fun, rambunctious, and incredibly warm woman, who’s full of life and had a lot of great things to say about everything. She also loved her cats. She loved a lot.

The next day I woke up and met Simon’s dad in the back yard. He was more reserved than Simon’s mom, with a great quirky sense of humor. He was smoking a cigarette and wearing a wild red robe he bought in Morocco on holiday, he said he only wears it on Sundays. I asked to take his photo in the garden and he told me to hold on while he grabbed something. He came out wearing a handmade cardboard crown and a scarf and said “Ok, now I’m ready for photo”. 

We headed off to Domaine Wannaz, an organic winery Simon’s grandfather started in the sixties that’s now operated by his uncle. We got drunk on some amazing blends and ate a bunch cheese before he gave us a tour of the vineyard. Then we headed back down to the lake for another dip.

Simon and I drove to the mountains Dent de Jaman for a hike. The terrain was rough and heavy clouds rolled through. Some helicopters were flying around doing search and rescue exercises which really helped give a sense of scale to the mountains.

After we finished our hike we came upon a cheese maker who offered us a tour around his cheese cave. The smells were incredible, and the tastes even more so. The cheese maker was chopping wood with a beautiful hand made axe and I asked to take his picture in front of some draped cheese cloth. I had to hurry because he needed to add wood to the fire that was heating up the cream and his patience was waning.

 A couple days in I met Simon’s friend Mathias. We headed to these staggering cliffs called Le Creux du Van with some really beautiful trees. We walked along a long farm fence overlooking cows and the country side on the way up.

On my final night in Lausanne, Simon’s family and friends gathered under a rainy sky and tarp in the backyard for a raclette party. One last swiss ritual before my send off.

Josh Cohen is a Brooklyn based photographer always on the hunt for an adventure. You can find his work online and on instagram