Friend and frequent Lekha collaborator Augusta “Gus” Sagnelli is a talented, sought-after photographer whose work we adore. Her photography is moody and evocative, imbued with a sense of wonder. A lone object illuminated by a ray of light, a blurred visage caught briefly in the camera’s lens — the world as shot by Gus is dreamy and full of poetry, and we can’t get enough. Previously based in New Orleans, Gus studied photography at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, and photographs for clients across New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and, now, Paris! In recent months, Gus became an American expat in Paris, and we couldn’t be happier to share with you the beautiful story of how that came to be, alongside self-portraits Gus took in her favorite Lekha pieces, shot in the City of Light.
Gus, you had a very unique pandemic experience — you fell in love with someone in another country! Tell us about falling in love during the pandemic, and where that adventure led you?
My pandemic experience was indeed very unique and unexpected. I met my now husband just weeks before lockdown. We had drinks with mutual friends, a walk around Paris and coffee, and were just friends. I honestly didn’t know when or if I would see him again. But our friendship and connection that started there turned into romance as our shared state of lockdown allowed us to spend hours getting to know each other through writing and FaceTime. After six months of this we made the seemingly crazy decision to meet up in the states and spend nearly a month in a cabin without wifi together. Obviously we got along very well, like we’d known each other for so much longer than we really had. Six months after this… we got married in my parents’ backyard and I moved to Paris where he has lived for the last twelve plus years.
It’s such a great love story! How has moving your life to Paris felt?
It has honestly been one of the most obvious and easiest moves I've made. It sounds crazy on paper: move to a country across the ocean where you know all of two people and don’t speak the language during an ongoing global pandemic…. but it has been a strangely smooth transition and Samuel and his friend group have been very welcoming and supportive. It’s been eye opening, empowering, and an all-around exciting adventure.
Moving can bring such unexpected turmoil, so it’s great to hear you’ve felt empowered and supported through the process — and a good reminder that moves aren’t always chaotic. How have you created a sense of familiarity and comfort in your new home?
When I first arrived everything was still closed, so I spent a lot of time in comfy clothes rearranging and settling in. Because we couldn't go out anywhere, I often wore my black silk Lekha Keya slip dress, which made me feel like I wasn’t in my pajamas when Samuel and I sat down for dinner at the kitchen counter, but was also comfortable enough to curl up in to watch a movie on the sofa afterwards. I think that's what Lekha is so great for — feeling comfortable and stylish at the same time. I never feel guilty for napping in my Lekha one afternoon, then stepping out in the same look the next.
That shift to spending time being cozy indoors is one so many of us got acquainted with during the pandemic. We’re glad your Lekha pieces were supportive as you nestled in and created a new home and new creative partnership! Speaking of creativity, how has your approach to photography shifted during the pandemic or due to moving abroad?
I had been on the edge of a much needed shift in my approach to my work, even before the pandemic. I wanted to move away from commercial client work and spend more time on my own personal creative eye in photography. Creating photography books has always been a dream of mine and I’m actually starting the process on a few book concepts that I hope can be brought to life by this time next year. During lockdown I took a lot of self-portraits in my apartment, not only to document this new life we were all living, but also as an opportunity to examine my experience during this massive time of change in my personal life.
We’ve loved following along on your journey through your Instagram account and your self-portraiture, and it’s exciting to hear photography books are in the works! Now that the lockdown has loosened up in Paris and you’re training your camera’s lens on your fellow Parisians, what do you notice about personal style in Paris versus New Orleans?
Moving to a large metropolitan city in the winter definitely made me realize my New Orleans wardrobe was full of loose-fitting airy clothes, all brightly colored and patterned. I didn’t own long sleeve shirts, or warm socks — I had to make some essential additions quickly just for comfort in the beginning! I've definitely realized a shift in the type of clothes I feel drawn to here versus New Orleans, and I like the shift. My New Orleans style was very laid back, with comfort at the forefront, but here, I find myself wanting to add a little “dress up” flare to my most basic looks. People wear a lot of clothes here; even if it's a hot day, people love their outerwear, and I admit I’d wear a blazer or a jacket every day if the weather permitted.
Can you share a little about the greatest joy you’ve experienced since departing on this new chapter of your life?
There’s been a lot of joy, and I feel incredibly lucky to say that considering the year we’ve all had. Seeing my family and friends happy for me, and supporting my seemingly crazy decision to marry a man I met a year ago and move with him to France has brought me a lot of happiness and comfort. More specifically though, one of the greatest joys I get to experience almost daily is listening to Samuel play piano in our tiny Parisian apartment in the morning while I make coffee. Having music in my life has always been very important and to be able to witness someone you love create music from within themselves is such a special pleasure. I feel very privileged to be able to share life with a musician.
We’re so happy for your happiness — the world needs as much of that as we can get right now. Since travel is on everyone’s mind lately, whether embarking abroad or more locally, what’s one place in the world where you want to go?
I've been to the south of France, Spain, and Italy in the last month, so I’m really looking forward to strolling around my neighborhood and taking in the Parisian summer. but if I had to pick, people keep telling me I have to go to Croatia, so probably there.
Your actual travel plans have you coming back to New Orleans in the fall! What are you looking forward to seeing or doing when you return?
Yes, I can't wait! It will be about a year since I moved out of New Orleans. I can’t wait to see all my friends and to shoot with some of my favorite clients (including Lekha, of course). I’m also excited to try all the new bars, restaurants, and hotels that have opened since I've left. Hotel St. Vincent has obviously grabbed my attention, and I can’t wait to be fed by my great friends Luci Winsberg and Tyler Correa, who created Fish Hawk this past year.
Do you have a favorite mantra to live by?
“You probably would feel better if you just drank more water.” Can that be considered a mantra? Drink more water.
Be right back — pouring a glass of water. (Thanks for the tip!)
And my favorite, the rapid fire:
Favorite new discovery: Pastis, and also the french healthcare system
Last book you read or are reading: I recently finished The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes / currently reading Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman
Something you think is underrated: oatmeal
Something you can't live without: I know I should say my camera, but more honestly bread and chocolate
Favorite spot in Paris: still looking for it
In the mountains or on the water: can I have both? by a lake in the mountains?
Sunrise or sunset: if I could wake up for it: sunrise, every time.