Life At Cruising Altitude


Lauren and Annael Tolila are two sisters, born and raised on the shores of the Mediterranean sea. The dynamic duo is behind the hyper-creative studio Via Tolila, which helps brands tell their stories visually. We sat down with the Tolila’s to chat about Mediterranean inspiration, nostalgic scents, and their favorite spots around the great sea.

All photos by Via Tolila.

Tell us a bit about your Mediterranean journey?
We are two sisters, originally from Nice, France. We grew up by the sea on the French Riviera. In our family, three generations of women were born in Nice: our grandmother, our mother, and us. This gives us a particular affection for this city. Moving from one Mediterranean shore to the other, we relocated to Tel Aviv a few years ago. Tel Aviv is also a seaside town with the same sweetness of life as in Nice. We now divide our time between the two cities and home is both sides of the Mediterranean Sea.

What kind of projects do you work on at Via Tolila?
We are photographers and videographers specializing in editorial and commercial visual content. Our work experience entails various fields such as travel, design, lifestyle, food, branding, documentaries, and fashion. With a unique eye for details and our combined expertise, we help clients materialize their stories visually. From artistic direction, to the creation of original content and social media collaborations, we draw our inspiration from the beauty of single moments.

You have a very distinct visual language. How would you describe its Mediterranean influences?
Growing up in a family that was interested in video, photography, and design, has absolutely shaped our work. When we were children we always filmed with our dad’s camera during the summer holidays. For us, that was the definition of fun. That’s probably what inspired us to become photographers. It has always been in our roots to film our vacations and our days spent at the beach. The Mediterranean influence in our work comes from every aspect of our lives in the south of France. The bustle of the market, accents, spontaneity of the people, the olive tree fields, the sound of cicadas, the provencal cuisine, the azure and golden light. Everything that is colorful and full of light has always been an inspiration for us.

What are uniquely "Mediterranean things" to you?
The soft light streaming through the branches of the olive trees, the southern lifestyle, the inspiring architecture, the small harbors along the coast, the deep blue waters, the warm breeze, the long summer evening, the market, the freshness, and the taste of the cuisine.

Is there a specific scent that transports you to another time and place?
The smell of the pine trees. It brings us back to the summer days in the Cap d’Antibes, the pine needles crackling under our shoes at La Pinède of Juan les Pins while going to the beach.

You work on several projects at once. How do you slow down?
To slow down we like to spend quality time with friends and family, eat tasty food, go to pilates or watch a series. Slowing down also means taking the time to discover new places. We love traveling and planning trips and there is no better way for us to disconnect than being abroad. Traveling is definitely a source of inspiration, it helps us recharge and live in the moment.

Tell us about Life at Cruising Altitude. Where did the idea come from?
Life at Cruising Altitude began while driving along the coast on the French Riviera a few summers ago. There is a spot in Villefranche sur Mer where you can stop and admire the whole bay. When you look down you see the beach below, the gradients of blue, the colorful umbrellas, and the sea shining. The water is so crystal clear, you can see the pebbles rolling under the waves. Usually the beaches in July and August are packed, but from above, the crowd looks so peaceful.

How did you photograph the different beaches?
We photograph the beaches from different angles. It depends on the light, the hour, the location, the people, the coloring. Each place is unique, we trust our feelings and the energy of a place. We capture the moment the way it is, the most natural way possible.

There are so many colors of the same sea. Every beach has its own character. What’s your favorite beach in the Mediterranean?
Such a difficult question. It’s impossible to choose only one. We’d say Antibes la Garoupe, La pinède in Juan Les Pins, and Cavalière in the Var. People don’t seem to be featured prominently in your photos. Is there a reason? We were inspired by our travels in Mauritius Island and Haiti. Their Creole craftsmanship is fascinating. In their paintings and home decor they represent people in tiny dots of colors lined up next to each other. The artisans also create gorgeous embroideries on table cloths with small colorful people. We love the abstract and poetic aspect of it all, so, for our photos from above, we try to be at a certain distance to create this tiny pop of color.