Maddie Earnest, Local Harvest

St. Louis Taste Makers

I have a fascination with the food culture, which is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to photograph some of the influential people in the St. Louis food scene for a feature in Feast Magazine. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the people that I photographed for this project was mayor of St. Louis, Francis G. Slay. I also photographed chefs, business owners, architects and sommeliers. I love doing studio portraiture, and this project ties right into my focus on the people who live, breathe, and eat the food industry.

Here are a few of the local food crew I photographed back in December.

You can read interviews of these and the other Tastemakers over at Feast Magazine’s website. Very interesting and well worth the read.

Catherine Neville

Catherine Neville, Publisher of Feast Magazine

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few months, you will have noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of work for Feast magazine here in St. Louis. Feast is one of two excellent food publications that I work with. As a photographer interested in food and food culture, I am lucky to live in a town that has a large enough food community to support all of the great writers, photographers and food lovers that contribute to these publications.

Another of the notable assignments I was given over the last few months was a portrait of Catherine Neville, publisher of Feast. Cat pens a “From the Publisher” column for each issue which is accompanied by a different photograph each month. Many publications use the same image for the editor or publisher each issue. New art each month adds a nice, fresh touch to the magazine. When the photographer who usually shoots the feature was had some scheduling conflicts, I was pleased and flattered when Feast hired me to fill in for a couple of Cat’s portraits.

Cat is a great subject to photograph. Despite her concerns about looking uncomfortable in front of the camera, I’ll be honest: it would be pretty difficult to make a bad photograph of her. Each month she either stands or sits in an interesting chair against a white seamless. The real challenge for this portrait was finding an appropriate chair for the sitting versions. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we don’t have a lot of furniture in the studio yet, and after trying a number of different chairs (including one I borrowed from the lobby of my building), Cat suggested that we try my psuedo-modern-wobbily-Ikea coffee table. It turned out to be a great idea. Beautiful!

I have been doing a lot of studio portraits lately (including an exciting project that I’m wrapping up this week) and have really been joying working with people again for a change. I love shooting food, but do you have any idea how hard it is to make a bowl of soup smile?

On Assignment: Mayor Francis G. Slay

When people ask me what I like about St. Louis, almost always the first thing that I mention is the awesome loft that Dr. Fiance and I were able to buy here. In New York, we had approximately 450 square feet in the East Village (which was the largest apartment that we’d ever had in NYC). Now we have a space considerably larger than that, and a significant part of that extra space is dedicated to my studio. I don’t operate a commercial studio at home, but the space is large enough that I can do a full seamless backdrop setup. This came in very handy last month when Feast magazine asked me to make a portrait of the mayor of St. Louis, Francis G. Slay.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous about this assignment, although not because it was to photograph the mayor. I am not a stranger to photographing influential public figures. I have photographed some heavy hitters over the years, including the mayor of another major city: in 2008 I made a portrait of Rudy Giuliani while a staff photographer in New York City. He was running for president at the time and it was quite an experience to be sure. But that was in a hotel conference room, not in my home studio!

In the end, when the Mayor Slay arrived my professional experience kicked in and I managed not to make a fool of myself (I think). In truth it was just like any other shoot, and once I got started I was able to concentrate on getting the shots that I needed for the assignment. Like most public figures, the mayor was used to having his photograph taken, and was a confident and cooperative subject.

Mayor Francis G. Slay of St. Louis

This was a great project to work on. I’m a big fan of the mayor, particularly his influence in the ongoing revitalization of downtown St. Louis. And interestingly, this project also tied in with my current focus on food and food culture because my photographs of Mayor Slay were used in Feast magazine as part of a feature called Tastemakers: Entrepreneurs Who Shape the Way You Eat. Great stuff!

Blood & Sand

Last month I was given an assignment to photograph Blood & Sand for Feast Magazine. Unlike other speakeasy-style bars in St. Louis, you don’t enter this one through a back door in an alley by the dumpsters. Tucked away on a side street off of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis is a small set of stairs which leads to a classy wood and glass revolving door. A small silver plate which says Blood & Sand is the only exterior adornment. Despite the fact that it is easy to find, the occasionally seedy atmosphere of it’s location adds the necessary clandestine feel.

T.J. Vytlacil, Mixologist at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO

Through the revolving doors you go, and enter a surprisingly large bar area separated from an even larger dining room area by hanging antique windows (a design element I aspire for my own loft). The feel of this joint is definitely that of a mixture of antique and modern elegance and style. And that is kind of the point. Blood and Sand is meant to make you feel like you’re in a private club, and indeed, you are. A monthly membership fee is required to eat and drink at Blood & Sand, currently a modest $15 per month.

Why member’s only? The idea is to give each and every customer a personalized experience and to develop a relationship with everyone who patronizes the establishment. From the Blood & Sand website: “We are members-only for this reason: we are deeply committed to providing unparalleled service and an extraordinary dining and drinking experience. The meaningful relationships we create with our members and their guests are the source of our inspiration.”

Behind the bar you’ll find dozens of varied and interesting glassware, may of them one-of-a-kind. You’ll also see a wide variety of liquors, bitters, tinctures, simple syrups and garnishes that mixologist T.J. Vytlacil uses to create custom cocktails. I’m a man of simple tastes myself (give me some Irish whiskey on the rocks if you want to make me happy) so I tend to gravitate towards the classics like the old-fashioned and the Manhattan. But whether you are plain jane imbiber or a bit more adventurous, T.J. will find the perfect cocktail for you

Scallop Ceviche and Fried Chicken at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO.

Chef Chris Bork at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO

I didn’t get a chance to try the food that I photographed (above) but I’ve been back in a social capacity several times and grabbed some drinks and food with several of my friends. Chef Chris Bork has developed a great menu of small dishes, and at this point I think we’ve at tried most of the menu. The hand made tater tots are a must have, and then I have one word for you: sweatbreads. If they have sweatbreads on the menue when you visit Blood & Sand: get the sweatbreads. And of course the cocktails are intense, interesting and inventive. Bottoms up!

Corporate Headshot by St. Louis Photographer Jonathan Gayman

Portrait Photography

Nothing says success like a professional portrait. Jonathan has worked with Fortune 500 companies on marketing materials, annual reports and national ad campaigns. Portraits aren’t just for your annual report either. A great portrait on your Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed goes a long way. Jonathan specializes in contextual and environmental portraits that not only put you in the best light, but highlights your life and environment as well. Click here for more information about Jonathan’s corporate and professional head shots.

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Model Mania

Boy, do I need to work on my posing skillz. I was tossed into a studio with three lovely models last Thursday without any thought or prep and kind of panicked. “Yeah, um, well, oh wait, don’t move that looks great….beautiful…”

Sigh. After a while I got comfortable and was able to give some coherent instructions, but without having a goal in mind on the spur of the moment I feel like I should have had been able to do more. Considering that I almost never work with models in this capacity I assume that practice makes perfect. I have to say that working with models is excellent, and after working with real people all the time it’s nice for a change to shoot people who do this for a living and are able to give you something good, no matter how twitchy your instructions are.


Model: Vanessa Rubio

Model: Autumn Stein

I had a great time though, looking forward to more time in the studio. If you want to see more, I put all the images from that session on Flickr.