It’s the start of a new year, and I’m really excited about all of the photography I’m going to be shooting in 2013. My calendar is filling up again now that the wheels of industry are getting moving again after a long holiday vacation, and as we get really to roll up our sleeves and get to work, I wanted to share one of my last big projects from 2012.
The holidays are a busy time in our house. Lots of entertaining, being entertained, drinking, eating, laughing. Last month I did a project for Sauce Magazine for a section called “Make-Ahead Holiday” which featured the Day Boating Cocktail by mixologist Cory Cuff (currently at Cielo in the Four Seasons Hotel here in St. Louis). The concept is pretty simple: instead of spending the whole evening behind the bar mixing up drinks, mix up a whole batch of a single cocktail the day before, then portion it out into single servings in cute little bottles which can be kept on ice until needed.
Being creative and finding the perfect shot is the photographer’s job. Period. When you accept a job, you also accept the responsibility for taking ordinary situations and turning them into something amazing. This is why the client has hired you and this is why you charge the rates that you do – because not everyone can do this. Therefore, you, as photographer are the master of the universe and all creative decisions that you haven’t thought up yourself are crap.
If you can’t stand the heat … get out of the kitchen.
When I’m booking editorial photo shoots for restaurants, whether it’s food or portraits of the chef, I usually try to book the shoots for a time when the kitchen is slow so as not to upset service. After all, these establishments are taking time out of their busy schedules to accomodate this guy marching in and taking over their space for a while. Plus it generally makes this a whole lot easier without customers around and kitchen staff bustling around knocking over my lights and body checking me out of the way. When I exchanged emails with Cary McDowel, the chef at Winslow’s Home, about scheduling a portrait he told me to come on by at 11:30am. Which is pretty much when their lunch service starts winding up. Challenge? You betcha.
Back in July, I undertook a daunting project for Feast magazine: documenting Mexican tiendas (grocery stores) and the taquerias that reside there. Why was it daunting? Well, these tiendas were located all over the metro area, and I discovered that while everyone was incredible to work with, there was significant language barrier to deal with. I found that it was tough to schedule appointments over the phone, so I had to do at least one, and in some cases several in-person visits to set up the photo shoots. It should be noted though, the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of English being spoken at these joints is a plus rather than a negative: rather, it speaks to the authenticity of the food that is prepared and served at these tiendas. In this day of Chi Chis, Taco Hell and all of the other chain restaurants, real Mexican food is savory, refreshing and simply amazing.
Another of the fun assignments I got to shoot last month was a quick portrait of Rob Uyemura for Sauce Magazine. Rob is the executive chef at Yia Yia’s Eurobistro in Chesterfield. Rob reviewed several cookbooks about fresh-from-the-soil produce and the creative brief was for a portait of him cooking out of one of the cookbooks. According to Rob his kitchen wasn’t photo-ready, so I ended up shooting him in his backyard grilling up some lovely ribs and some really delicious looking produce that he’d just picked from his garden.
I love living downtown but I would kill for a garden. Growing up in PA, I always had access to fresh vegetables and fruits straight from my dad’s garden – nothing tastes quite like fresh picked corn, tomatoes and onions. Maybe I can talk my building into letting me put a garden on the roof deck that no one uses …
St. Louis weather always keeps me guessing. Blistering heat one day, then cold and dreary the next. Toss in the odd tornado and/or momentous thunderstorm and you’ve got your average spring week here in Missouri. Such was the case in late April when I photographed a Cajun/Creole garden party for Feast magazine. The brief was fairly straight forward: several local chefs with New Orleans backgrounds would all be attending a backyard party, along with their families. Each chef would being a cajun/creole dish (potluck style) and I would photograph them eating and talking and generally having a good time. And oh yeah, it would be outside, rain or shine.
Recently I had the chance to meet local artisan Jermain Todd, who I photographed for Sauce magazine. Jermain owns Mwanzi, an eco-friendly design-build-supply firm. Among other things, Jermain makes really excellent furniture out of local wood, whether it’s reclaimed or trees he acquires from people around town who need to cut them down for whatever reason. You’ll be able to eat on some of his tables at the new Pi in the Mercantile Exchange downtown. I met up with Jermain at another small business, WunderWoods in St. Charles where he was going to pick up the wood for the Pi tables. Jermain is a cool guy, the type of guy you want making your furniture for you – the shoot was a lotta fun.
Once upon a time, I went a birthday dinner of a friend at Grand Sichuan in New York City. There were about ten people in attendance and the meal consisted of a giant pot of simmering broth over a table side propane burner into which we dipped all manner of delicacies both familiar (raw vegetables, beef, pork) and unfamiliar (fish balls, tripe, dried bean curd, unidentifiable sea food). We devoured our meal, sweating and coughing at the intense heat generated by hundreds of hot peppers floating in the broth. The service was terrible and there wasn’t enough water to cool our burning mouths, but it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had.
Last month right before the print deadline, I squeezed in a quick shoot with Chef Wes Johnson for Feast Magazine. I met Wes at his downtown loft for an impromptu portrait session right before he was scheduled to head off on a “barbecue road trip.” I kinda wish I would have had the opportunity to tag along for that one!