For this project, my goal is to capture the vibe of businesses that resonate with me. In some cases, the atmosphere developed organically, a byproduct of the way the owners do business. In others, the mood and tone were carefully and intentionally crafted, an integral reflection of the founders’ visions. The subjects range from items on display shelves in neighborhood shops to processing equipment within industrial settings. To give viewers a sense of “having been there,” I focus on isolated elements that contribute to the atmosphere—microcosms imbued with the enterprise's “DNA.” When practical, I include images of the people who work at the businesses I visit—ultimately, whether intentional or not, the vibe is all about the human factor.
Walking into Curio Spice in North Cambridge, Massachusetts is like stepping into the exotic mysteries of the Far East and beyond, a place overflowing with visual and olfactory delights. Visually, the store is a feast for the photographer’s eye. Walls of leading lines, uniformity punctuated by tins and packets, islands of discrete compositions defined by color and shapes all comprise the geometry of the shop. And while there's no dominate aroma, a bouquet of scents teases your nose. It constantly changes, reinvents, and mingles with new aromas as customers open sample spices (encouraged) and the proprietors blend and prepare fresh batches for the shelves. My favorite, the smoked paprika—robust in flavor and brilliant in color—satisfies the palette and the camera lens.
These days, it’s easy to assume that when something breaks, it’s destined for a landfill. So I found it refreshing when I walked past a fix-it shop called Illume in New York’s Upper East Side on my way to a meeting. The window display initially caught my eye, with its eclectic mix of utilitarian and artistic elements. I was especially interested in the workbench area of the shop. The high funk factor and low-tech analog testing tools on the bench provided rich opportunities for still life photography—lots of intriguing interplays of geometrical forms, light, and color amidst the disarray of parts and tools strewn about (chaotic to my eye, anyway). From the chaos arose lamps that were about to be given a new lease on life, as well as whimsical steam punk lighting creations built from the spare and salvaged parts. This is a place where craft meets art. I left the shop feeling like I’d taken a satisfying detour from a world where everything is disposable and visited one where commerce is all about second chances.
Founded by two college buddies in their senior year of college, Down East Cider grew from a college dorm experiment to one of the fastest growing beverage companies in Massachusetts. Housed in a renovated factory on the Navy Fuel Pier in East Boston, Massachusetts, Down East Cider is a feast for the photographic eye (and taste buds). The operation is a study in contrasts: gleaming high-tech equipment chugs away in the most low-tech environment one can imagine. During tours, you can sample the goods (the seasonal pumpkin is my fav) and offer feedback on new ciders under development. That's crowdsourcing at its tastiest.