Between photographing the culinary results of The Farmer's Dinner; enjoying those same results; and, on this particular day, checking in with three of my children, who were among the dinner guests at Generation Farm (and entertaining them with aplomb); I greatly enjoy observing and photographing the process of making these rather remarkable courses. A professional kitchen is a maelstrom of activity; in the case of an outdoor improvised one, it can be trecherous. But achieving a photograph during those few moments where all of the elements converge is compelling to the point of obsession, comparable to a chef's plating a single course.
This dinner was the second for The Farmers Dinner at Fulchino Vineyard (the first being a few years ago), so I knew the chefs would be preparing the courses outdoors. But I (and the chefs, and the owners) were surprised how quickly the darkness came; work lights had to be purchased so the work could finish.
Along with the temperature dropping quickly, the situation was certainly a new one for me. The resulting photographs, made in between courses (I also photographed each dish), were full of contrast and deep shadows.
My latest work for The Farmers Dinner brought me to Élevage de Volailles, a small, family-run farm in Loudon Centre, New Hampshire. The event was held entirely outdoors: making the firepits, preparing the food, plating the dishes, and serving the guests. The process, of course, took days, and cooking and smoking the meat over open pits started early that morning. The summer sun was out in full force, with barely any clouds in the sky, so in addition to preparation, the chefs were battling smoke, heat exhaustion, sunstroke, and dehydration—for nearly 12 hours.
Photographing in harsh, late-day sun has its own challenges, but I fully embraced the high-contrast light and deep shadows. I had no doubts that the results would exist only as black-and-white. Seeing the chefs work in these circumstances, tasting (most of) what they served, and hearing the reactions of and appreciation by the guests gave me a further appreciation of the chefs' commitment to their work.
I've been photographing for The Farmers Dinner for a couple years. Initially, the focus was the food and the event, but over the past year, Keith (founder and chef) & I have moved away from the latter, replacing it with the work in the kitchen.
I have a keen interest in the process of art-making: the recording studio, the painter's studio--and the kitchen. Unlike many arts, the work of the restaurant kitchen is collaborative, bringing together many individuals. This brings a certain ordered chaos to the kitchen; combined with cramped quarters, hot stoves, incoming waitstaff--all while not interfering with food production--it makes creating documentary photographs in that environment a delicate practice.
The photos below were made during a pop-up dinner at Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar. Keith had asked me to photograph the food, but I couldn't help wandering around the kitchen in between courses.