CBW20140116 1025 Edit THE BREWERS   COMMUNITY BEER WORKS

There’s a giant Mogwai tour poster hanging on the office wall at Community Beer Works when I sit down to interview Ethan Cox and Rudy Watkins that serves as a reminder that these guys have great taste in music as well as beer – which is fortuitous because it was primarily the relationship between beer and music that first brought this young Western New York Brewery to my attention. The first of their brews that I tried was More Information, a special one-off batch that Rudy had made for a Swans show at Buffalo’s Tralf Music Hall (their first concert specific brew was Preacher Man, a Godspeed You! Black Emperor inspired American Black Ale). I love beer and loud music, and when a bartender is telling you about a new local brew made specifically for one night and one particular show, it’s hard to say no.

Community Beer Works is Buffalo’s first nanobrewery, which may be an unfamiliar term for some in comparison to the more widely used nomenclature of craft breweries, which are independently owned breweries producing less than six million barrels per year – or microbreweries, which are craft breweries that produce less than fifteen thousand barrels per year. A nanobrewery, though lacking an officially sanctioned definition, is most commonly described as a brewery that produces under three thirty-one-gallon barrels per production batch. The team behind Community Beer Works eschews the high-volume industrialized notion that many have of brewing at a national level (think the opening credits of Laverne and Shirley) in favor of a smaller, artisanal, and more agile company focused on creating a fresh product for its own community positioned market. Approaching the business of beer this way allows CBW to support a few consistent product lines while having the freedom to radically experiment and innovate with their recipes – and to be sharply focused on building their hometown presence. CBW president Ethan Cox put it succinctly as “think of a bakery. Buying fresh beer should be like that. I’d like to see people visiting a local neighborhood brewery to buy beer with the frequency and casualness that they buy fresh locally made bread.”

But being a small brewery with a local focus hasn’t stopped CBW from getting the accolades they deserve. recently taking second place in Brewing News’ National IPA Championship and being named by Business Insider as one of the ten best craft breweries in New York State alongside much larger operations like Brooklyn Brewery, Ommegang and Southern Tier Brewing Company – Good peers to be among for a brewery still in its first few years of business.

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Originally envisioned as a loose co-op for friends with a shared home-brewing passion to share space, equipment, and knowledge – CBW (with the help of a successful Kickstarter) soon metamorphosed into a fledgling commercial brewery owned by the seven founding partners – with Rudy stepping into the role of Head Brewer and Ethan (previously a cognitive scientist and an award-winning home brewer himself) serving as President. Working out of a converted industrial garage in Buffalo’s slowly re-emerging West Side, the small CBW brewing team, led by Rudy, is constantly pushing to create high-quality beer in their 1.5 barrel (about 45 gallons per batch) brewery and meet the consumer demands of an ever-growing list of bars, events, and direct customers that they supply.

Because of the community focus that has been a guiding principle for the brewery since its inception, CBW has also been involved in a variety of partnerships with local farms and supports green initiative and local organizations like the Massachusetts Avenue Project – an urban agriculture program that turns vacant lots into usable green space to grow food for local residents. Ethan, Rudy, and their cohorts donate the spent grain from their brewing to the project so that it can be reused in an ecologically responsible way – rather than reselling it as most large commercial breweries do.

As Ethan said during our interview “It’s completely banal and cliché to say that a business needs to do more than just make money or protect shareholder interests, but we’re about being a socially responsible business. We’re actually some of the world’s most reluctant capitalists, and we come from a real punk/hippie DIY ethos. While we need to make money and understand how the real world works, we feel like the bigger mission of this brewery was to spark a resurgence of a larger craft brewing movement in Buffalo.” A movement that has strong ties to the history of both the brewing, and more importantly the malting industry of Buffalo’s past. “I caution people from living in the past, but I am absolutely proud of our brewing history, it’s not unlike the brewing industry of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or any number of midwest and northeast cities with a strong German population, but what a lot of people overlook is that Buffalo had an enormous malting industry and that malting industry was supplying all of those other great brewing cities. In many ways the history of the malting industry here is more interesting. In fact, the building we brew in was once part of that Schaeffer Malting Company. A lot of those early Buffalo breweries focused on lager but they also made some interesting wheat beers and they made Berliner Weisse – and we’re the first brewery to make and commercially sell Berliner Weisse in this city in over a hundred years, which is pretty badass.”

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The guys have a few regular brews available on a weekly/monthly basis like:

Frank – A lightly sweet American Pale Ale with pine and citrus notes

The Whale – A superbly drinkable and aromatic brown ale with a deep roasted flavor

De Maas – My favorite, a Belgian Amber with a floral and firmly bitter flavor

In addition to these year-round selections and both regular and double IPA offerings there is a whole host of seasonal beers like Ruterford B. Haze, The Soft Bulletin, and Stout Affective Disorder (you can see a pretty comprehensive list of their current and past offerings here, and bonus good news for vegetarian customers is that since CBW’s beer is unfiltered and free of clarifying agents its veggie friendly.)

Experimentation plays a huge role in how CBW moves forward, and the small batch sizes they produce allow them to have a lot more freedom in what they are producing and bringing to customers. “Everything has a potential fan, and at our size all we need are ten potential fans to make a batch of beer worthwhile. Other breweries have to work under a concern of not being able to sell 1500 gallons of a new recipe if it doesn’t work out.” Rudy told me “it’s inspiring to try and develop a beer from a certain mindset or emotional place. For instance, when I’m developing the recipes for the music associated beers like More Information or Preacher Man it’s not like synesthesia where I’m listening to music and I start tasting a beer, but there is a consideration of the experience of listening to a band and how it makes me feel and trying to develop a beer that might evoke similar feelings or qualities.” (As an aside, Rudy’s mention of synesthesia and beer sent us down a hilarious 10 minute rabbit hole of positing fictional beers for acts like a John Cage 4’33 beer and a Merzbow inspired recipe).

“I like good beer, if things taste good I WILL consume them.” Rudy continued – and to ensure the best taste while imbibing Community Beer Works brews Rudy and Ethan recommend drinking them fresh, because with the exception of a tiny minority that benefit from aging and the majority of mass produced beers that will likely survive the end times without much flavor change. Kept cold, a growler of beer will keep its freshness for 10-14 days, but Ethan suggests that ideally you want to be drinking fresh beer the day you buy it, he and Rudy, both scientifically minded, also suggested experimenting with the temperature at which you drink your beer, starting cold and exploring how the flavors develop as the beer warms. “Experimentation doesn’t end with just making beer, but also drinking it – experiment with how you serve it and the conditions you drink it in to bring out the flavors you most want from a beer.”

Community Beer Works is Located at 15 Lafayette Ave, Buffalo, NY 14213 – You can buy their beer directly from the brewery or at a variety of local market events.”

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DOGS20140503 1143 Edit NEW PORTFOLIO: ANIMALS

Photographing people is kind of my thing, I’ve made a fun career out of creating portraits that capture people’s personality, style, and unique stories – but lately I’ve been wholly fascinated with a different kind of subject.

Working with animals has become a marvelously important part of my work this year.  It started out with a personal project (some would say it was an assignment from my girlfriend) to create portraits my three dogs: Chops, Akasha, and Kemper. Understandably, I had a lot of fun making these images of my awesome doggies, but an unintended and positive side effect of that first series was that it grabbed people’s attention in a very cool way and quickly grew into collaborations with animal organizations like Notabully.org and the Buffalo Animal Shelter (because having good pictures really does go a long way to helping animals get adopted) advertising projects with agencies like Rochester’s Truth Collective, and frequent commissions from my human clients to photograph their own furry, and sometimes scaly, friends. After a few months of photographing creatures big and small I’ve finally launched a new body of work to show off all the personality and wonderfulness of these new friends of mine.

These are just a few samples of the new collection, you can see it in its entirety here

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KH20140202 1112 Edit THE PROJECTIONIST   KEITH HARRINGTON

Keith Harrington makes his art big – really big.

Red Rocks big, Silo City big.

Big.

It’s also fleetingly temporary. As a video & installation artist-DJ-VJ-audiovisual mixologist masher-upper guerrilla projectionist all-around culturally informed kind of guy  (how many hyphens do you need before you can simply be listed as awesomely multi-talented? Or as Keith described it during our interview - Artistic Batman), Keith’s focused interests have resulted in a prolific and varied but ephemeral body of work – creating events and happenings that may only last for a few hours or days at most. Keith remixes music and video with a deft hand, but that seems almost mundane when compared to the scale and impact of the way in which he remixes space, using video and projections to hack architecture and create wondrous transformations for both events and his own artistic urges working under the moniker PROJEX.

“I was always into art and painting. I studied art in college, but I didn’t want to teach art or be a painter. I grew up around music though, and spent a lot of summers backstage at Melody Fair and Shea’s, and with my stepfather playing in bands. There was a convergence of music and visual art that started to become more of a defining direction for me as I got older.” Becoming disillusioned with the ongoing commercialization of skate and punk culture in the 90′s led Keith to become more involved in electronic music and the rave culture of the time – where he realized that there was an instinctive link between the visual and sonic elements of performance. “I would be spinning vinyl, and memorizing these cuts and drops, and at the same time cutting together VHS tapes and running them on a third channel, mixing together the sound and images from the VHS tapes with the music I was playing.” It was a raw and experimental time for Keith and other artists in the genre where a lot of distinct styles emerged during the infancy of internet culture.

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As Keith accumulated a collection of equipment for his DJ/VJ sets he started to move into the more ambitious realms of video art, installations, and projection mapping – a slightly more complicated approach to visual presentations where Keith maps the surface of buildings or objects, and creates visuals that interplay with the forms and facets of whatever he is projecting on. “I needed to find an environment that was more conducive for people to appreciate the visuals I was building, so I began to take it out of the clubs and neighborhood parties, and instead started to favor the art scene, galleries, and larger arts and music festivals where I had more options for presentation than just a bunch of TV’s at a bar.” These DJ sets and projection experiments were the foundation for the works and events that Keith now produces.

Keith has collaborated with notorious street artists to create a tribute to one of Buffalo’s own – the late illustrator Spain Rodriguez (If you don’t know his work go pick up a copy of his adaptation of Nightmare Alley or Che: A Graphic Biography). He’s transformed the cyclopean grain elevators along the Buffalo River, relics of the city’s faded history as an industrial powerhouse that are emerging as a new artistic and cultural community, into canvases for his projections during City of Night. His projections, sometimes transgressive and always transformative, have turned much of the city into a workspace/playground for him.

The biggest venue for PROJEX to date started out as little more than a video equipment rental that quickly led to an opportunity for Keith to design and present visuals for a sold out Flux Pavilion show at Buffalo’s Town Ballroom. The impressed DJ/producer was heading for his biggest US show of the year – a dubstep festival at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and was looking for someone to do visuals for his headlining performance. Keith got the call on a thursday afternoon asking if he could fly out to Denver for the show, which was happening the very next night. “I packed up my gear that night, got on a plane the next morning, and a few hours later I was setting up my cameras and mixer at one of the greatest venues in the country for the festival’s headlining act. There were 10,000 kids going crazy for Flux Pavilion while I mixed together live feeds, graphics, and video pieces for a set.” Creating art for a stage that’s hosted some of the greatest musical acts in the world is a pretty rock-star moment for any visual artist.

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When asked about Buffalo as a place for a working artist to set up shop Keith said “I think that, personally, because I grew up here as a native Buffalonian I love this place. I know when I was younger I was saddened by the departure of the steel industry and the effect it had on the city and the migration of my friends and other young people away from the city, but from an economic standpoint there is a blue-collar mentality to the city that makes it affordable, a place where artists can thrive and sustain a greater quality of life while pursuing their work. We’re going through something now, I don’t want to say it’s magical, but it certainly hasn’t happened before in my lifetime – because we grew this cultural core and many of the artists and entrepreneurs that were able to thrive here and start interesting new businesses we are starting to see people make Buffalo a destination, migrating from New York and LA – in the last five years I’m starting to see people moving into instead of out of Buffalo.”

Full disclosure: Keith and I have collaborated on some projects in the past for events hosted by SUNY Buffalo. In fact I owe Keith for the chance to see some of my own work presented at a scale I never dreamt of seeing it in when he projection mapped it across the walls of a huge event space in Buffalo’s old Pierce Arrow Motor Car factory for an annual event held by the School of Fashion and Textile Technology. Not gonna lie, it was pretty fucking cool. You can check out more of his work on his website Projex.tv or in the short reel below.

·? ? ??? ??·· from PROJEX on Vimeo.

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BRANCH LUKE COPPING NEWSPAPER 17 ADVENTURES IN NEWSPRINT

 It’s new promo time!

At the end of 2013 I started working on a new series of personal projects all about the really cool creatives and business people I had met in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Not only was I putting together a brand new series of exciting portraits, but I was also interviewing the subjects, writing about my experiences with them, and in some cases even creating short videos about their stories. It led to me massively re-examining the kind of work I was doing, and the types of stories that I found it fulfilling to shoot. You can read more about the inspiration behind this new direction here.

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Shauna from We Are Branch and I have collaborated on a lot of promos in the five years we have worked together, but this time we found ourselves pondering how to package this new format my work was heading in. Postcards and e-mails just weren’t cutting it anymore (and aren’t they just a little pedestrian these days anyway?) and we both knew we needed to start fresh with a new approach to this project.  Shauna suggested that given the DIY nature of these inspiring profiles, and that they all took place in the Rust Belt, that something super analog and tactile, like newsprint, would be the perfect medium for this promo –  naturally I was completely on board with the idea (and on board with the possibility that I could pretend to be an old-timey newspaper man while we e-mailed back and forth about it – I was dying for an excuse to exclaim “Great Ceaser’s ghost!”)

Shauna is an amazing designer and I really trust her instincts. She set to work immediately looking for print providers (and ultimately we decided on Newspaper Club as our printer of choice – they were amazing and I would gladly recommend them to anyone looking to create something awesome on newsprint) and putting together the basic layouts for the stories.  I may take the pictures and write the stories, but this piece just would not have turned out as cool as it did without her contributions and style, translating the spirit of each story from my blog and combining them with her impeccable sense of typography and style to create a really amazing tangible promo piece left me (naturally) blown away with the results. If you want to read more about the technical process of how we put the promo together for newsprint check out Shauna’s post on the topic over at We Are Branch.

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Some of you might have already gotten one in the mail (and if you haven’t you might soon, I’m still mailing out the last few of the 500 copies we had printed for this first run) and some of you may have seen it in a couple of cool places in Buffalo, but if you haven’t gotten your hands on one yet you can take a look at the digital version here.

I pulled together five profiles from the stories I’ve worked in the past few months for the print version:

•A furniture maker who is giving the wood from demolished homes a new life

•A history buff who turned his passion for re-enacting into a career

•A pie maker who is building a new British empire in South Buffalo

•A buy one/give one shirt company that is using art to really help people

•And a pair of high school teachers who turned their friendly rivalry into an artisan ice cream brand that people (including me) are OBSESSED with.

It’s 32 pages, 11.5 x 14.5 inches, big beautiful pictures and the smell of fresh ink. It’s also so much more.

It’s glorious.

I’m hard at work putting a new batch of stories together – since I started this project a lot of my subjects (and even some of you) have let me know about people who are doing awesome things that they think I should cover. In the coming weeks you’ll be seeing features on a local brewery, a pair of haberdashers, a cheese shop, a raw food purveyor, a dynamo of a community organizer, and many more. (My list of potential subjects is growing faster than I can create the stories – this project has opened my eyes to how much interesting stuff is happening in my city).  I’m working towards issue two and this new collection of stories will form the backbone of an even more ambitious version of this idea and I’ll be kicking off this second round of profiles next week with a look at an artist who’s creating temporary works on a massive scale.

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EPPC20130813 1160 Edit THE PIE MAKER   DAMIAN PARKER

The first thing I learned from Damian Parker is that pies are sexy.

He’s not the only one who thinks so either: Disney, Google, and the US Military are just some of his customers.  The Telegraph named The English Pork Pie Company the Best British Shop in the World three years in a row. Even Gordon Ramsay is a fan of Damian’s products.

Not too bad for an English expat making meat pies in South Buffalo.

My dad loved pork pies. He used to eat them with these powerfully bitter pickled onions that he brought home from Marks and Spencer when I was growing up in Canada just outside of Toronto. I know that meat pies aren’t usually considered a kid friendly snack in the States (and I have a hard enough time trying to get adults like my girlfriend to even try one at first) but they’re a little more common in Canada, and for me sharing one of those pies with my dad was a special treat when I was young (and a very fond memory of mine since he passed away a few years ago). I owe a lot of my adventurous palette now to my family introducing me to a lot of different food back then. Things like head cheese, liver, and paté were pretty normal for me, and there was always something unique being served in my house.

One day not so long ago I was buying some beer at one of those gourmet craft brew stores that seem to be popping up everywhere when I came across something that excited me – a round pie wrapped in humble white paper labeled “Stilton Pork Pie.” The logo that joined the British flag with the ubiquitous motif of a buffalo that so many businesses around here use in their branding caused a sort of pattern interrupt in my brain; I was more than a little confused to realize that someone was making pies like this – right here in Buffalo. With a combination of skepticism and reserved excitement I bought one and walked calmly to my car, trying to look natural (I was acting like I had just negotiated some illicit deal and was trying too hard to play it cool) unwrapped the pie, and cautiously took a bite… then a less cautious one… and finally devoured the rest of it like a man who hadn’t eaten in a month. It was perfect.

I went right back into the store and bought one of every flavor they had.

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Damian Parker was burned out on his career in the legal profession in England “My superiors had been in their positions for twenty years, sitting in the same chairs at the same desks, and that scared me.” he told me. After re-examining the direction his life was taking and pondering what to do next, Damian realized that the American pot pie industry had been in stasis since the mid 1960’s and that there was a community of expats living in the US who didn’t have access to the kind of pies they missed from home. Damian spent a year apprenticing himself to the most renowned butchers and pie makers in the UK, learning the finer points of meat curing, baking, butchery, and picking up some secret family recipes in the process. “I wanted to learn the craft from the old boys while thinking of ways that I could create and innovate a future brand, so I started touring the UK to train with some of the best.” After this period of hands-on education (and how amazing would it be to have a meat-pie-centric training montage in this post right now?) Damian and his wife and business partner Vicky sold the majority of their belongings and moved to the US to start a new business.

The couple started making pies in a converted garage in Vermont, but quickly outgrew the space and soon relocated the business to a bakery in Buffalo, NY. Supplying British expats, who were ravenous for EPPC’s pies, sausages, and bacon, as well as doing wholesale orders for major companies like Disney’s Epcot Center, kept the company’s growth rate high, necessitating their most recent move to a much larger manufacturing facility in South Buffalo where they produce 20,000 pies a days for distributors and private customers. They ended up making such a splash in expat circles that they now feed some of the UK’s biggest celebs – like comedian Nick Frost from Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and the much missed Spaced, which was pretty much the funniest TV show ever) when they are feeling a bit homesick.

Damian has a lot more ambition than just bringing traditional British flavors to the US. He’s currently set his sights on totally reinventing the way American customers think of the pot pie. Damian and Vicky recently launched a second brand called Pie Mad which moves away from the niche of the traditional cured pork flavors of most English style pies to tackle more regional American flavors. Damian has spent years developing recipes to appeal to regional and seasonal American tastes, and when I say recipes, I mean hundreds of them.

“We’re basically reinventing the wheel and finding what’s quirky state by state: a Boston fish pie called Pie-Tanic, a Woodstock hippie veggie pie, a spicy chicken Buffalonian pie, a cheesesteak variety for Philly. On top of that we’re doing seasonal variations like a Valentines Day pie, which is a very decadent steak and chocolate stout gravy, and one for a holiday that comes the month after Valentine’s Day – National Blow-Job Day, which is a steak and blue cheese pie. We’ve also been creating custom pies for clients like the Kennedy Space Center who wanted something hot and spicy, so we created the Re-Entry Pie for them, which is an extremely hot chicken curry pie that burns both ends. We don’t want to be Marie Callender or Banquet. Pie Mad is reinventing the idea of pie culture and creating an innovative pie-sexy environment.”

EPPC20130904 1006 Edit THE PIE MAKER   DAMIAN PARKER

There is something so perfectly retro and comforting about a pot pie that gets absolutely turned on its head after Damian and Vicky are done with it, and I mean that in a wonderful way. Most people have viewed pies like this as a utility item, relegated to memories of grandma’s freezer or long abandoned sections of the frozen food section – you know, the one fridge with the flickering lights that always has a dazed but intimidating weirdo breathing heavily in front of it. But the Parkers are creating modern reinterpretations of the classic format and drawing inspiration from regional food cultures all over America and elsewhere, delivering better quality and taste, and making pies cool again (It’s so hard for me to resist the urge to add something appropriately British about The Doctor swaggering out of the TARDIS and saying something along the lines of “I eat pot pies now, pot pies are cool” that you’re all just going to have to forgive what a sad and unredeemable geek I can be sometimes).

Celebrity buzz, support from food bloggers, endorsements from celebrity chefs, and strong word of mouth have helped the English Pork Pie Company to build a thriving business, and they are starting to channel that success not just into growing their two pie lines, but into revitalizing the local culture in their new home of Buffalo. The fields along the the Erie Canal where their bakery is situated will hopefully soon be home to a full size international soccer stadium that the Parkers are making the cornerstone of their next project – the creation of an actual English village in South Buffalo that is slated to include a brewery, a fish and chips shop, guest cottages, a live music venue and more – transforming the long unused land into a potential new cultural center of the local community. Pies are just the beginning of the New British Empire that the Parkers are starting to build in Western New York.

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REQUIRED READING 11.27.2013

Required Reading is a monthly roundup of the good stuff: links, projects, videos, and cool things I’m reading and watching.  These are the things to get your brain moving and make your day just a little better – fun, informative, and a little addictive. Sonder (above) is a wonderful little reminder about both the dramatic importance and […]

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THE SHIRT SELLER – YOU & WHO

Dan Gigante is going to make the goodest shirt ever. He was wearing a chicken suit when he told me this – but in his defense, it was Halloween and the look kind of worked for him. You And Who is a buy-one/give-one t-shirt company based in Buffalo, NY that collaborates with artists and designers […]

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REQUIRED READING 10.30.2013

Required Reading is a monthly roundup of the good stuff: links, projects, videos, and cool things I’m reading and watching.  These are the things to get your brain moving and make your day just a little better – fun, informative, and a little addictive. Between moving into my new house (Yay adulthood!) and working on some immensely […]

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THE WOODWORKER – WRAFTERBUILT

A man walks into a coffee shop and sits down (at a table and chair he didn’t build – because this man is me, and I don’t know the first goddamn thing about building furniture). Soon, another man joins him (this one has an awesome beard, and though he didn’t build this particular chair and […]

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I HEARD SOMEWHERE THAT THE INTERNET LOVES DOG PHOTOS

It’s time for you to meet some of the family, the furry four-legged members specifically. My girlfriend and I have three big dogs: two Great Danes and a South African Boerboel; we’re unequivocally dog people (meaning that we like dogs – not that we’re dog-people in a weird Island of Dr. Moreau sense). Although we […]

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THE ICE CREAM MAKERS

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cognac, Honey + Blue Cheese, Lime Cardamom, Blood Orange and Angostura Bitters, Farmstand Corn and Blackberry, Whisky Brown Sugar Bacon, Gin and Juice Sherbet, Fernet Branca, Red Velvet? Hell yes. I’ll have one of everything and a pint of chocolate to go. Historically speaking, I’m not the biggest fan of dessert, which probably makes […]

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AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

This is the story of how one conversation, a healthy dose of dissatisfaction, and a few glasses of wine helped me decide to make a major change in my photography, how I thought about where I live, and the kind of stories that I was really interested in telling. At the beginning of the summer […]

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