Donkey photographed at Asha Farms Animal Sanctuary in Newfane NY

I love the work I do with rescue dogs — it’s incredibly rewarding to me and it helps to find new homes for wonderful dogs who have come out of some really bad situations — but all too often we lose sight of the other animals that face abuses in our world. The ones that need help and are commonly denied it because we have institutionalized the disconnection we have from our traditional food sources — the “meat comes from the store” mentality. We have become the largest consumers of meat in the world, and have over-industrialized much of our agricultural production. Because of this, many of us have never seen a cow or chicken up close, let alone considered the impact they have on our day-to-day lives or how our habits of consumption affect their wellbeing and ethical treatment. While not everyone may agree with eating meat, or conversely with living a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle — I think that it’s important to acknowledge that there are people trying to change the lives of these animals for the better.

Asha is a farm and livestock sanctuary in Newfane, NY that has been rescuing and giving a long-term home to livestock and working animals that have faced illness, abuse, and near slaughter. They have been in operation since 2012 when former HSBC Bank executive Tracy Murphy, spurred on by her research into abusive farming practices and animal research, left her job to start the small shelter farm that quickly grew into Asha Sanctuary and its associated vegan and cruelty-free foodways education programs. Tracy has amassed quite a group of animals at Asha, many saved at the last second from auction or slaughter. I’d been looking to work with a more diverse selection of animals and I was focused on finding a group that was involved in rescue or animal rehabilitation. Asha Sanctuary’s name kept popping up over and over again in my research, and serendipitously Tracy reached out to me at almost the same time to inquire about the possibility of creating some new animal images to use in Asha’s fundraising and educational materials — so it was something of a perfect match.

Cornish Game Hen photographed at Asha Farms Animal Sanctuary in Newfane NYCow photographed at Asha Farms Animal Sanctuary in Newfane NY

We worked with Albert, a young calf who was rescued at just a day old —abandoned and separated from his mother and found with his umbilical cord still attached. Albert was in bad shape until he was nursed back to health at Asha by Tracy, where he now has the chance to be the playful and sweet animal he has grown into. Seeing him run around the pasture, eat fruit, and chase the other animals reminded me so much of the way my dogs act. Albert has a great affinity for people and the attention they give him, coming right up alongside you and rubbing his head against your hand until you pet him. It’s amazing to see how much he has imprinted on Tracy and how affectionate he was towards my team – essentially acting like a big puppy the whole day.

Turkey photographed at Asha Farms Animal Sanctuary in Newfane NY

Another one of our favorite subjects was Abraham — A turkey who was rescued from slaughter by another sanctuary before coming to Asha. He has been debeaked and wasn’t in the best health when he was first rescued due to the cramped quarters he had been living in. But much like Albert, living at Asha has given Abraham a whole new outlook on life as he can roam the property and freely interact with the visitors and other animals. He also has a thing about shoelaces, as he managed to untie mine three or four times during the course of the shoot at Asha.

Michael the goat from Asha Sanctuary in Newfane NY

Finally, Michael is a young goat whose main interest in life seem to be head-butting me every chance he got. I really wish we had grabbed some video, because he was like a little ninja, coming out of nowhere to bop me whenever he could. It’s pretty normal for goats, especially young ones like him, but it certainly made for an entertaining day of dodging him and having my assistants watch my back to make sure the little guy wasn’t trying to sneak up on me to show me he was the boss. It was actually pretty cute, like a little kid who thinks he’s a tough guy.

You can visit Asha during any of their open hours to meet and bond with these wonderful animals. You can also help sponsor the care and treatment of individual animals as many of their newer residents have ongoing medical needs due to the their previous treatment and neglect at the hands of others.

Red Chicken photographed at Asha Farms Animal Sanctuary in Newfane NY

 Ben Johnson of Blue Table Chocolates - An Artisinal chcolate maker from Buffalo NY who hand crafts unique and colorful chocolate truffles in a variety of flavors, both exotic and classic

I often seem to get dragged along to local markets on mornings when I have no business being awake or even attempting to interact with others, but these always seem to be where I find really interesting small businesses that end up fascinating me. This was definitely the case one morning last year while visiting the Horsefeather’s Market on the West Side of Buffalo. Amongst the produce vendors, small shops selling coffee and handmade dumplings, and an interminably busy brunch spot — was a small table piled with tiny boxes hiding treasures. You could have easily walked past it if it weren’t for the electric colors of the actual product drawing you in. These simple and unassuming cartons were filled with selections of glossy Technicolor chocolate truffles — bright blooms of gold, red, and purple, bisected asymmetrically by a single bold line of color. A metallic dusting leaving them looking a little a starry midnight sky. But don’t for a second think that these truffles are too precious or delicate to eat, their intensity of flavor and uniqueness demands that they be sampled. And honestly, all this romanticized and pseudo-poetic language about chocolates is coming from someone like me — WHO DOES NOT LIKE SWEETS — so you know they have to be pretty good.

The man making and selling these chocolates is Ben Johnson, the owner of Blue Table Chocolates, and he got his start in chocolate as a way to fill his days while looking for a job. Ben came to Buffalo from Boston, MA, where he had been working for over a decade in the non-profit sector with an initiative focused on building affordable housing. Ben’s wife was the catalyst for a move when, as an academic, she was offered a job teaching at the University of Buffalo. “I started looking for the same exact thing here and it wasn’t coming up. So just to fill the day I got a job working at Choco-Logo on Broadway downtown, worked there for about three months, just working the line along with Buffalo’s Burmese community and just got hooked, just got totally hooked until I got another desk job, and you know, ‘say good‑bye, this was fun, you know, take care, guys, I’ll see you around, but I have to go back to my real life now.’ But I never really stopped.” Ben told me.

“So I would be working sixty, seventy hours a week in the non‑profit world and just be completely stressed and burnt out. After work I would get home at nine o’clock at night, say hi to the wife, put the kids to sleep, walk the dog, and then just be all amped up and would make chocolate until two or three in the morning. And I just did that in our kitchen for about four or five years and it got to the point where we would go to dinner parties and bring stuff I’d made along and our friends would ask ‘This is great, where can I get some?’ And there was no answer — like ‘Oh, no, this is just for fun’. The job I was in just got more and more demanding as time went on and I started thinking ‘Why are you doing this? You never see the kids, you never get to go to soccer games, you have no summer breaks.’ So we sat down, had a hard talk about what happens if I do this, what happens if I actually do what I enjoy doing — and the whole conversation was ‘well, what’s the next step, what do you do five years down the road? What do you do ten years down the road?’ And I thought ‘let’s just put that aside, let’s forget about five years, ten years — what do we want to do now? And then it will figure itself out’ So I said my peace and gave two months’ notice so they could start another search to fill my position. I think it was about two and a half years ago, I just started do this real small, some private events, online sales, and it’s just been taking off since then.”

Aside from the immaculate taste, the aesthetic of Ben’s truffles are a big part of the appeal. These chocolates are gorgeous, and not in an overly baroque or ornamental way. The simplest elements of design done well are on display here: line, color, and shape. There aren’t any fancy ornaments or overlaid patterns, just a clean and perfect structure to convey delicious chocolates to your taste buds. A simplicity that is perhaps owed to Ben’s own education in design and architecture. “I studied at UVA for four years. I had a lot of fun. The thing is, and I didn’t even think about this until long after it happened, but every architecture school has got its own assets and quirks, I think. UVA was known to not rely on color in renderings and the models and all that, because that was seen as something of a cheap out. It should be about the design proportions. At most you might add something like a single red line to define a section because it’s that single restrained moment that makes everything else pop more, and that kind of ended up as the aesthetic of Blue Table — don’t get all crazy with fifteen different colors, the rainbow tutti fruity, just have one clean line, and that’s sort of the become the look.”

Ben Johnson of Blue Table Chocolates - An Artisinal chcolate maker from Buffalo NY who hand crafts unique and colorful chocolate truffles in a variety of flavors, both exotic and classic

Much like the architecture he once studied, there is a language to the design of the truffles that Ben makes — a syntax of colors that imply flavor and define expectations. Sanguine crimson with a splash of eponymous color for blood orange, passionfruit is the color of a tropical sunset crossed with a cream color that reminds one of sand. Salted caramel is a regal purple shot though with pure white — royal colors for Blue Table’s best seller. Boxes are accompanied by a flavor guide that explains all this, but it’s much for fun to eat your way through a collection, learning to recognize your favorites by sight. And there’s always the surprises — monthly flavors that are based on the season, ingredient availability, what experiments Ben has ben toying with — sometimes for years. The current monthly offerings are french toast and maple bacon, while past months have included flavors like St. Germain, pumpkin caramel, blood orange, lavender, rosemary pine nut, banana rum, yuzu-ginger, and Pop-Rocks

As a fledgling business, gaining a foothold in the community was important for Blue Table Chocolates, especially since their creative approach to truffles is a little out of step with the ubiquitous presence of sponge candy and chocolate pretzels in Buffalo. Rather than be slavish to tradition or trends, Blue Table has decided to embrace other elements of Buffalo’s shifting culture, including its growing immigrant and refugee community. One of the first major events that Ben got to flex his creative muscles on was a fundraiser for The International Institute of Buffalo — called Buffalo Without Borders – an opportunity that found him creating chocolates with flavor profiles al little outside of what you might find in any of Buffalo’s more traditional chocolatier’s catalogs. ”The idea was to find some sort of bridge between local Buffalonians and the refugee population. There are Burmese families all over Buffalo, as well as refugees from other areas, but it’s really segregated and there’s not much crossover between the communities. So the point of this event was to offer something that was influenced by the Burmese or the Bhutanese community, but was accessible to local Buffalonians as well, and the thought was that chocolate could be that medium.”

“I worked with three families, one from Burma, one from Bhutan, and one from Iraq — and over the course of three of four months of meetings I got to know their stories, their history, and what they like to cook at home. I would go back with a few small Tupperware containers that had samples of ganache — perhaps something like a date and white chocolate ganache with a touch of tahini for a Baklava inspired truffle. And these families were brutal, which was great. Sometimes even if they liked it they would feel the recipe had no real connection to their lives in Buffalo or back in their previous homes — so I had to start over and rethink what I was working on completely. So these families were incredible and really let me know when it wasn’t working. Ultimately I went through four or five versions before settling on something they really liked. For the Bhutanese family I created a toasted basmati rice pudding truffle that was similar in concept to an India rice pudding, but they toast the rice first in peanut oil which gives it a brown color and a great nutty aroma. We also added some toasted cardamom and golden raisin to round out the flavor a bit — which ended up being so specific and unique — but it totally nailed the flavor of this dish.”

“The Burmese truffle was an interesting process because the Burmese culture doesn’t really have a set dessert course in its meals — so instead we based it off a traditional Burmese tea salad, which is a communal event that brings together a lot of small dishes to accompany tea, and guests just sort build their own thing from what’s available. So we worked with coconut milk, chilis, and tamarind paste while omitting other elements of the service like the preserved fish and dried shrimp. It’s a truly unique truffle that’s a little more bitter than what we normally create, and certainly a lot hotter, but It appealed to the palettes of my hosts who kept pushing me to build stronger hotter flavors that they were accustomed to. We’ll be doing that event again this year, so I’m interested to see what I get to create this time.”

It may be a harder road to walk, but by eschewing trends and chasing what interests him, Ben has begun to carve out a loyal following — amongst both fellow obsessives and casual fans. Each season brings a constant evolution and refinement of Ben’s truffles, which he still produces by hand himself. Blue Table Chocolates have become something of a treasure to those that love them — something they will gladly seek out as they follow Ben’s market schedule, order directly from him, or even by opting to one of the subscription plans that Ben offers that featuring both his classic and special monthly flavors. Speaking for myself, it’s the uniqueness of the flavors that Ben creates that drew me to his chocolates — And while you won’t find sponge candy or other classic local favorites amongst his wares, you can be sure that Ben is awake, probably much later than you are, and working on something even cooler to excite you.

Super Lawyers - Part of Thomson Reuters

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters

We found ourselves in at the most incredible farm in Western NY for this assignment. Super Lawyers Magazine had tasked us with creating a cover story about Ginger Schröder – a founding partner at the Buffalo based firm of Schröder, Joseph, And Associates. During our production calls the client informed me that Ginger makes a long commute several times a week from her rural property to her office in the city, so we would be heading to Farmersville NY that evening to photograph Ginger on her home turf.

As my assistant Lindsay and I left Buffalo and headed towards Cattaraugus county and ultimately Farmersville we began to see the gradation of change that takes place when leaving Buffalo in certain directions. Sterile highways quickly morph into rural thoroughfares and eventually become small country roads that wind blindly up into the hills. Dense old growth trees and brush suddenly open up to views of lush working fields and valleys below. Cars become less frequent and you begin to see the occasional buggy as you realize you are skirting the edge of one of WNY’s Amish communities. It’s stunning – both for its raw beauty and for the fact that we’ve barely traveled an hour from home and yet I feel like I’m somewhere wholly removed from there. It’s a reality that I quickly learned wasn’t lost on Ginger when I met her. This place, and the farm she’s built here, are her respite from city life.

When we finally arrived at the farm, Waverley Pond, we learned that there were more residents present than Ginger and her family. We were enthusiastically greeted by the Family’s dogs, and more cautiously approached by some of the chickens and ducks that roam the property (Apparently a fox had been terrorizing the flock in recent weeks) There were horses off in one of the more distant pastures, some of whom we later learned were rescues, saved by Ginger at the last-minute from poor treatment and dire situations prior to her family’s care bringing them back to health. I can only imagine that the effort and responsibility of tending the to the land and animals at Waverley Pond as well as running an immensely successful law firm must be herculean, but it seems like work Ginger gladly embraces.

Ginger gave us a tour of the farm as the sun started to get low in the sky. We quickly scouted for locations, but finding them proved simple, as it seemed that around every corner we found something new we wanted to include in a portrait: a private pond, beautiful barns and stables, and expansive fields with horses grazing in the background (Though they didn’t stay in the background for long – I never cease to be amazed by how curious horses always seem to be about my gear. Thankfully Lindsay, did a great job of managing our equine extras when they weren’t in our shots). The early evening light and heavy incoming clouds created a perfect atmosphere, with cool blue mixing with warm amber and purple in the fading light as we finished setting up our gear and started shooting the first of several portraits we would make that evening for this cover story.

Sarah Schneider is the Owner of Handlebar - a bicycle themedbar and pub located in The Hub development center in Buffalo, NY
Want to get on your bike and meet somewhere for a pint? I know the perfect place.

Sarah Schneider is the owner of both Merge and HandleBar in Buffalo, NY – the later location being both her most recent venture and her gastronomical ode to bikes, beer, and simple but delicious food. This cycling themed pub has fixed its sights on Buffalo’s two-wheel set, and in a city that embraces events like the Skyride and becomes more bike friendly all the time – that’s a growing crowd.

With gears embedded in the bar, stools adorned with pedals, bike chain chandeliers, and the Penny-Farthing inspired logo that never fails to remind me of The Prisoner, HandleBar creates an environment that is equal parts industrial and organic, vintage and modern – a bright and inviting space for riders (and occasional enthusiasts of alternative forms of locomotion) to meet up and refuel. I’d be decidedly happy having some post-shoot drinks with crew and clients anytime.

Sarah is an avid gardener, raises fowl, and has a strong interest in sustainable food that has always been reflected in her hospitality ventures, so the crew and I were truly excited when we found out that she would be bringing one of her beautiful birds to the shoot. I’m used to having animals make an appearances in my images but I think this is the first time a chicken has made a cameo in one of my portraits, thankfully it was a quiet summer day with wonderful morning light coming in through Handlebar’s windows, so our feathered friend was a well-behaved and welcome addition to the images we were creating.

I’m excited to visit HandleBar again soon, the place has a cool and relaxing vibe that pulls you into the culture it has built itself to serve. Whether you are coming for the food, drinks, or to meet up with like-minded riders, HandleBar should be a regular stop on your route – and frankly, knowing there’s a cold one waiting for you at the end of a ride is a great motivator to start cycling more.

Sarah Schneider is the Owner of Handlebar - a bicycle themedbar and pub located in The Hub development center in Buffalo, NY

A moment from the wedding of Luke & Erin Copping - By Nickel City Studios

After months of planning, coordinating guests from two countries, and so much anticipation and excitement, Erin and I finally celebrated our wedding on Sunday in Niagara Falls, NY. I couldn’t be happier with how the day turned out and I’m so excited to finally be able to call Erin not just my best friend, but my wife!

So many of our friends pitched in to help us, and we worked with some of the coolest people we know on various parts of the day, including: Ali from Anatomy who designed and handmade Erin’s dress, Shauna Haider of We Are Branch who designed our invites and menus, the guys at Bureau who put my suit together, Alyssa and Rich of Nickel City Studios who created the amazing portrait of the two of us above, Lindsay at The Rapids Theatre, Steve at Rich’s who handled our catering, and Keith Harrington who designed the amazing light mapped wedding cake that was one of the coolest parts of the reception. Thank you so much to everyone who helped us to pull off such an incredible day. And an incredibly special thanks to my cousin Ryan for performing the beautiful ceremony he wrote for us.

We’re both looking forward to sharing more pictures soon, but in the meantime check out this amazing cake!

Erin + Luke’s Cake from Alyssa Mattingly on Vimeo.

Petunia - white adolescent pit bull

About a year ago, a skinny white pit bull was found wandering near the Buffalo waterfront alone and scared. She was a sweet girl who had some trust issues, and very little was known about where she came from before she was found and placed with the volunteers from a local rescue program called Educate-A-Bull that aims to both educate the public about the false and harmful stigma surrounding bully breed dogs as well as rescue, rehabilitate, and find wonderful homes for these in-need animals. The program’s volunteers worked hard and did an amazing job of getting her healthy, noursihed, and socialized again. They named her Petunia.

After a local news station ran a story on the work I’ve done with the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, a group of Educate-A-Bull’s volunteers contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with their program and creating an adoption portrait of this tiny lady, since she is one of the program’s long-term residents. Of course I jumped at the chance to get to meet, photograph, and play with this cute four and a half year old pit bull terrier.

Petunia is looking for a new home with a loving and experienced owner. She’s a wonderful dog that has been with Educate-A-Bull for about a year, and her ideal home would be one without children or other pets – preferably with an owner who can give her a lot of attention and make her feel truly welcome as she settles into her new home.

She is house and crate trained, and current on all her vaccinations. You can read more about little Petunia on her Educate-A Bull page.

Please help spread the word about Petunia’s story. I know together we can find her a forever home!

Petunia - white adolescent pit bull

Chef Steve Gedra of the Black Sheep in Buffalo, NY.

For a long time Steve Gedra has been my favorite chef cooking in Buffalo.

With the two restaurants he’s owned in the city alongside his wife Ellen – their former Elmwood Avenue spot Bistro Europa, and their current restaurant The Black Sheep, Steve has cemented himself as one of the most exciting figures in the Buffalo dining scene, and I’ve got a lot of reasons to appreciate what he does – some culinary, and some a little more personal.

I love the fact that his menus often reflect things that I grew up with that tend to be a little harder to find on most local menus: head cheese, pig ears and pork liver aren’t uncommon things to see when you look over the menu at The Black Sheep. A lot of these are things that remind me of meals I shared with my dad before he passed way (coincidentally – I think he would have really liked Steve’s food).

I love that he works so closely with local producers to pass on the area’s best to his customers.

I love that Steve constantly mixes it up, often inviting other local chefs into his kitchen to collaborate as part of his monthly Midnight Mass events.

I love that Steve can convert some of the pickiest eaters I know – namely my fiancée. As an avowed pork hater she gets mad if I even cook bacon in the house, but she will gladly chow down on any number of porcine goodies if Steve is serving them.

I love Ellen’s deserts – even if for some mystifying reason you don’t eat anything else on the menu, just order dessert and you’ll be happy.

And I love that when I was recovering from a really nasty surgery that kept me from working for quite some time Steve invited Erin and I to Bistro Europa for what was, at the time, the most relaxing and stress free meal we had been able to enjoy in a while – he’s a genuinely welcoming and caring person who wears his love for his customers on his sleeve.

It was amazing to finally have a chance to create this portrait of Steve in the front bar of The Black Sheep. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon before a weekday dinner kicked off, so we had some wonderful light coming in through the windows while we set up this shot and enjoyed some of the fantastic Chemex brewed coffee Steve made for us. Steve and Ellen put a lot of care into the design of the restaurant, including the intimate front bar that then opens up into the larger rear dining room, which is where we decided to photograph Steve enjoying a coffee and a few seconds of quiet prior to service.

Craig Maxwell of Parker Hannifin

I’m thrilled to share some selections with you from my latest assignment for the always fantastic to work with Forbes Magazine. This time they sent me to Cleveland Ohio to create portraits for a story on Parker Hannifin – a nearly 100-year-old worldwide firm specializing in motion control and mechanical engineering that is in the process of disrupting their own research and development process in a really exciting way.

Craig Maxwell of Parker Hannifin

My first subject was Craig Maxwell – the company’s VP of technology and innovation, and the man responsible for creating the new R&D practices at Parker that allow singularly focused engineers and scientists to pursue research on their own wild projects in a program that’s part hacker space, part startup incubator, and part Shark Tank like pitch contest – a  program that’s keeping the company focused on agility, adaptability, and innovation at a time when slow-moving and overly conservative companies are falling to disruptive young upstarts. The symbiosis between the company and it’s passionate and competitive engineers benefits everyone – especially those engineers to whom Parker provides significant benefit and support, as Maxwell’s ultimate aim is for them to have an ownership stake in their profoundly important creations.

Ryan Farris of Parker Hannifin with his exoskeleton project for Forbes Magazine

My second subject for this assignment is a perfect example of Maxwell’s ideal. Ryan Farris is one of the singularly focused engineers I mentioned above – and the mind behind one of Parker’s most exciting new developments, a revolutionary wearable exoskeleton system aimed at helping people with severe spinal injuries to walk again. Aside from the healthcare application the firm is hopeful that there might be further industrial applications that they can develop as the technology evolves. Farris began work on the project while still a student at Vanderbilt University and it there that the exoskeleton caught Craig Maxwell’s attention, prompting him to bring the project in-house at Parker. Farris has been catching the attention of more than just the internal startup scene at Parker, as he was named one of Forbes 30 under 30 Young Innovators – an honor he greatly deserves as his invention should be brining real positive change to people’s lives in the next couple of years.

Ryan Farris of Parker Hannifin in Cleveland OH for Forbes Magazine

Casting director and historical reenactor Guy William Gane III

I’m a bit of a binge watcher when it comes to historical dramas and political thrillers – so I was elated to once again have the chance to photograph Guy Gane. Guy is a prolific actor and casting director specializing in historical reenactments, period and military dramas (He’s also the owner of one of the best beards I’ve ever photographed). Guy has worked on projects like HBO’s John Adams, Netflix’s House of Cards, Legends And Lies, Field of Lost Shoes, And played historical figures like John Wilkes Booth and Augustus Van Horne Ellis in historical pieces for PBS – among others.

A consuming obsession with the past runs in Guy’s veins, and it takes little time with him to realize that the connection to the historical figures he plays is more than just dramatic. He’s truly invested in the history of The United States – especially the Civil War. As a historical reenactor obsessed with authenticity and detail Guy wholly throws himself into each role – from developing truly period accurate costumes to being a near encyclopedic font of knowledge about the lives – both glorious and tragic – of those he plays.

You can currently see Guy’s work on Fox News’ Wild West docu-series Legends and Lies

Casting director and historical reenactor Guy William Gane III

Casting director and historical reenactor Guy William Gane III

Examples of branding and marketing materials developed by Shauna Haider of We Are Branch developed for Buffalo, NY Photographer Luke Copping

Take a look inside the work of the incomparable Shauna Haider of We Are Branch!

Shauna and I have collaborated on so many amazing projects over the past few years and she’s been an instrumental part of defining the look and style of my brand. I love that she’s always ready with a dozen new ideas on how I can evolve and polish the design elements that accompany my photography. Today on We Are Branch’s blog Shauna takes a look at a few of the projects we’ve been working on the past few months.


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