STEVE GEDRA OF THE BLACK SHEEP

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.

THE WOODWORKER: WRAFTERBUILT

Wodworker Sean Wrafter of 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 table set he most assuredly could have – though his version would have undoubtedly been far cooler and better made) and begins to speak reverently about tools in a way reminiscent of how old movie samurai speak about swords. The conversation is rife with invocations that extol the virtues of certain indigenous woods, litanies dedicated to the importance of the trades, and excited odes to furniture built from reclaimed materials. It is without a doubt one of the most stimulating and entertaining conversations I have had in weeks –  few things are as engaging as talking with someone about what they are really excited about. Continue reading “THE WOODWORKER: WRAFTERBUILT”

TRISTAN LAMBRIGHT

QCRG Roller Derby coach Tristan Lambright

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you may have seen that recently I was trying to help my friends Megan and Tristan raise money to help their brother Dustin buy a new prosthesis as he grew out of his previous one. I am happy to say that the campaign was a resounding success, and not only was enough money raised to buy Dustin’s prosthesis for this year, but next year’s as well.

What you may not know is that those friends I was helping support have made occasional appearances on this blog and in my work, much like this new PR portrait of Tristan that I took recently (and insisted that he sport the beard/flannel look he’s been pulling off lately for it). You have probably seen them here before.

Megan has made many appearances in the fun team photos I have created for my friends on the championship Western NY roller derby squad The Nickel City Knockouts (they are an amazing team and I love helping them out — Megan is also the captain and was also one of the first people to pose for me when I started coming back to photography professionally) and Tristan made a past appearances in my series of toothbrush face images (he was the crazy one). Tristan is also highly involved in the QCRG Roller Derby league both as a referee, coach, and highly visible promoter/supporter.

I get to meet a lot of interesting people through photography: artists, musicians, politicians and more — I get to make a lot of friends through what I do. But it still gives me a lot of joy when I get a chance to photograph my friends and people who have been in my life for a while, whether it is for an assignment or just a personal project of my own.

LEO CHAN

Portrait of Leo Chan

Leo Chan owns way more neckties than I do (an impressive feat given that I regularly shoot for a tie designer and have accumulated a respectable collection of my own over the years). So when he turned up at the studio for this portrait assignment a few weeks ago I was not at all surprised when he started unpacking an immaculately curated selection of neckwear alongside some other great pieces from his own wardrobe. Even though we put several of those ties to more prominent use in other portraits that day, it was this sportier and more colorful look that I really ended up loving. There is something about that hard red gelled light coming from camera right and the red warmup jacket that really works for me in the above shot, and the style transitioned nicely to the black and white variation below (and of course I think that the warmup jacket/tie combo is frightfully under-appreciated.)

This production was a long time coming. Leo and I had talked about working on a project together for some time prior to this, but it seemed our scheduling never worked out —thankfully on this assignment the stars aligned correctly and my team and I were able to create several interesting portraits of him.

B+W portrait of Leo Chan

TOM TUBIOLO

Tom Tubiolo

Tom Tubiolo is a working musician in Rochester NY, playing live in bars and clubs around the city –  just a guy and a guitar on stage making great music.

Some people are passionate about music, but Tom is Passionate (note the capital P) about it. He proceeded to thoroughly out-geek me as we got nerdy and talked about the music we loved – he became extra enthusiastic when he found out that I was heading to Seattle just a few days after this shoot took place. It turns out that Tom is a huge grunge fan, so my impending trip opened up a whole new facet to our conversation as he told me of the acts from that region who had influenced him over the years while I was photographing him. His love for music is infectious – after I made these promotional portraits of Tom I had to set myself on a steady mission to re-acquaint myself with some musical favorites of mine that I hadn’t listened to in a while.

I often write on this blog about how other artists and creatives are some of my favorite subjects, and Tom is a perfect example of that. He is a working artist who is really, really into what he does, regardless of where or how he is doing it.

Tom Tubiolo NY musician tom Tubiolo

LOGAN SCHOTT

Logan Schott

Logan Schott is a model who can’t stay in one place for too long. Since I first worked with him a year ago on a banking campaign Logan has lived on both coasts and made travel between LA, NYC, and Buffalo a near constant in his life, but thankfully I have had occasional  opportunities to work with him since then on personal projects and a recent series of images for Cyberoptix. 

Logan was visiting Western New York for the holidays from Los Angeles to visit with family and friends, and as usual we made immediate plans to work on something together. The only snag was that the studio was pretty much empty for the holidays, crew members were traveling, some equipment was out for annual repair and maintenance, and even the heat had been running at minimum for days. No crew, no styling team, and very little gear is a bit of a break in how I normally work when I am on a commercial or editorial assignment, but these small projects with friends are always fun – just the two of us working together to make something. One thing we didn’t have to worry about though was wardrobe. Logan is essentially a punk rock fashion boy scout – always prepared, he brought a bag full of finds from his ceaseless thrifting and DIY clothing projects.

This simple black and white portrait was one of my favorites from the shoot (Okay… this was a hard shoot to edit as there were a lot of variations and great frames), and very illustrative of the type of portraiture I have found myself drawn to over the last few months.

There are a few other images from this shoot that I will share soon (probably next week). They have  a very different feel from this sombre portrait and I think they warrant their own post.

John Camille

Portrait of John Camille

Over the past few months John Camille has become something of a fixture at my studio. Making a frequent appearance at wrap parties and post-shoot events alongside his girlfriend Nicole, a makeup artist and stylist who has been an important collaborator on many of my projects. A wiry and intense conversationalist, John will shift suddenly from a reserved chat about Alan Turing and artificial intelligence into a manic and fascinating sermon on the virtues of his preferred brand of Absinth – all during the course of a short portrait sitting. Naturally, he is a character that was quickly welcomed into the large and eccentric extended family of collaborators and friends that frequent my studio.

This image was actually taken after the majority of the session had taken place. The previously styled and neat hair that Nicole had styled for John had quickly devolved back into its usual wild and unruly norm  (It truly has an anti-authoritarian mind of its own, much like its owner) – so I pulled him back in front of the camera for a few more frames, including this one which became my favorite from the session.

Adam Varga

Adam Varga in Funnel Neck Coat

Adam Varga in Funnel Neck Coat

I shot these images right at the end of 2011, but I wanted to hold off on sharing them with you until today to kick off the new year with some style. I was introduced to Adam through my friend and client, WGRZ television host Lydia Dominick, when he was in Buffalo recently as part of a production I had been working with Lydia on. Adam is a fellow Canadian and one of those subjects that you develop a rapport with instantly (much like Lydia). After working with him on one project (which will debut in a couple of weeks) I ended up having him back in the studio later that same week to create this elegantly simple series of portraits.

And it looks like he broke out that fur hat just in time, as the first real winter storm might be rolling in tonight after weeks of mild winter weather. I am excited to get out and shoot in the snow soon.

Adam Varga in winter hatAdam varga in tankt op and fur hatAdam Varga portrait in funnel neck coatAdam Varga in Fur hat and coat

Sarah Shriver and Bryan Vomit

Sarah Shriver and Bryan Vomit

I am coming off the tail end of an extremely prolific week of shooting, ill be leaking a ton of new images out here on the blog over the next few weeks. I spent friday out and about with Zach Rose photographing the awesome alternative style icons Bryan Vomit and Sarah Shriver. An absolutely fun and heavy metal fueled shoot that left them covered in the styling secrets of the week: food coloring and cornstarch. These two were just a blast to shoot with, I can’t wait to work with them again. I loved working with such extreme styling in such a natural environment, creating an interesting juxtaposition that highlights their unique looks.

Bryan Vomit

Sarah Shriver

City of God

Todd Gregoire - City of God

Todd Gregoire a member of the Buffalo, NY based darkwave trio City of God. A performer, composer and technologist, Todd is a multitalented artist who, along with his bandmates Melanie (City of God’s lead vocalist) and Qwak, has been a staple of the electronic and darkwave music scenes in the northeast for years. The use of blue and black as a color palette has long been a thematic element of the band’s image, and Todd wanted to continue that motif with this project. I decided to develop a cool detached tone to the image to complement the color choices the band as made as well as the electronic perfection of their music.

See City of God images and more in my Portfolio

The Angriest Critic – Adam Rosina

I recently had the opportunity to interview and photograph Adam Rosina for his own personal biography and for a feature being written on him by Auxiliary Magazine. Rosina is quickly becoming know as Western New York’s angriest and most misanthropic film critic, ready to call out directors for lackluster efforts and to rail against film audiences for their acceptance of over commercialized and easy to digest pablum, and their self imposed ignorance of great films, both high end and low brow. An immensely interesting character, our shoot entailed trying to capture the vitriol and aggression that Rosina brings to his writing, while tempering it with some humanity and humor. It was one of those rare shoots where I was afforded to opportunity to photograph a subject that I have been friends with for years, so a certain comfort level existed prior to the shoot that made it quite easy to get the results Adam and I were looking for.