Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Mexico Magazine: Gallup, New Mexico

I was contacted by New Mexico Magazine a while back to photograph artists and trading companies in Gallup, NM for their November 2011 issue. It was my first contact with the publication, and after wanting to shoot for them for a long time I was elated! One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was also writing a part of the article. The process of stoking the slumbering writer in me was two things: agonizing and exhilarating. I struggled to put the story together, and worried that I was going to make it hard for the publication to ever hire me again. But I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed getting back to something I had once devoted so much time to. I may not become a regular paid writer anytime soon, but it was really interesting to be photographing things I knew I would later be writing about, and at times this influenced my frame dramatically. For those that are interested, you can find a copy of New Mexico magazine right now all over the state. 

The assignment stood out for many reasons: the photogenic town itself, the pleasant surprise with which I came away from Gallup, reawakening as a writer, the company of the people that I came to photograph and ended up spending time with. I enjoyed the quiet, but at times spectacular, drive from Albuquerque — perhaps most of all, though, I am thrilled to be working with the folks at New Mexico Magazine, who show a clear commitment to delivering a quality of editorial content and coverage that our state deserves yet sorely lacks (at least in my opinion). I'm ready for the next assignment!

The photos below include the famous El Rancho Hotel's outside and lobby, the Touchin family in front of their Church Rock home, well regarded work by potter Gerald Pinto, the amazing rug room of Tanner's Indian Arts, bracelets on display at Silver Dust Trading Company, Jimmy Paywa and his famous Zuni bread, Virginia Yazzie-Ballinger modeling one of her world-renowned velveteen dresses (and later at the sewing machine), a vendor at Earl's restaurant, and an example of Bisbee turquoise, which I'm told is the most expensive in the world at over $1,000/carat. 

Vernon's Hidden Valley Steakhouse

My business model for restaurant photography is evolving. I no longer simply head in at the right time of day with a reflector and look for the best window light to photograph a delicious plate of food near. There are more people to photograph now, often in environments with little or no natural light. I bring speedlights and diffusers to help with that. And lately, an emphasis is being placed on spaces. Sometimes I need more lighting for this as well, but I've been increasingly leaning more toward a tripod and long, often blended, exposures.

At Vernon's I arrived late one evening and took care of the food photos with waning evening natural light and reflectors. Then we moved on to actor/model Jackamoe Buzzell, who is the perfect mobster face of Vernon's. I used a couple of SB700s and my beloved Photek Softlighters for his portraits as well as those of executive chef Craig Murphy.

Vernon's is a very dark, quiet and beautiful space with a speakeasy theme. Everything has been thought out by the ownership, from the lighting to the construction, decor and furniture. I tried to honor this by drawing out the details of each space as much as possible. Architectural lines, wall art, lighting subtleties and colors, furniture choices, etc... The key, in my mind, was to preserve the dark, private environment at Vernon's (not just lighting everything up), yet provide a rich array of details for the eye to soak up. Hopefully this comes across in the resulting images.