Another New Mexican culinary luminary with roots in Santa Fe has come down i25 to have a go in the Duke City. Joining the likes of Mark Kiffin (Compound/Zacatecas) and Erin Wade (Vinaigrette), chef James Campbell Caruso brought his 5-time James Beard nominated pedigree to Albuquerque late last year and opened Más—Tapas y Vino in the historic Hotel Andaluz in the downtown area. “I’ve always been intrigued by Albuquerque and the opportunities there, so when Erin and Mark’s restaurants were received with such enthusiasm there I started thinking more seriously about extending into the market,” says Caruso. “When the Andaluz opportunity presented itself it was an easy decision for me, and now almost 3 months in I am really happy to be a part of the great culinary scene in Albuquerque as well as Santa Fe.”
The pairing of Caruso's Iberian flavors with the Spanish sensibilities that the name ‘Andaluz’ implies are an epiphany, leaving one to wonder why the connection wasn't made sooner. Be that as it may, those of us that hanker for a taste of Caruso's La Boca and Taberna without the two-hour round trip to Santa Fe and back can now rejoice.
A minor remodel linking the bar more intimately to the former Lucia dining room has added a decidedly more vibrant flow to the restaurant, creating a lively, less formal dining experience. Like La Boca and Taberna, the menu at Más puts a modern spin on the traditional tapa, expressing Caruso’s emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients. This dedication to sustainability provides another natural fit: the Hotel Andaluz is the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotel in New Mexico. The rating, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide standards for environmentally sustainable construction is extremely prestigious and shows a serious commitment to sustainability by the property owners.
For what it’s worth, I recommend the Paella ($28), which is not a tapa really but IS very Spanish, and the grilled artichoke w/ spanish goat cheese and mint ($12)—so much so that I photographed them for the world to see (above). According to James, the most popular tapa right now is the grilled new mexico flatiron steak w/ smoky sea salt caramel ($14). Finally, those that remember El Farol can harken back to the good old days with the smoked salmon nachos w/ mint aioli & pickled red onions on crispy wontons ($12) that James made famous when he was there many years ago.
When assignments of this size come in, my first steps are logistical: mapping out a timeline based on people's schedules and trying to keep in mind the movement of the sun. I always ask the subjects what time of day their gallery/restaurant/studio/etc looks best, which way their favorite rooms face, where the windows are, and so on. Such preparation is crucial for me for all of the obvious reasons, but also because it helps build some rapport with the subject, letting them know that I care enough to bring out their best. More often than not, I think it helps them to put their best foot forward as well, something that I find makes a big difference. The images below represent somewhere around half of the overarching shot list of local luminaries. Subjects include gallery owners, restauranteurs, artists and other folks with a profound presence in the local community. While these photos are from a few different assignments, many of them can be seen the way they were published, with accompanying text by clicking here and navigating to pages 31-41.
*The Walt Willey photo on page 39 was not taken by me.
We started out in the empty 8th floor while the sun was going down, then made our way to the roof. I mainly used my 24mm 2.8 to try and get more of the amazing view in the frame, though I broke out the 50mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.4 as well.
The assignment was different in many ways than the weddings of 200+ people that I've documented over the years, but the excitement of the bride, the careful planning and logistical scrambling, and the over arching joy were all just as much a part of this celebration as any wedding I've photographed. The setting was a sunny, crisp late spring day. Ultra bright as we started, the light got more and more beautiful as the day went on and I was able to put away my speedlights. Amy got cupcakes from Cake Fetish to commemorate the day, and had gorgeous flowers. Her dress was beautiful, and she and Robert projected an air of contentedness that made my job easy. Kudos to the bride for bearing temperatures in the 30s, and high winds, all without a single complaint. Congrats you two!
The people were rewarding to photograph. A combination of fun and purpose courses through the company, the kind of feeling I associate with employees being treated fairly and taking pride in what they are doing and employers valuing their staff and making careful choices about compatibility and competence during the hiring process. Contented people doing something they care about shine in front of the camera. On the flip side, I've done corporate shoots at companies with unhappy employees, and no amount of photoshop can keep it from coming through. We did standard studio-type shots using a two speedlite setup through PLMs. I then followed around the staff and photographed them where they spent the bulk of their day for an environmental portrait.
I've been lucky to be part of the growing solar industry in New Mexico, having photographed two locally-based installers and, now, CFV. Maybe not what I'd considered a niche when I set out years ago, but certainly one I'll claim now.
I don't print my photos much. The process brings out an obsessive savage inside me that tries to drag me into a rabbit hole of color correcting, paper/monitor profiling, file sizing, etc. from which I may never emerge. For that reason I typically deliver an online gallery to clients that they can print via top shelf printer Bay Photo (by way of my Smug Mug service) out of San Francisco, or (with Magazines and the like) I Dropbox the files and let them profile them to suit the printers they work with. But when the Satellite Café invited me to show my work there, I had to let the savage come out.
It took me a week to figure out the format I would use in the space. It's a huge brick wall, so I had to have really big prints. I grew up in a museum and watched the paralysis that can happen between archivists, artists and installers, so I don't like putting stuff behind glass or using frames/matting/special paper/inks—ad nauseam. I just want it out there on it's own. Simple. Clean. Easy.
I looked into 'thin wrap' options offered by the big boy printers (Millers, Bay Photo, etc). The products are beautiful, stunningly so. They're simple, printed on metal, mounted via a box on the back. They were perfect. Except... they would cost me $500/print at the sizes I wanted. I am a relatively successful photographer, but I'm not Chase Jarvis. I can't drop over $5k for a show at a local cafe. That's a new D800 and a 2.8 mid-range zoom. And part of me always wants to work with local companies (except when it comes to camera stores, but that's another story).
I remembered talking to local photog Kyle Zimmerman about printing really big, and that she had pointed me to a local sign company, so I did some tests with them. A couple of my favorites were unusable, but the others worked surprisingly well. Shadow detail was horribly rendered, but even-toned light or dark images held up well. For $50/print I decided this was the way to go, so I took another couple days finding images with those qualities and tied together a loose theme about living in this amazing state that I have called home (on and off) for over 35 years now. The signs were printed and mounted on 3/8" hard plastic Sintra. I would use heavy-duty red outdoor mounting tape from home depot (good up to 5 LBS it says) and we'd be good to go.
Not so much.
The day after the manager and I spent 2 hours putting up the show, 4 of the prints had fallen down. Luckily they didn't hurt anyone. The next step was having a very handy friend help me design a system that involved creating a box frame and something to attach it to the wall. It took hours to re-install the prints on the brick wall, but by around 10:30 on the second night we were done. I don't know how many people have seen the show—my phone hasn't been ringing off the hook with print orders—but the anxiety and cost of putting it together were well worth it. I've accomplished a system to exhibit my work big that is affordable and sets up in a simple, clean style. Next time will be easier.
For this New Mexico Magazine assignment I was asked to provide images to go with a story by writer Liz Lake that involved three restaurants in Santa Fe brining a renewed vitality to town. The restaurants were The Palace, the lowrider-themed Tia's Cocina in the new Hotel Chimayó and the Agave Lounge in the Eldorado Hotel. I photographed signature dishes, including the decadent Chimayó hot dog (Tia's) and the Tuscan Shrimp (Palace), and some drinks like The Envy (Agave). I also did portraits of widely acclaimed chefs Esteban Garcia (Tia's) and Joseph Wrede (Palace), both of whom I'd worked with in my past life.
I was in Santa Fe all day for this assignment, and broke out a good bit of lighting for people and drinks, a tripod for the interiors and my trusted reflectors for the food. I hope you've all had a chance to see the article in February 2012 issue of New Mexico Magazine.
I spent many hours with Company B's Chris Bart, who flew in for the shoot as a creative director and brought much-needed vision to the project. I found myself looking at interiors differently than I had before, exploring lighting strategies in each room and identifying sweet spots that resided there. I used blended exposures to capture the distinct lighting choices in each room, and broke out speedlights to help bring out details. Using a 20mm lens in most cases, I worked hard to render rooms without contortion by taking extra time with setup and tweaking lines true in post.
The collaboration below, with lovely local model Sheri Ray, ended up in this space. It is nice to have a model with which I have the time, in a controlled environment, to experiment with techniques I'd never dream of on assignments where the subjects are busy and the settings unpredictable or evolving.
Sheri Ray and I (along with local photographer Jennifer Garrett and make-up artist Mack Weaver) started out at the Anodyne downtown where I tried using 3 speedlights and some HDR on backgrounds to get a gritty look. We moved to a window for a few shots and then packed up and walked across the street to the studio, where 2 alien bees and a seamless backdrop awaited us.
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.