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CONTENT

Propelled by Passion: An Interview with Ricardo Bouyett

Christophe Chaisson

'Live Authentic' rings true in the life of Ricardo Bouyett. We had the absolute privilege and honor of having a raw, honest interview with him. Embracing vulnerability, Ricardo shares his painful, yet hope-filled journey with us. His career as a photographer & filmmaker go hand in hand with the trauma that he has gone through and his quest for healing. Read below with an open heart and mind; there is a lesson to be learned for all of us. 

Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Ricardo: I first got into photography when I was in high school and my parents gave me a Canon Rebel as a gift. I only ever played around with it a handful of times. It wasn’t until my second semester as a freshman in college that I started taking photography seriously. I had just figured out that I was gay and I was in this weird semi-romantic relationship with a straight boy who lived in my dorm and he had called me the devil for seducing him into cuddling with me for several weeks and he dropped out of school. I was trying to process this situation along with a lot of my own questions in regards to my sexuality and identity and photography seemed like such an easy way to both distract myself and find myself. After class I would go out and shoot with friends, practice, teach myself certain things I didn’t really know.

 
 
 

C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

R: I started trying out different digital techniques, coloring, and ideas to emulate some of my favorite artists. I decided to transfer to Columbia College Chicago so I could have a more stimulating environment as well as the opportunity to make some worthwhile connections and elevate my education in the arts. From the time that I applied for the transfer to my first semester at Columbia, I started my 365 project and began learning through trial and error. By the time I got to Columbia, I had been a little under halfway finished with my first major body of work. But once I was in that academic environment I started questioning more, challenging myself more and really trying to figure out what my visual voice was trying to say and what I wanted my images to be about. 

 

C: How did you develop your style?

R: My 365 project played a huge role in my development as a photographer. It helped shape my technique, my attention to detail, and make sense of my emotional palette. Unfortunately, in January of 2014 I was raped and that event alone took my art and flipped it on its head and blasted it into an inferno of rage, misery, and ambiguity. I didn’t know how to handle what had happened, I was in denial for a while and I could only make sense of my nightmares and of that persistent sensation of having someone inside me through creating more colorful yet pain stricken imagery. Between 2014-2015 my imagery became much more surreal as I kept dissociating from reality just to sort of survive myself and my everyday social obligations. I didn’t understand what happened to me, how it could’ve happened to me, and why it happened to me. I kept blaming myself and during my senior year of college I found the strength and courage to talk about what happened to me in a more direct way in my work. With my series, Dame De Feu, I finally started to openly explore the visual dialogue about rape survivors, but being still new to this social arena, I didn’t quite have the tools to communicate that story effectively. At the same time I was also struggling with my desire to be a photographer. During my last semester of college I realized my true voice and my true passion was in filmmaking. I crowdfunded, directed, wrote, and filmed a short film series called “Lionheart” which helped me explore issues of homophobia, domestic abuse, and rape for the first time. After having created this body of work I started to step away from post-manipulation and surrealist imagery. I felt confident in my nakedness, in the rawness of photography, and saw it fit to move on from the constructed image and onto the raw image. I will never give up coloring the way I do, so I kept that fluently going throughout my work as my style kept changing. Mama doesn’t mess around with her colors. 

 

In all seriousness, my style matured after this significant milestone. I mean, I raised over 2 thousand dollars and made a film series that altogether lasts about an hour. I felt unstoppable, like I could make any project I could think of. So with that in mind, I created a series called “Color Me” that more directly explored my relationship with depression over the years which later led me to make my short stories collection. That collection had about 18 short photo stories that were about domestic abuse, love, sexuality, and body image. After creating this body of work I was thirsty for another film project and set out to make “Silver Screens”.

 

 Moving on from the short stories collection to “Silver Screens”, I finally figured out I wanted to talk about the problematic rhetoric in rape culture. “Silver Screens” is a film that focuses on an unstable relationship where sex is used as a weapon and the main character doesn’t ever come to realize that because his therapy session is less than helpful and he finds himself constantly recycling his memories and getting nowhere. While creating this project I got the inspiration to make my most important work to date, “Oh, Bouy”. The project is a collection of volumes that help me navigate and explore rape culture through different art mediums.

 

While creating this project I got the inspiration to make my most important work to date, “Oh, Bouy”. The project is a collection of volumes that help me navigate and explore rape culture through different art mediums. 

My main focus with “Oh, Bouy” is to talk about the need to hold men accountable for how we sustain a culture that objectifies women, humiliates and ostracizes effeminate men, and blames victims of abuse instead of reprimanding the abusers. My style has definitely changed between 2013 to 2016 in that it’s much more direct now and carries an emotional weight that is rooted in reality as opposed to fantasy. 

 

C: What themes do you explore through your work?

R: In my work I explore sexuality, spirituality, and identity and how those correlate and fluctuate under certain given circumstances. My main focus in my work currently is creating stories that talk about rape survivors and navigates the complexity and fragility of the male psyche. 

 

C: How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

R:When I was a student at Columbia, I relied heavily on word of mouth to find models and actors to work with. I had a website ever since I started going to school there so it was easy for other students to google me and find out if I was worth working with or not. As far as locations go, I’m very lucky in how I stumble onto special locations, especially back in Illinois. Normally I would go adventuring with friends in the suburbs or in the city and I’d always start with one point of interest and from there I’d make it up as I went along. 

 

 

C: What inspires your work?

R: Emotions drive my work to its core. Put me in a room with speakers blasting emotional, sexual, or neurotic music and I’ll have a full body of work ready on your desk the next morning. I can’t explain it, sometimes I lose myself to this other voice in my head that takes over and when I’m shooting, directing, writing, or editing, I almost always lose myself to my surroundings and to the people around me and I’ll find myself waking up hours later not remembering how I made what I made. Other times I have a moodboard, a concept, and then an emotion and then I go off script once I get there. 

 

C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?

R: It honestly depends on the shoot and it depends on the project. If I’m just exploring with friends or new models, I follow my instincts and let my personal relationship with the subject inform my creative decisions. If it’s a film project, I have a script, a storyboard, and 20 pages of notes on my phone with different scenarios to explore. I almost never shoot something without first brainstorming 100 different ways it could turn out. If I’m not set on making something, I don’t make it. I always think to myself, “Someone else somewhere in the world has already made this image or is making this image right now, why do I have to make it? Why would I want to make it? How does it fit to my mission as an artist?” 
If I can’t answer those questions and convince myself then I don’t take the shot. 

 

C:What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?   

R: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to stop comparing myself to other people and other artists. Everyone is on their own path. 

 

 

 

C: What do you hope your art says to people?

R: I hope it says “love yourself, love others, and most of all, don’t be rude to people just because you don’t understand what they’ve been through.”

 

C: Why did you choose your craft?

R: I chose it, along with filmmaking, because it was the best and most effective way for me to heal from traumatic events as well as create and share stories that I’m passionate about. 

 

 

C: How hard was it to become profitable at it? 

R: Not a lot of platforms or galleries want to pay an artist who in their eyes doesn’t make the kind of work that fits their audience reach. Do people love the work on social media? Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of positive responses, but a lot of the time I still get ignored, rejected, and pushed to the side by art institutions and major art publications because my work makes them uncomfortable. Rape survivor stories aren’t the most popular in the photo and film world. Especially if they don’t depict the graphic violence of rape. My work talks about male violence, how damaging male sexuality has been in an overtly patriarchal society, and that just doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I understand that, but the unwillingness for art platforms of any kind to get involved in issues about domestic violence and rape makes it that much harder for conversations about the ramifications of men’s violence to even take place. Everyone jumps on reporting on the drama of rape and the graphic nature of the violence, but hardly anyone furthers the conversation about the life of survivors after the fact. I’m not profitable at making my photos, I’m only passionate and starving. 

C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

R: Do what you want to do and don’t take no for answer. It can be very discouraging coming into a field that is so saturated with talent but that shouldn’t deter you from doing what you want to do. Everyone has something distinct they bring to the table, so why can’t you? 

C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

R: I would’ve gone to school for filmmaking, not photography. 

 

C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

R: I would be a singer, or maybe a vocal performance instructor. But I prefer doing this so I’m glad I can still do it.

 

C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

R: My favorite moment was when I made “Lionheart”. The rush of crowdfunding and the success of finishing the project changed my life drastically. Nothing has ever made me so confident and newly passionate. 

 

 

C: Is there a defining moment in your career?

R: The most defining moment in my career so far has been creating the different iterations of “Oh, Bouy” . While “Lionheart” may have given me a new found confidence in filmmaking, “Oh, Bouy” has catapulted me into a new framework of thinking and execution and for that I’m grateful to everyone on the creative teams. But aside from artistry, the project has definitely made me less afraid to stand up and advocate for social issues that I care about deeply.

 

C: Biggest pet peeve about the industry?

R: The industry only cares about who you know not how much you know, and I think that’s the reason why a lot of mediocre publications, production companies, and photographers have an unfair advantage over underdogs who are climbing up a steep hill without any lifelines to help them up. I think it’s a shame, I’ve met a lot of capable artists who deserve a lot more than what they’re given. I don’t think popularity is a proper measure of someone’s ability.  

 

R: I like that I don’t have to answer to anyone, that I can collaborate with people who respect my opinion and want to work with me and I like that I get to involve other people who can work out their own therapeutic needs with my work.

 

 

C: Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?

 

 

 

 

Ricardo's work is more than mere photos and videos. His art has a message that needs to be heard and talked about. Let art open the door for dialogue and a greater level of honesty in our lives.  No matter the outlet, we all have a creative voice with a message that can create such a difference in our world. 

You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. 

Strawberry Pie

Ben Ashby

Warmer weather cannot come soon enough! I found myself sitting here dreaming of days when you can step outside barefoot and feel the grass between your toes.

 One of my favorite things to do when the weather turns warmer is go strawberry picking. I absolutely love strawberries and none of the store bought ones ever seem to taste as good as the ones we pick ourselves. On the way back from the farm they always make our car smell so good and all I can think about is eating them dipped in warm, melted chocolate...my favorite!

There are so many things to do with your fresh strawberries, like making jam or ice cream or fresh smoothies...the possibilities are endless. One of my favorites however, is a nice slice of strawberry pie.

This is the easiest pie that I have ever made and by far one of the best.  Maybe it's because I love these fresh strawberries so much or maybe it's because of all that incredible whipped cream that I pile on top of my pieces. The vanilla pudding mix whipped with the cream is the best. There's no way I could go back to eating store bought whipped cream after this! Just wait until you try it.

What do you like to make with strawberries?

 

Strawberry Pie

3 quarts strawberries, hulled and divided

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 Tablespoons cornstarch

2/3 cup water

10-inch deep-dish pie crust, baked

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 Tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix

Optional: A few drops of red food coloring

In a large bowl, mash berries to equal 3 cups; set aside along with remaining whole berries. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Stir in mashed berries and water; mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; heat and stir for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, add food coloring if desired for red color. Pour mixture in a large bowl; chill for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just slightly warm. Fold in remaining whole berries. Pour into prepared pie crust, chill for 2-3 hours. Place cream in a small mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip cream and pudding mix until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream mixture around edge of pie or dollop on individual slices. Serves 8-10. 

Strawberry Pie photography, styling, and recipe by Rikki Snyder. Find more from Rikki on her website and on Instagram—@RikkiSnyder.

Meet Bowen Outdoors

Ben Ashby

As part of our series of maker spotlights, we recently teamed up with Zack of Bowen Outdoors to talk about how he turned his passion for the outdoors into a business. For Zack, owning her own company is a way that she can give back to the causes and programs that matter to him, like nature conservation and camps and training programs that help children experience nature. Read more below to find out how Zack started Bowen Outdoors, and how he's making sure a new generation can enjoy the great outdoors.

 

How did you get started creating an outdoor brand?

We founded our brand on one mission: to inspire families and children to get out and explore more. During our conversations about our biggest influences, we realized the brand we wanted to create should be founded on two principles: family and exploring. These influences led us to creating a social enterprise driven outdoor brand where we give 10% of all net profits to programs all around the country that provide training, education and camps for children and families to experience the outdoors. 

A lot of our passion comes from relationships with our families. We were both raised as active outdoor children and were heavily influenced by the experiences and lessons a child can learn from being exposed to the outdoors. Having our own kids now we see that the idea of going camping, hiking and exploring outside is starting to fade and with that we think children are losing their sense of adventure, curiosity and wonder.  

Who taught you to start your own brand, or were you self-taught?

We have learned a lot of valuable skills about overall business operations from past experiences in family business and in college. We have learned a lot since starting Bowen Outdoors. Many of the important aspects of creating products, brand image, creative development, etc. were all things we did not know much about. We have had a lot of trial and error and picked up on different skills as we have gone just by trying and doing and asking for help from friends and family. It hasn’t always been perfect, but we have definitely learned a lot along the way.

Did you know you would start your own brand, if not what spurred it?

I have always known I wanted to start something of my own. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners, so I  think that the drive to create and build upon ideas is somewhat in my blood naturally. I started working for my grandfather’s business when I was 13 years old because the idea of running a business seemed fun and interesting to me. I worked there from 13-20 and as I got older, I would always have people call me the “little boss man” and tell me how I would one day be running the company and I would always just laugh. Although I have always felt fortunate enough to have had the option to work in the family owned businesses, I always wanted it to be in a field that I was passionate about and wanted to pave my own way.

Bowen Outdoors and the idea behind it happened somewhat naturally for us. Getting outside and exploring has always been something I have been passionate about, but growing up in the Midwest I never thought about creating an outdoor brand because I didn't feel that we were in an area that was “outdoorsy” enough. Now that I have started a family of my own and do my best to get my kids to explore all that life has around us, I realized we don't have to always be in the mountains to explore. The opportunity for exploring is all around us.

How do you get ideas for new products & photo shoots?

Bowen Outdoors is focused on providing outdoor lifestyle products and apparel for people who are just as comfortable in the city as they are on the trail. Our product ideas come from trying to inspire and motivate people to live life outside of the cubicle, living room or their cell phone. 

 

What are your inspirations?

My greatest inspiration overall has been my father. Since I was young, I remember his passion for the outdoors and the part it played in our relationship. My Dad is every part of the word, outdoorsman. Growing up, I lived in a log cabin in the woods, we had a couple of horses, played in the woods and creeks daily, and he participated in all of those things with us. Our vacation every year was in a state park or campground where we always went on hikes and climbed around on rocks. He really taught us about the outdoors and instilled his love for it in us. To this day, my greatest memories with him have involved camping and exploring. Just a few weeks ago, we had one of the best trips I have ever been on in my life and conversations while exploring that I will never forget. He is a tough guy who still loves rock climbing, backpacking, and finding new places to explore.

Outside of the outdoors world, my father is a quiet yet smart and calculated businessman. He is passionate not only for his business, but also for the people working for him. I have always admired the way he has done his best to treat people fairly and respectfully even when it meant less overall profit for the business in the end. The kind of compassion for people that is greater than the desire for money is a rarity in this world and I really look up to him for that.

Overall in life, combining his love for the outdoors and his business knowledge and compassion for people, he is a pretty cool guy. What I am sure most people wouldn’t expect to read is that my Dad is legally blind, and if his eye disease has it’s way, will be completely blind sometime in his life. To see a man who has never stopped rock climbing, walking on narrow trails at the top of a mountain, crawling through caves, and skydiving despite not being able to see is the most inspiring to me. He has never let his sight keep him from living life and laughing and that is one of the things I will always remember most about him. He lived his life to the fullest and didn’t what people thought he should or shouldn't do keep him from truly living.

How do your hobbies influence what you make?

We are family guys, and most of our time is spent with our wife and kids. We try our best to get out with them and teach them about the outdoors, being safe while exploring, and about the incredible things you can find while you are out on an adventure. The best part about being an outdoor brand is that we actually live this life so we are able to take those experiences and work toward creating products that reflect them.

 

What has been your biggest challenge?  

I would say our biggest challenge has been lack of knowledge. We started this brand on a shoestring budget. I have a wife and three kids under 3 years old at home and the idea of using our savings or getting a loan just didn't seem like the best idea while trying to keep their well-being as a priority. When you make a decision to start a business without a lot of money, things start slower in terms of products available and slower in general. This is something we are navigating; yet trying to keep our priority of family as our main focus. 

What's been your best advice you've been given?

My father once told me, “I am not going to stop living life waiting to die just because I can't see. I am going to live my life to the fullest, doing the activities that make me happy and if I die climbing down a mountain, at least I died doing something I love” It may not have been real advice that he was trying to give, but the impact that the idea of really going for what you want, never settling and taking chances, will stay with me for a lifetime.

What's your favorite thing about sharing your art with others?

The impact it has had on families and children. When we give back to community programs that help support exploration and adventure it's an incredible feeling. Knowing that not only are we providing great gear and apparel, but that we are actively making a difference in people's lives is the best part of what we do. At the end of the day, it doesn't feel like we're running a business - it feels like we're creating something special and something we believe in. BOWENOUTDOORS.COM

 

Good + Well || Candles + Soaps

Ben Ashby

Recently I had the pleasure of shooting a series of images for Good + Well Co. Their candles and soaps are truly delightful. 

Shenandoah Skyline Road Trip

Christophe Chaisson

As the Summer of '16 winded down, one thing from my to-do list had yet to be fulfilled - a road trip. To where, though? I had been north to Canada; I had been west to the mountains. However, one segment of America I had not yet explored - the South. I have family down in Atlanta and with some free time on my hands, the perfect opportunity lay before me to take a road trip.

I devised a plan to spend about four days and three nights along one of America's most scenic byways - The Shenandoah Skyline drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which connect in central Virginia. The first day I spent driving about five hours to stay with a friend near Washington D.C., which was close enough to the real starting point of the journey that I could simply wake up the next morning and begin.

At dawn, I hopped on I-66 West, which was a quick hour ride to Front Royal, VA - the gateway to Shenandoah National Park's north entrance. After receiving a tip from someone familiar with the area, I grabbed a juicy burger at local sensation, Spelunker's. Finally, I was ready to begin.

The Skyline Drive is one of the most amazing roads one can experience. It gently winds back and forth through 105 miles of stunning Virginia wilderness with 75 pull-offs to take in the view (about 65 of which I stopped at.) The 35 MPH speed limit ensures that you're here to take it slow and be in the present. There's simply no rushing through such a beautiful place.

I spent the first day riding along, taking in the pull-out views and photographing the curves and stretches of road. It was pleasantly quiet in the park so I took my time soaking in everything. While there are plenty of hikes and outdoor activities to do in Shenandoah, the Skyline Drive is more or less the park itself. Many national parks are reserved spaces of land that have plenty of loops for circling and exploring. Shenandoah is unique in that the park is linear - only a few state routes intersect the park with options to exit. Otherwise, you're entering on one end and you're coming out on the other end, which encourages one to see its entirety.

I'm generally all for roughing it, but it was a particularly humid week and I desperately needed a shower after driving for so many hours. I made my way to Big Meadows campground, which is a beautiful campground and one of the few I've experienced that have a full range of facilities. The ranger at the registration booth gave me a short list of her favorite campsites at the Big Meadows loop and I took her up on the spacious, yet secluded, A103.

The weather was expected to deteriorate in the coming days, so I wanted to take advantage of what might be the last clear night on my trip. I made my way over to the Lodge to watch a spectacular Virginia sunset and converse with the travelers staying overnight.

When they sky finished its show, I went back to A103 to cook a ravioli dinner on the camp stove. Solo camping can get a bit lonely at times but a meal by a campfire was incredibly calming. Night fell and as the surrounding campers ended their day, mine was just getting started. I grabbed my camera and headed down to the entrance of the campgrounds where its namesake lies - literally a big meadow. I set up my tripod under a moonlit sky and just started shooting. Per usual, the end product was far beyond my initial intentions or expectations...

The next morning, the fog rolled in and I wouldn't see sunlight for days to come. However, that wasn't gonna stop me from continuing my journey and taking advantage of the photo op. I packed up camp, said goodbye to A103 and meandered my way down the rest of the Skyline Drive. I had many days to go and 500 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway to experience. The road trip was just beginning...

To see the rest of Jack Tumen's roadtrip of a life time, check out @jacktumen on Instagram.

Meet Spoon & Hook

Ben Ashby

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I am absolutely smitten with Anneliesse McKee. Her handcrafted wooden pieces are equally utilitarian and pure art. I'm especially loving that she too is from Kentucky. I could go on and on about how amazing each piece is, how incredibly beautiful the packaging is, (she mailed the pieces in the photographs to me in a wooden wine box filled with dried florals and feathers) or how wonderful story is. I however will let her tell you in her own words.

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Please introduce yourself

My name is Anneliesse McKee

I live in Asheville, NC and have since 2009.

I hand carve wooden spoons, charcuterie boards, bowls and more from wood I have either cut myself in Waynesville, NC or from reclaimed lumber found. I've had my business for two years now. As far as availability I have my pieces on my own website spoonandhook.com as well as one of my best friends websites bomisch.com. Within town I sell at three different brick and mortars: Villagers, East Fork Pottery, as well as Atomic Furnishings. I am hoping by the end of this year to be opening my own brick and mortar in Asheville.

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Why be a maker

I feel that being a maker is so much more than the product itself. It's a lifestyle choice. I live in west Asheville where I have the most beautiful little community of makers from bakers, photographers, painters, home builders, and Brewers. Everyone raises each other to be their best. If they're not using something that could benefit another maker, it isn't even a question that it will find its way to them. There is support and encouragement and growth continuously and for me that's a large part of it. I think in a world like what is happening today, it's incredibly important to be a part of something you truly stand behind and can make better. Supporting any one maker is much more than the product you walk away with. You're receiving a story that you get to continue on writing. I think if we could all live in a way where we surrounded ourselves by things that held meaning and quality then we would buy less, appreciate more and be able to do it in a successful way moving forward in a consumer driven country. I believe it's very similar to our food movement. People love to support their local farms and organic food and the things we surround ourselves with, put on our bodies, and keep around our space are just as important as what we are putting in our bodies.

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What is the greatest challenge as a maker

I think my greatest challenge I have had within woodworking continuously feeling like I needed to create every second I was free. This past year was a large lesson in slowing down, stopping to smell the roses, and remembering the reasons why this became such a love to begin with. As far as largest rewards, I think it's when I get an email or letter from someone who tells me their story and how they now own a spoon or board and how it has become a part of their everyday life. I love that!!! I have so many of my grandmothers pieces and to think one day someone's going to possibly say "this piece is about 100 years old and made from a woman named Anneliesse Mckee". Just seems like I'm putting my fingerprint in this big world, even if it's my pinky ha.

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What advice would you give to aspiring makers

If I had any advice I could give, I would tell anyone to simply stand behind whatever it is they're doing. I think so many people have such brilliant ideas but the idea of failing is too large to even try. But failing doesn't really exist in certain communities, especially not in Asheville. I would just say to always try. Maybe there's something else you find you love in the process? Maybe you find out how effortless and second nature it seems? Maybe you just find out that it wasn't everything you thought it would be? But that's okay! Just try!

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What advice would you give to your former self

If I could give myself any piece of advice to former me, I think I would tell myself to own what I do and just make sure I'm doing it to my best. I did the Highpoint Market for my second year and I had to make 100 pieces in a month and I was so stressed and concerned with making wild and new that I put my core values on the back burner. I was making wooden eye ball spoons and then I realized it was just getting too weird. I would tell myself to just stick to what I know and do it to its best. I would maybe tell myself not to be so hard on myself. I think quick gratitude is a struggle for all and learning patience is easier said than done but this past year was a beautiful example of organically letting things lead me in the direction of my dreams and not to be impatient.

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Chocolate Chess Pie

Ben Ashby

Chocolate Chess Pie

This recipe is so very simple. It is absolutely delicious. It literally takes less than five minutes to mix together. I found the recipe in my aunt's handwritten recipe book from the 1970s.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 9” pie shell
  •  

  

Mix all ingredients by hand and pour in pie shell. Bake for 30 min in 400 degree oven. Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Look at Eldin in Iceland | Day Two

Ben Ashby

Today can be best described as a glimpse into monochromatic Iceland. We started early from Reykjavik and headed south, hitting two waterfalls, Skógafoss the most famous of the two. It is a 200 foot waterfall with a tiny, windy stairway to the top and seagulls nesting within the cliffs. From there, we trekked 4 KM by foot to reach the famous DC3 plane crash site. This site has a really cool really cool story: In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, in the South coast of Iceland. Everyone survived, and it turns out that the pilot packed the wrong fuel packet. Following that, we went to the black sand beach to see the basalt columns and caves. I was nearly swallowed by an unsuspecting wave, but managed to dig my boots into the ground and rode the course. After a quick change of clothes, we settled into a tiny log cabin cottage with the view of the mountains and the black sand beach through our front door.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ELDIN JASAREVIC

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Look at Eldin in Iceland | Day One

Ben Ashby

"We got in Iceland this morning, rented a car, and plan on driving around the entire island along Route 1. Our first stop was Hellnar and Snæfellsjökull, and staying at the KEX Hostel in Reykjavik. Tomorrow we are heading south, hoping to hit Vik and many other spots along the way." —

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ELDIN JASAREVIC

An Internal Experience | A Conversation with Sam Waxman

Ben Ashby

 

Sam Waxman is a man I've never met, but if the kind words his friends have said about him mean anything...this man is one of a kind. I have long been obsessed with his photography. I love anyone's work that can evoke and caption an emotion at the same time. There is a rawness to the men in the photos and to the man behind the camera that goes miles above others in capture a moment of the human condition. In my quest to learn more about Mr. Waxman and his art I asked Christophe to sit down with Sam....


 
 

When did you first become interested in photography?

When I was a kid, my grandma used to buy me disposable cameras when we went to the grocery store together. My grandparents live in a really rural part of Vermont, and would let me go out on my own for hours to walk around in the fields and woods to take photos. Sometimes, when I really liked one of my photos, my grandma would get an 8x10 print for me. It was difficult for people to engage me socially as a kid, so I think they were satisfied to leave me on my own with a hobby they could tell made me happy.

 
 

Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

Definitely a mix of both. I took film photography classes in high school, but I had explored it for years before that as a hobby. Later, I studied photography and sculpture at the School Of The Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston, where I learned a lot of the technical skills that are invaluable to me now like digital editing, printing, and studio lighting. One of my biggest mentors both artistically and personally from the time I was a toddler is my best friend Liza. She is a level twelve weirdo, and one of the most interesting, complicated, and and brilliant artists I have had the pleasure of knowing. She inspired me from a very young age to express myself creatively and showed me that it is okay to be introverted and to go against what people expect of you.

 
 

What themes do you explore through your work?

Some of the big overarching themes I try to explore in my work are the politics of identity, queerness, sexuality/fetishism, semiotics, and the mysteries of the natural world. I’m constantly discovering new things about myself and reinterpreting my world, (often in unexpected ways) through my work. My influences vary greatly depending on where I am in my life. When I was an intensely shy kid, photography allowed me to look inward, and provided me a way to share myself with people in a way that I couldn’t in normal social terms. I grew up in Maine and spent a lot of time in the woods. I think is where I started to develop the kind of appreciation and respect for the primal beauty surrounding life, death, and the natural, spiritual order of things that I have now. Later, my work became a powerful tool with which to explore the incredibly complex feelings I was dealing with surrounding my sexuality and identity as a queer man, and gave me a platform to put myself out into the world. It’s always been a process of dealing with myself and finding ways to interact with the world that work for me. The more work I produce, the more cohesive it all becomes. I think I come upon my influences and the ideas I want to explore pretty organically.

 
 

How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

I’ve always loved exploring and traveling on my own. Scouting locations solo is one of my favorite things to do. When you’re looking for an ideal place to shoot, you’re hyper-aware of your surroundings, taking in color, light, texture, wondering about the history and significance of the places you’re passing. I find my subjects in a bunch of different ways. Some are folks I’ve met through apps like Scruff and Grindr, some are people I’ve approached in public or on the subway, some are friends, some are lovers. Ever since I started to build a following on Instagram, I’ve been lucky enough to have people approach me wanting to collaborate which I am so thankful for. I don’t have specific criteria. If I find a person unique and interesting in some way, I want to photograph them. It’s amazing how intimately you can get to know someone in the setting of a one-on-one shoot. It’s something I really cherish.

 
 

How do you compose an image?

Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting? Definitely a bit of both. Often I get inspired to create something that’s very specific, and I’ll plan out my shots and styling pretty meticulously. This also informs who I choose as my subjects. Other times, I keep it much more loose. I love getting to know people and shooting them in their own spaces. With those kinds of shoots, it’s much more about creating an authentic connection with a person than creating something that has a specific feeling and style to it.

 
 

What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

One of the things I have really come to appreciate about the artistic process is that it forces me to be the most authentic and radical version of myself that I can be. I want to make work that is not contrived, that is real, raw, and unique. I think striving for that takes a lot of intense introspection and awareness of where my priorities are at. It takes recognition of my shortcomings and the ability to hold myself accountable for them. That’s not to say that I always succeed in those endeavors, but I try my best. Why did you choose your craft (photography) My photography work has always been heavily portrait-based. Growing up, I wanted so badly to be able to connect with people, but was severely lacking in social aptitude. Photography allowed me to explore and experience people on my own terms, in a way that I could understand. It was also something that allowed me to spend a lot of time alone without being questioned. It made things less confusing and more digestible for me.

 
 

How hard was it to become profitable at it?

Well, speaking purely from a financial standpoint, I started making money as a photographer at age sixteen when I started shooting weddings. I learned some great lessons from doing that kind of work, but I never found it particularly challenging or interesting. For a long time there was a big divide between the photography I did for work, and my personal projects. It wasn’t until college that I was able to start merging those two worlds, finding paid work that was more in line with my artistic vision. It’s taken a lot of failure, shameless self-promotion, and luck to get to where I am now, and I still feel like I’m just now dipping my toes in. I feel very lucky to be able to make a living pursuing my passions.

 
 

Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

Never stop shooting. Not everything you do has to have solidified purpose behind it. Some projects will take shape after you begin, and many won’t. Try on different styles. Make some shit work that never sees the light of day. Your eye is a tool and it needs constant practice and maintenance. Be tenacious. Promote yourself. Connect with other creatives. Build your community. Use every tool in your arsenal to reach people and institutions. Being an artist in any medium is such an internal experience, and even though we may not often ask for support, we do need it. Showing your work in a public space ranging anywhere from an art gallery to Instagram holds you accountable, builds your community, and challenges you to innovate and be better.

 
 

If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

Although my photography work has taken priority of most of my time lately, I also have a real passion for sculpture and metal-working. Sculpture was just as big a focus for me while I was in school. Most of my metal-working skills were self-taught, and after college I worked professionally as a welder/metal fabricator for a while so that I could hone my craft. Photography and sculpture fulfill me in some essentially different ways, and I think I would be just as happy to focus on either. I take myself very seriously as a craftsman. My sculptural work involves a lot of technical processes dealing with metal, wood, plaster, and other various materials, so I often find inspiration in things that might seem mundane or commonplace, but that demonstrate a mastery of craft.

 
 

Any favorite moments of your career so far?

There’s nothing quite like selling your first piece. My sophomore year of college, I submitted a framed print titled, “Sunday Best” from my “Symbiosis” mixed-media series to the winter art sale at SMFA. On the first night of the sale, I was walking around looking at work, waiting for them to rotate the collection and hang up my piece, but after a few hours I still hadn’t seen any sign of it. When I finally asked one of the coordinators about it, she told me that my print had sold in the pre-sale before the show had opened to the public. I was elated. It is still one of my favorite pieces, and it was the first series I felt good enough about to put out into the world. I felt excited and vulnerable about it, and having that little bit of validation really went a long way in encouraging me to exhibit my work.

 
 

What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

Don’t hesitate. I didn’t really start producing work that I felt had something unique and personal to it until I was almost done with college. For one, I didn’t come out as gay until I was 20, so I was actively avoiding subject-matter and topics that were incredibly central to my mental and emotional states. I was also constantly blocking myself from making any work that I didn’t have a solidified concept and plan for. Besides preventing myself from making work that could have been worthwhile, this also set me back a few years in developing my style by just trying things out and making mistakes.

 
 

Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?

My photographic process is very different in a few essential ways from my sculptural process. My sculptural work is intensely solitary and internal. It allows me to access the part of me that loves logical problem-solving in a very different way than does photography. Most of my sculptural work is steel-based, and working with such an unforgiving material with a limited set of tools forces you to constantly come up with workarounds and creative solutions to get the results you want. Photography allows me to be a bit more loose, and gives me endless opportunities to collaborate and connect with other people. Balancing these two different artistic processes is a very real and direct reflection of how I try to keep myself balanced on a personal level.

 
 

Is flannel really always appropriate?

Oh yeah, bub. I grew up in a small town in Maine right near LL. Bean. It’s important to know the difference between your street, work, and formal flannel.

 

Lonesome Pine Mercantile

Ben Ashby

On our recent road trip through the south we went to visit our good friend Samuel Melton at his store Lonesome Pine Mercantile. Nestled in the town square of a small East Texas town Lonesome Pine is a majestic and serine look into vintage design. Samuel is creating not only a place to get local goods but a style that could change a small town into a mecca for the design world. We asked him some personal questions about not only his store but life in general.

Why your small town in Texas?

Well I grew up here, I went to school down the street, I danced at the pickin palace on Saturdays on blues night. However I grew up saying I would never come back to this town. I think I have a essay somewhere from middle school stating I was going to live far far far away from Hemphill. However being far far away for years I missed it. I came back for a visit and couldn't believe what my town was becoming , slowly it was becoming a ghost town. The square that I once spent most afternoons became empty and by passed by new faster highways. So being at the right place in my life I declared that somewhere on this square had to be my store. So I set on my new badge of the "urban exodus". It's also a part of my story my town is a huge pet of who I am so it's only appropriate to open up in this old East Tx town that has its quirky stories.

Starting with a physical store first, was that hard?

The hardest part was finding the location we had few options and each became a challenge. I think we went through the 3 months with 5 different location options. I think in a small town a physical location is smarter rather then online. Most people in this town still don't operate computers. This being ok because we wanted the town fellowship most of all before a online presence. On a the same topic the other hardest part of a physical location is people don't understand why a non married 26 year old man would come and open store so it's mainly breaking down that wall of questions and expectations that seems to be the hardest.

 

What products can we expect online?

Online will be treated as invite to East Texas more than anything. We will sell our local made goods from our friends/southern makers as well vintage textiles. This includes rugs, pillows, blankets and throws. I'm obsessed with the fact that textiles can change a home with a few here and a rug there. So I want to spread my idea of textile living. We will have furniture available however it'll be local pick up , but we actually haven't had a issue with that. People are so supportive that they want to explore Hemphill and East Texas so they are willing to come to the shop and grab their new pieces. I'm also excited to say there will be a blog on the site . We offer styling and home collaborations so we will be able to show our adventures and talk about the rural life more. 

Who inspires your style?

That's a big question. I tend to experiment a lot with style but always circle back to a vintage mix. I guess in stylist or designer I would say Emily Henderson because she really understands that life calls for lives in styles or style that can ware well in better terms. I do have to say my parents are hugely inspirational with encouraging me while younger to explore styles and history of pieces which made me come up with what my style early on. My parents are afraid to put the odd in their home and layer colors which shows up in my styling of homes usually. I share a love for Folk pieces and those odd pieces in the home much like my parents. In places that I draw inspirations from it would be the old old farm homes around my town you walk in and see the simple details that I go crazy for. From the cheap whitewash they used to the slim pine floors; the colors age well and look so amazing whether you add that new West Elm sofa or the found old worn leather chair. 

Did working at West Elm give you an advantage on competition in the area?

Working for WE I would say gave me a advantage but gave me a vision on what potential I see for a home can be. This area is so under served that anything new can be that thing that inspires other to branch out and start thinking design. 

What areas do you want to grow your business (i.e. design, products, etc)?

That changes everyday as of today I would say I would want to be able to bring the shop on the road. I know for sure to help and style homes is our goal. Recently we have become buyers for local designers where they are coming for the unique. I do want our local maker presence to also grow with hopefully collaborating ( being able to collab is a complement like none other to me) . We have such great talent in this small county of mine that it's a shame to not have it showcases in a better setting rather then on the side of the road.  So for our evolution as a store I think it's to style more and find more makers that deserve a chance to be showcased.

Where do you see yourself and your business in the coming years?

Well for Lonesome Pine I just want to become a presence. This meaning for people to see that we are here and we have something special in East Texas. Also I just want the store to survive the first year can be a hard one with learning how your store will work and drawing in customers it can be scary. I do want my business to become that inspiration to others to invest in small town Texas (maybe East Texas) and rally around them as a friend. To see the empty next to me be filled with a coffee bar, eatery, and etc would be my idea of growth.

A Stay at Hudson Woods

Ben Ashby

Our friends at Brick & Wonder recently invited us to spend a weekend at one of their featured properties; Hudson Woods. Brick & Wonder is a curated platform of the highest quality homes for sale worldwide. Launched by Lang Architecture in 2016, brick & wonder provides access to homes in the marketplace with design integrity that have the capacity to improve how we feel, think, interact and ultimately live our daily lives.

They set us up with a stay at Hudson Woods which is a set of dwellings nestled amidst forests and meadows with sweeping mountain views, in New York's Hudson Valley. Hudson Woods homes take queue from mid-century and Scandinavian architectural principals, Japanese craftsmanship heritage and local vernacular history. They worked with a number of local craftspeople, artisans and designers to outfit the home with handmade and heirloom furniture and accessories. 

The photos were all taken by Paige and Corey of Going Home Productions...a photography and video team based in New York City. 

Our Favorite Special Apple Cider Recipes

Christophe Chaisson

CROCKPOT HOT SPICED APPLE CIDER By Superheroes and teacups

Most of the time crockpots are used for stew and pot roasts, yet this holiday season we wanted to spice it up with some hot apple cider. This recipe is so simple, you throw everything into the pot and just wait. The smell of spiced cider will fill your house as you allow for this sweet drink to simmer. 

Superheroes and Teacup's Website

 

Apple cider Mimosas by What the fork

Mimosas are a must for brunch year round, so why not customize them to fit the season? It only takes mixing two ingredients to get the holiday cheer flowing with these apple cider mimosas. The sweetness of cider pairs perfectly well with the smooth bubbliness of champagne. There is always a reason to celebrate during the holiday season, so let's do it with a mimosa in hand.

What The Fork's Website

 

Hot MuLLed Apple Cider Sangria By The Crumby Cupcake

This is a warm seasonal drink with rich flavors to get in a festive mood with friends or even just curl up with a good book near the fire. Clementines, apples, and honey add a distinct taste to this wonderful drink. The longer you let it sit, the sweeter and richer the flavors become, so don't drink it all at once!

The Crumby Cupcake's Website

Hot-Mulled-Apple-Cider-Sangria-2.jpg
 

Apple Cider Breakfast Smoothie By On Sugar Mountain

 

A smoothie in the morning is always a tasty way to start the day. Enjoy this cool refreshing drink in the warm confines of your home before venturing out in the cold of winter. This is one of the ways in which you can enjoy dessert for breakfast guilt free because you are basically drinking apple pie! But it's healthy because it is a smoothie, right?

On Sugar Mountain's Website

 

Spiked Apple Cider Rum By Simworks Family Blog

This adult beverage is a perfect way to help celebrate this Christmas season with good friends. It can even make for a tasty mocktail for all the kiddos. The spices of cider complement the spiced rum perfectly. You can taste the fullness of the seasons with this drink. It is guaranteed to fill you with cheer during the holidays. 

Simmwork's Website

 

All of these drinks are splendid as we leave Thanksgiving and Autumn behind to transition to Christmas and Winter. It is always delightful to have a delicious beverage in hand whether around a fire or a socializing at a holiday party. With all these apples a day, the doctor will be far away. Cheers to good health and tasty drinks this year!

Adventure Because You Can | Meet Blake Pack

Ben Ashby

— There is something innate in mankind to look to the horizon, a beach, or a mountain top and say, "I wanna go see what things look like over there."

 

MEET BLAKE PACK....

I've known Blake Pack for years. He is one of those guys I've followed on Instagram 2011 and have lusted after his western life daily. To be surrounded by the mountains and the salt flats of Salt Lake City just seemed to be such a magical place to be. Blake, along with his group of friends have been documenting their adventures through photographer for years now. I thought it was well past time to learn more about Mr. Pack and why he adventures. 

 
 

Why do you adventure - Adventure because you can. Because you have a privilege the majority of the world does not: to travel with means and comfort to understand and come to better know the world we live in, and for the most part the small state of that I live in.

Why do you explore - It's pretty much on par with why I adventure: there is something innate in mankind to look to the horizon, a beach, or a mountain top and say, "I wanna go see what things look like over there." It's crucial to our development and well-being. Most of my explorations comes takes place in nature. I believe at some point in time we forgot that we are a part of nature, just as the trees, beavers, and bears. I'm not talking in a hippy-dippy kinda way; I mean in a literal cognitive reset. We evolved from the wilderness and at our core, we are all animals. I think it's important to keep that animal alive and wild and exploring does that for me. 

 
 

Why take risks in life  -  Because lines are meant to be crossed and boundaries pushed. You will never know how far you can stretch and reach if you don't not try. 

Where are you from  - Idaho Falls, Idaho, baby!

What is your 9-5 -I run marketing for a tech company called Needle, where I do most of the content creation, copy writing, and design - I also have a person shirt company called badastronot.com, and help another guy with his website and content creation... and suddenly I am realizing why I don't have as much travel time as I'd like.

 

 

When you were growing up what or who did you want to be - I still wanna be what I wanted to be as a kid: and astronaut. Clearly that path veered, but at the rate we're going, I totally plan on one of my last adventures and explorations to be in a rocket to space where I can see earth as a whole; I want to see the full, big picture. Till then, I am going to pause my "growing up" and stay a kid who is viewing the world on a more micro level.

Favorite place you've visited - Big Sur - not so much because it was gorgeous (I mean, duh, it is) but more so because of the company I was with, the conversations that accompanied us, and mishaps that shaped our trip, and the amazing food we shared.

Place you most desperately want to visit - Hmmmm. Probably New Zealand, Antartica, or Cuba. 

 
 

What has changed about you because of your travels - I find focus when I travel. Unfortunately that focus blurs as time from that travel wears off, but the longer the trip I take away from it all, the clearer I see the world, my problems, etc. 

Who is the most dynamic and thought provoking person you've ever met - Dallas Hartwig. 

If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why - I wanna do a 50 State Journey with Sufjan Stevens. He can continue his 50-State Album project while I interview him, hear him play diddies on the banjo, and make amazing images of the country and the people we encounter. We'd definitely be traveling by pick-up truck with an in-bed camper - very Travels with Charley (Steinbeck). So it'd be cozy, too.

 

 

Must haves for travel - Camera, food, and underwear. But, underwear is rather optional.

Travel tips - Don't plan it too much. Be informed enough that you don't miss the must-sees, but don't get caught up or pass up moments and memories because of schedules. When it comes to traveling, I view the first chapter of Steinbeck's book to be my bible for travel planning:

"A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley. I think every traveler should read the first chapter of that book before they take a trip.

 

 

Based on your travels what is the single most needed improvement for humanity to be stronger - It's easy to get caught up in capturing that image that will blow peoples' minds. There is nothing wrong with wanting that. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to "like" your work. But if you only view the world and places you explore by looking at the back of a digital screen or through a viewfinder, you're missing the point. Remember to put the camera down, or better, away entirely. And always make a point to look at the stars in whatever place you're visiting when possible. 

What would you say to someone who has never travelled before - Don't worry about going BIG. You don't need to go to Iceland or Norway or wherever to travel. The vast majority of people don't even explore their own backyard (i.e. state, national parks, or even their own downtown). I find it hilarious, for example, that so many people from PNW are headed to the red rocks of Utah and how many Utahans (myself included) who are so set on getting to PNW but neither have really spent much time traveling through their own state.

What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you - You have to do what makes YOU happy. I learned after decades of trying to live up to peoples expectations for me was actually holding me back. What I learned from people different from me is that 

 

 

When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone. What did you learn from that lesson - I feel like I am repeating myself, so sorry, haha. But I believe in crossing lines in a positive way. Certain lines are not crossed because they cause unnecessary pain for others and thats never acceptable. But every other line should be crossed. I, of all people, am guilty of staying in my comfort zone. But the moments and images that stick out in my mind as cherished memories came when I was in a place of physical discomfort (like heights) or the posting of some images that are more intimate and personal (such as some of my dark and revealing portraits). Those put me in a place of emotional/mental discomfort because I feared the judgment people would make about me for sharing a picture of a rather naked man and his body, but there is nothing more exhilarating as an artist to be accepted, loved, and praised for work that put you in an uncomfortable place, and forming friendships with people who love the real work you do, not just the "safe" work that nearly everyone (like your grandma) will like. 

 

What would you say to your former self - You can't be happy trying to make someone else happy. If the people around you aren't happy when you truly are happy, then they aren't people worth having around.  

 

 

What gives you hope - Obi Wan Kenobi

Where to next - Somewhere tropic this winter, or possibly Australia.

Is flannel always in season - In doses. Not daily. Unless you're in Nirvana, an actual Lumber Jack, or Maple Syrup Farmer.

 

Chandler Bondurant

Christophe Chaisson


Christophe C: Why do you adventure?

Chandler B: I wouldn't necessarily say that I go out and pursue something just for the sake of 'adventuring'. For me there's always an intentional reason for each trip, and the unpredictable events that happen along the way are what turn a normal trip into an adventure that you go home and tell your friends about.

 

CC: Why take risks in life?

CB: Why not? The way I see it, you only have one shot at life. And I know that's a cliche thing to say, but I don't think most people really realize the weight of that. You've only got one go at this whole thing, so why not take some risks and see if they pay off? I'm a firm believer that the higher the risk, the higher the reward.

 

CC: What is your 9-5?

CB: I currently barista one or two days a week at a cafe because it makes it easier to save, but aside from that I pay my bills with photography.

CC: Where are you from?

CB: Originally I'm from South Georgia but I currently reside in Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

 

CC: When you were growing up what or who did you want to be?

CB: For the longest time I wanted to be an astronaut, but apparently now I'm too tall(6' 2" is the cutoff).

CC: Favorite place you've visited?

CB: East Africa by far. The culture and landscape made for one of the most incredible places I've ever had the opportunity to experience.

 

CC: Place you most desperately want to visit?

CB: This is a difficult one. If I had to pick one place right now it would probably be Nepal. I'd love to experience a landscape on such a scale as the Himalayas as well as the unique culture and people there.

CC: What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling?

CB: My friend Melissa tops the list for this one. When I was in Alaska in 2015 she let me stay on her couch for FREE for over a month when I had nowhere else to go. I'm forever grateful for her and everybody else that has opened up their home to me while I've been on the road.

 

CC: What has changed about you because of your travels?

CB: I'd say the perspective on life that I've gained. Staying in one place really limits your viewpoint on life and can make you very close-minded over time. After I left South Georgia my perspective on life and culture changed dramatically because I was able to experience and understand other people's opinions and ways of life.

CC: Who is the most dynamic and thought provoking person you've ever met?

CB: Our driver in Africa, Gilles, has to be one of the most interesting and friendly people I've ever had the opportunity to talk to. Originally from Rwanda, he was living in the country 20 years ago when the terrible Rwandan genocide took place, but has since taken up a career in driving for tour companies and started a family. We had lots of time to talk on our long drives between Rwanda and Uganda and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to get to know him.

 

CC: If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why?

CB: This may sound crazy, but definitely President Obama. He seems like a cool, laid back dude with pretty good taste in music. Also, access to Air Force one would be pretty convenient.

CC: Must haves for travel?

CB: I've always got a digital or film camera on me. Always. It's very important for me to be able to photograph things on a seconds notice, especially if it's for a job or project. If I'm going on a plane, I make sure to always have my laptop, external hard drive, and headphones on me. I've also learned the hard way that having a rain jacket in your bag at all times is never a bad idea.

 

CC: Travel tips?

CB: Never try to be on too tight of a schedule, and be okay with the fact that your trip is NEVER going to go exactly as planned. I've begun to embrace this, because like I said earlier, the unexpected things that happen on a trip are usually the things that are worth telling stories about. It's also good to always be prepared for a change in the weather. I always keep a rain jacket and some sort of extra layer on me because too many times I've been stuck exposed on a trail when a rainstorm appeared out of nowhere, and it is zero fun.

CC: Tell us a story! 

CB: The closest I've ever come to dying was in Alaska on Matanuska Glacier. I was with a couple of friends and we were there to shoot some photos for a brand. In preparation for this, we had rented some basic ice gear(mountaineering boots, crampons, etc.) from REI and for some reason I thought that made me an ice climbing expert. We got to the glacier and while everyone was shooting photos, I thought it would be a great idea to go exploring by myself. Now anyone with any sort of glacier experience will tell you that this is a very stupid thing to do, and they're right. This did not occur to me at all at the time though because I was cocky and thought that I was invincible. After about 5 minutes of wandering around, I misjudged the thickness of some ice and fell straight through into a hidden crevasse. Luckily it was filled with water and I didn't fall to an immediate death. However, the sides of the crevasse were sloped in and I wasn't able to simply pull myself out. After what seemed like an eternity of struggling, I managed to pull myself out using my ice axe(thanks to Willie Dalton for letting me borrow his). Luckily I didn't get hypothermia after all of this; though I did have to walk close to a mile back to the car in nothing but my base layer. I also lost all of my camera gear and cell phone to water damage. If there's one thing I learned from this experience, it's that you should always have your personal safety in mind, because mother earth does not care and will kill you without a second thought. I got extremely lucky that day, and if there wasn't water in that crevasse, or if I didn't have an ice axe, I could have been seriously injured or killed.

 

CC: Based on your travels, what is the single most needed improvement for humanity to be stronger?

CB: Compassion and understanding. There are too many people that I've met who are afraid of and made uncomfortable by other cultures and people, and I think this comes from willful ignorance and a lack of understanding.

I genuinely believe that if everyone were to work hard at understanding people of other races, cultures, and religions, the earth would be a much better place.

 

CC: What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you?

CB: Everyone has different definitions of happiness, and just because someone doesn't particularly align with yours, does not mean that they are wrong.

CC: What would you say to someone who has never travelled before?

 CB: Do it.

CC: When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that lesson?

CB: When I was flying up to Alaska for the second time, I only had a place to stay for a week and had absolutely no idea where I was going to be staying after that. I had barely made any friends yet and definitely none that I thought would be nice enough to let me stay with them. I was terrified. Luckily it worked out in the end and I had somewhere to stay for the following month. For me this just reinforced that it's almost always worth it to take risks. Worst case scenario, I would have gotten a hotel and flown back to Georgia. Fortunately however it worked out and I got to stay and enjoy Alaska for longer.

 

CC: What gives you hope?

CB: Enjoying the small things in life. Even if I'm not photographing it or writing it down, I always make it a point to appreciate every little thing about a situation.

CC: What would you say to your former self?

CB: Don't act like a hot shot know-it-all all the time and actually listen to people that may know better than you.

CC: Where to next?

CB: It's looking like I'll be in Iceland in the next few months, which will hopefully be really incredible. I'm challenging myself to go there and come back with photos that are different than the typical Iceland photos and that really illustrate the beauty of the country and culture. I'm also in the planning stages of a possible trip to India/Nepal next year, which if it happens, should be the trip of a lifetime.

 

Ben: Is flannel always in season?

CB: Hell yes.


Thriving Photography: An Interview with Bronson Farr

Christophe Chaisson

California raised, New York living, Bronson Farr is a phenomenal photographer whose love and passion for people is evidently displayed through his work. His very presence lights up a room with his radiating optimism & positivity, which is a pretty useful skill to possess being in a profession dependent on light.  We had the privilege to hear about his journey and career as a photographer.

 

Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Bronson: Growing up, I though photos were really only to commemorate the happy stuff in life. When I was a child, I went to a wake for my Gramps. My uncle was taking photos of Gramps in his coffin and I super confused by it. I asked my Uncle why he was photographing this particular moment. He replied with something along the lines of "all aspects of life are important to document, even death". For me, this was a total and complete revelation. Photos aren't only for the happy moments, but photos are for ALL moments. Moments that we will all look back on and pensively reminisce over and moments that our posterity will look upon and know that we all existed and lived good lives. There is something magical and romantic about that, this is when the idea of photography became something meaningful to me. 

 

 

C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

B: Self, Friends, Youtube tutorials.
 



C: How did you develop your style?

B: Practice and Collaboration.

 

 

B: Natural light is my absolute jam! I like to work with interesting locations in the city where there is a good mix of direct sunlight and shadowed back drops. Most times, my subjects choose me. For my art series, @bronson.skin a lot of subjects reach out via instgram, but if I think you look interesting I have no problem being that creep asking to take your photo. When it comes to clients, I always have a consultation to make sure the vibe is right. Nothing is worst than working for a client you can't stand or truly collab with. 

 

 

 

 

C: How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

 

 

 

 

 

C: What inspires your work?

B: My absolute favorite part of my work is working with people. People inspire me and my work. 



C: How do you compose an image?

B: One thing that is always on my mind is the rule of 3rds. 

 

C: Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?

B: A bit of both. You need to know what you want to accomplish in any given shoot. Location, tone of voice, lighting etc should be worked out before your shoot, but if you aren't open to inspiration in the midst of creating- then what's the point? If you are looking at the model and your set and get a great idea that you are enthused about- the best advice I can ever give is to try it! You'll hate yourself if you don't.

 
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C: What do you hope your art says to people?

B: I really just hope it makes people happy and make them want to work with me or try to execute what they've seen me do. 

C: Why did you choose photography as your craft?

B: It's the best mix of working with my hands, working directly with people, and actively trying to be creative and thoughtful. It just works for me.
 

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C: How hard was it to become profitable at it? 

B: Thankfully I didn't struggle too much to get in the green. One of the first projects I worked on was a fundraiser for my friend's dad who had throat cancer. I shot loads of family sessions and gave all of the proceeds to my friends family. A few days after the project was done one of my roommates handed me an envelope with all of the money I had made and donated. He said someone dropped it off for me and said to not mention who it was from. To this day, that person is the reason why my equipment is paid for. 

 

C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

B: Just show up. Take every opportunity to shoot and learn.
Be with other creatives. Train your eye and your hands.
Cloud based storage will be your friend.
Shoot RAW and in manual mode.
Practice with prime lenses.
Stop if you don't love it. Thrive if you do.

 
 
 


C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

 


B: You know how Uber partners with hella companies to do cool stuff? I wanna be the guy to set up those partnerships...

Puppies would be in every car.
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

B: Shooting an huge Indian wedding in San Francisco. The groom's family blocked off part of Union Square and the family danced and sang while the groom rode in on a white horse. It was the most magical display of tradition I'd ever seen. 

 

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C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

B: I was transfering data from one hard drive to another. I got a bit too stoned and ended up deleting every.single.photo. If I could start from scratch, I would get that cloud based storage off the bat, for sure.

 

C: Is there a defining moment in your career so far?

B: I was shooting a fashion show for Marc Bouwer and got to meet some of the cast of Orange is the New Black and some of those Housewives from BRAVO, that was pretty cool.

 

 

Ben: Is flannel really always appropriate? 

Bronson: Obviously.

 

 

C: Biggest pet peeve about the industry?

B:I don't think I've been around long enough to have too big of complaints. 

 

To capture all the moments of life as Bronson does really causes him to stand out. That to me is authenticity at its finest. He captures the good times, the hard times, and everything else in between. To follow his journey or even be a part of his shoots, check out his Instagram and Website below!

Bronson Farr's Website 

Instagram @BronsonFarr

 

 

December | Week 4

Zack Peterson

It's officially here, y'all! The day some of us wait for all year long - Christmas Day. Spending the day with loved ones, giving gifts from the heart, and not missing out on any cookies. This week's playlist brings together Christmas classics we've all grown up listening to, sung by even bigger classics. Andy Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como and more delight our ears this weekend for the big day. Sit back, snuggle up in that slightly tacky throw your aunt knitted those many years ago, and enjoy our December Week 4 playlist. Don't forget to follow us on Spotify to catch up on our previous December playlists, and be sure to tweet us to let us know which one is your favorite. From our family to yours, we wish you a very, Merry Christmas. 

 
  1. Winter Wonderland - Ella Fitzgerald
  2. A Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
  3. Silver Bells - Perry Como
  4. The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
  5. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Frank Sinatra
  6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Gene Autry
  7. Snow - Rosemary Clooney
  8. A Marshmallow World - Dean Martin
  9. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
  10. Feliz Navidad - José Feliciano
  11. Sleigh Ride - Mel Tormé
  12. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams
  13. All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey

Five Alternative Uses for Fruitcake

Ben Ashby

 

Truman Capote’s 1956 short story “A Christmas Memory” opens on a chilly, late November morning to a young boy’s surrogate mother looking out the kitchen window. Her breath fogs the pane and “Oh my,” she exclaims to him, “it’s fruitcake weather!"

 

BY: D. GILSON

 

I’ve been thinking about this boy and this woman a lot recently, as my own breath fogs the frosty mornings and the local food co-op in our New England town puts out its annual order forms for fruitcake, displayed carefully between menorah candles and commemorative winter solstice prayer cards.

My mother doesn’t bake. But lo-and-behold, every holiday season a fruitcake adorned the giant red sideboard next to our kitchen table. My mother and I would drive to the local Sam’s Club, grab Diet Cokes from the hot dog stand, peruse the aisles of colossal cheese and salami trays, gallon jugs of Jack Daniels, permafrost boxes of Hot Pockets and Pizza Rolls capable of feeding a small legion of junior high boys for the better part of a month. We’d end at the bakery, plop a shrink-wrapped, over-sized fruitcake into our cart, and make for home. Freshness isn’t an issue with fruitcake, the food that, along with Twinkies, may very well feed us in a post-nuclear apocalypse. 

Our fruitcake held court upon the vintage milk glass cake stand for a month or so, a month when we’d peck at it until New Year’s, when my mother would throw what remained in the backyard, where stray cats and birds would finish what we couldn’t.

Yes, it’s popular to hate on fruitcake. And though I don’t particularly like it — even the artisanal ones this site will inevitably link to, made by hipster bakers with pretty blogs and thick framed glasses smudged with organic, locally-sourced, hand-ground flour — I want to offer you five uses for fruitcake that don’t require eating them.

XO,

D.

 
 

Rise to social media stardom. Jesus is not the reason for the season, and Santa is drunk on a beach in Cancun. This leaves room for a new holiday star: you. Bake a fruitcake (or buy one, it doesn’t matter). Snap a picture of it next to your bare ass. Tag with #FruitCAKE. Drop to Insta, Tumblr, Facebook, Reddit (even trolling, closeted Republicans need holiday eye candy). Watch your likes grow and your star rise, bringing many a wise man to lay in your manger.

 

Win the passive-aggressive winter Olympics. That racist cousin whose name you always draw for the family gift exchange? That co-worker who sends you “Long Live Lady Gaga” playlists on Spotify? That guy who gave you chlamydia junior year but is now married to a rich patron with a Lower East Side loft and cabin in Asheville? Yeah, fuck ‘em with kindness. Bake the driest fruitcake you can, wrap it in butcher paper, tie it with twine, add a sprig of spruce, and send it alongside the happiest holiday card you can muster. Up goes your karma count, no one can say you didn’t try, and hey, maybe your untouched fruitcake will draw rats to their well-appointed kitchen.

 
 

Plan a date. Tell your crush to bring dried fruit and the door will be open. Splay yourself upon the counter, covered with flour, eggs, butter…whatever else goes in a fruitcake. See what happens.

 

Throw a costume party. Invite every gay man and every woman you know to a Fruitcake Party. Dress: ho ho ho. Décor: low lighting. Drink: liquid fruitcake (orange zest, a cinnamon stick, but mostly gin). Distraction: Love Actually on loop. Don’t forget: carb and gluten free fruitcake bites and plenty of mistletoe.

 

Reconnect with your mother. You don’t call enough. You haven’t given her grandchildren. You live so far away in that city now. And yet, you are naturally her favorite. Spend an afternoon baking with your mother, margaritas in your cups and Dolly Parton on the stereo. Tell her about the boy who broke your heart last month. Let her tell you he wasn’t good enough anyway.

 

D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015) and Crush with Will Stockton (Punctum Books, 2014). He is an Assistant Professor of English at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and his work has appeared in Threepenny Review, PANK, The Indiana Review, The Rumpus, and as a notable essay in Best American Essays. Find D. at dgilson.com or on Instagram @dgilson.

Own Less, Do More: An Interview with Zack Helminiak of Nomadix

Zack Peterson

We spoke with Nomadix Co-Founder Zack Helminiak to discuss products that blend well with a functional lifestyle, being active, and how one eco-friendly towel can do it all.

 
 

How did you get started creating?

Zack: In the winter of 2008-2009 we were all working for Vail Resorts in the Rocky Mountains. Chace was a snowboard instructor, Hunter was on-mountain guest services, and I worked in a rental shop. We had many adventures that year, including a springtime trip to Canyonlands in Utah. That first night was sat around a campfire overlooking the Canyon, sipping cheap brandy (Hunter’s camping M.O.), and hatched the idea for a company that makes eco-friendly, multi-purpose travel products. Shortly after landing in California, we began designing a towel that fit the California lifestyle of weekend camping, weekday surfing and yoga, and really anything you can throw at it.

 

Who taught you to start your own brand, or were you self-taught?

Z: For the most part I would describe us as self-taught, although I wouldn't want to take away from anyone that has given us advice along the way. We’ve received advice from family, friends, and other business owners in Southern California that was definitely formative. Small businesses also lean on each other to promote, throw events, and give advice, and we have benefitted from that community. But if you look at the day-to-day of running a business; we wanted to build a brand that is a voice for environmentalism, and in that we are carving our own path, not taking shortcuts, and much of that is self-taught.

 
 

Did you know you would start your own brand, if not what spurred it?

Z: All of us have had a creative, entrepreneurial spirit, since we were young. I don't want to say that I knew the future, but none of us took much convincing once the idea for Nomadix formed.

 

How do you get new ideas for products and photo shoots?

Z: Ideas for our products, both in function and design, come from travel. Our products are designed to perform in every activity you encounter, they have travel inspired prints, and we test them thoroughly on the road. Our photos are typically not from a photo shoot. They are almost always documented photos of our travels, and we always bring a towel.

That goes for customer submissions as well. Our customers, whom we love, have sent in photos of themselves with a Nomadix towel on all seven continents. Even our best photos are much more candid than they might appear.

 

What are you inspired by?

Z: We are inspired by adventure travel and environmental activism. Companies like Patagonia, leaders like Doug Tompkins and Elon Musk, the photography of Chris Burkard, our friends at Changing Tides Foundation, and the folks that run Fashion Revolution. There are a lot of voices, large and small, that speak up for the environment and respect the outdoors. We believe that the most important players in combating climate change are consumers, and you see a similar mentality in the campaigns run by some of our role models.

 

How do your hobbies influence what you make?

Z: Our hobbies are very directly responsible for the creation of Nomadix. We are all very active, whether it’s surfing, yoga, traveling, camping, or rock climbing. We also spend a good deal of time traveling internationally, and are very passionate about the environment.

A few years ago there was a specific towel for yoga, a different towel for camping, and another towel for the beach and surfing. It seemed both expensive and wasteful to buy three/four towels when one would do, so we created a towel that performed in every activity. We decided to make it 100% recycled according to Global Recycle Standard to keep plastic out of the ocean, and the Nomadix towel was born.

 
 

What has been your biggest challenge?

Z: Our biggest challenge is that we want to make a big impact, but as a small business you have to start slow. But starting slow is also our strength. We have built the business in a very “grassroots” way, starting with crowd funding, then going door to door at yoga studios and surf shops in Southern California. It was a slow process, but it makes all the difference to meet your customers face to face. If we started with a bigger advantage (money, connections, etc.), we might not know our customers, and our business, as well as we do.

 
 

What's been your best advice you've been given?

Z: The best advice I’ve been given was on a 10-day camping trip when I was a kid. Our camp counselor told us the number one rule is “leave no trace.” This is something that we struggle with today. Consumers rarely think of the product life cycle when they buy a product. Where does the packaging go, how long will I use it, can it be recycled?

We believe that every product should have a carefully thought out plan for the end of product life, which is why our towels are 100% recycled and recyclable. Our next phase of the company will be to create a recycling system so people can turn their towels back in when they are done with them. Our towels are durable and we’ve only been around for two years, so this situation has not come up yet.

 

What's your favorite thing about sharing your art with others?

Z: The best thing about sharing our art with others is the photos we get from travelers. We’ve gotten photos from every continent now, including Antarctica, so there are tons of customer stories.

One that stands out in my mind; A recent customer, Lexi, did a 14-day bike packing trip in Tanzania with The Foundation for Tomorrow, from Mt Kilimanjaro to the coast. The organization does amazing work in education, and they usually bring a few students on the trip. The Tanzanian student that joined them on the bike trip had never seen the ocean before, so it's was very inspirational. During the trip, Lexi thought to snap a photo of her Nomadix towel and send it to us. It’s so special to be included in moments like that.

 

For more on the Nomadix brand, visit www.nomadix.co

 

Lanona

Zack Peterson

We recently spoke with the man behind Lanona, Ben Ransom, about seeking inspiration, personal hobbies, and how wanting one pair of custom shoes turned into the creation of many shoes for his very own company.

 
 

How was Lanona founded?

Ben: Our brand first started when I went on a search for a custom pair of shoes. I found a shoemaker in the US that had been hand-stitching shoes for over 30 years and recently setup a small operation out of his garage. Through the process of working with him, adjusting designs and observing what a quality shoemaking process looked like, it sparked my interested to start a footwear brand.  I continued to work with this shoemaker for over two years before our brand was launched. In addition to product development, I’ve been lucky to partner with @ocupop for our brand identity and overall design, they’ve been instrumental in telling our story and connecting the dots with where we want to go as a brand.

 

Were you always interested in starting your own business?

B: I was. I studied Entrepreneurship in college and have family members that ran their own businesses. After school, I focused a lot on experience and sought out diverse opportunities to build a broad range of skills like - marketing and sales for a manufacturing company, field work - installing towers for wind energy farms, and selling vintage gadgets to name a few.

 
 
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How did you learn the trade of boot making?

B: I don’t personally construct each boot from start to finish and don’t want to take away from the talented craftsmen and women we work with on a daily basis. But all of my knowledge within the industry has been self-taught. I can attribute most of where I’m at now to -  getting out there, not being afraid to ask questions, being humble, and building a network of people you can trust and rely on.

 
 

How do your hobbies influence what you make?

B: I enjoy sailing, we have a sailboat on Lake Superior. The Spaulding boat shoe is a direct inspiration from being on the water. It’s definitely my go-to shoe while sailing. Our Harrier outsole is super lightweight and gives surprisingly excellent grip on the boat and dock.

 

How do you get ideas for new products and photo shoots?

B: A lot of ideas come from vintage footwear. Gokey was a footwear manufacturer based in Minnesota that offered a wide variety of styles and I’m always scanning eBay and other sources for interesting designs they had. As for ideas that are finally produced, we try to envision the customer and how each style will be used on a daily basis. With that in mind, we work towards structuring a photo that would resonate with that vision. Additionally. we’ve been lucky to partner with some really great brand ambassadors who naturally work well with our existing styles and we give them freedom to be creative with our products in the field.

 

What's been your biggest challenge?

B: Our biggest challenge has been getting our brand in front of people. Lanona is a true bootstrapped operation and we don’t have investors or a trust fund to dip into to put towards a sizable marketing and advertisement budget. We have to rely on word of mouth, and let our products speak for themselves. This is a slow growth approach, but we believe that operating lean now, will pay off down the road.

 
 
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What are your inspirations?

B: A big part of my inspiration for Lanona is weather related. Having a home base in Minnesota, the elements can get pretty harsh, especially in the winter. Our products need to accommodate for that fluctuation in temperatures and weather conditions. Another inspiration is the focus on sourcing and producing all of our products in the US. Working closely with everyone involved with our production of our brand is inspirational and motivation to continue to grow our business and be competitive within a global market.

 
 

What's been your best advice you've been given?

B: As we continue to grow as a brand, I like to keep this saying in mind, which was given to me from @leatherworksmn - “little pigs get bigger, big pigs get slaughtered”

 

What has been your biggest lesson?

B: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Focus on what products or services resonate best with your company and build off of that. Don’t compromise quality to accommodate growth.

 
 

What's your favorite thing about sharing Lanona with others?

B: The favorite thing is seeing our product out on the streets. It’s great to see what was originally a concept/design/sample, turn into a boot that someone wears around town.

 

For more on Ben and the story of Lanona, visit www.lanona.co