The Art and Craft of Chocolate

Shortly after relocating to New York from Portland, OR, an old friend approached me about creating some images for a book he was writing. The friend is Nathan Hodge, Head Chocolatier at Raaka Chocolate, fair trade advocate and all around renaissance man. In our initial meeting, he laid out his ideas for the book - unconventional chocolate uses, ones that respect the cultures where cocoa is native to the region and might challenge a reader to think differently about their relationship to their favorite sweet treat. The project was ambitious, fraught with photographic possibilities and before we’d finished our first drink, we were off.

The first step was creating images to go along with the recipes. Not wanting to over dramatize what were already some beautiful and vibrant subjects, we opted to shoot the majority of the food with natural light, and if the daylight waned on us, we’d use an octa, pushed as close to the subject as possible, to give that soft glow and open shadows that let the food tell it’s story.

Some of the recipes required a step-by-step set of images to accompany the text, to properly illustrate techniques, like the ones here that demonstrate how to close are wrap chocolate tortellini.

The next part of the book that needed images was a section on the historical significance of cocoa to Central America, and to do that the crew hopped on a flight to Oaxaca, Mexico. Between eating everything we could get our hands on and discovering the smoky brilliance of mezcal, we found moments to document some of the culture surrounding cocoa in the region, specifically Mole and Tejate, an iced chocolate drink, the recipe to which is a closely guarded secret in the Oaxaca Region.

Before taking off back to New York, I managed to grab a quick portrait of the author, Nathan Hodge.


The Art and Craft of Chocolate is available on Amazon.

Author Portraits with Jack Wang

I had the great fortune of not only meeting writer Jack Wang about ten years ago, but to also be his student. Before photography came into my life, I had lofty notions that I might become a fiction writer, and Jack guided me through the development of my craft. Though my medium shifted to from the word to the image, I have continued to apply the principals he put forward.

When Jack reached out for some fresh images for an upcoming literary release, I was thrilled at the opportunity to use lend my craft to someone who I admire and respect.

We had a couple hours to bring together a range of looks for different applications. Starting in the studio, a mix of strobe and window light allowed us to be flexible, shifting from dramatic to simple scenarios in seconds.

The studio also afforded us some great textures, so shifting to some environmental portraits was just as seamless.

From there, we moved out into the world, chasing light and enjoying the serendipity of the city, using environments to compliment Jack, and making sure that the background was simple enough to not draw attention.

Through the years, I’ve been lucky to have had some phenomenal teachers and mentors, people who believed in their students and led by example, and Jack certainly ranks among them. So thank you, Jack, and I can’t wait to read your book!

East Stroudsburg University

Last fall I had the opportunity to create an image catalog for East Stroudsburg University. Nestled in the Poconos Mountains, the campus offered plenty of opportunities for great images, but the students and staff were what truly shone though. It was a genuine pleasure to work with such engaged and excited young people, anxiously waiting for what life lies ahead of them, and educators that care deeply for the success of their students.

Many thanks to David Haney and Joe Bosack for bringing me on for an awesome shoot, and an opportunity to work in waders.