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.