Anyone who follows this blog knows how much I love great food and great photography and respect the creators of both. As an amateur photographer, black and white photography helped me understand the art and craft of taking pictures. Rob Karosis, our architectural photographer, makes our work shine and reveals the soul of each project in a way that makes us proud.
It seems as though I am always involved with food, whether growing it, cooking it, or best of all, eating it with friends and family. So, while having a wonderful dinner with friends, I was introduced to the photographer and author, Francesco Mastalia. His latest book, “Organic-Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley,” embodies great photography and great food as well as the idea that simple unadulturated food is a good thing.
Francesco interviewed and photographed over 100 chefs and farmers in the Hudson Valley who go beyond standard organic practices. He traveled over 17,000 miles in the process of creating the book. It is an understatement to just say it was an involved process. He used a camera and system designed in the 1800’s with a lens from the 1870’s giving it the feeling of a Civil War documentary. Abraham Lincoln was photographed with a similar camera.
To take a photograph, Francesco pours a light sensitive emulsion on a glass plate. He loads it into the camera and when his subjects are ready, he takes an exposure that can last between 10 and 15 seconds. Each photograph is unique since the emulsion reacts differently depending on the temperature, humidity, and the characteristics of the pour. The exposed plate must immediately be developed, and Francesco uses a portable darkroom set up near the shoot.
Interviews with the chefs and farmers are fascinating and detail the life and philosophy of these dedicated professionals. Their words, together with the images of their extraordinary faces, make the book come alive.
One bonus feature of this amazing book for me, was the fact that I knew a couple of the people who were featured in the book. Brother Victor-Antonine, whose spirit is captured perfectly, lives a few miles away from me. His monastery cookbooks have sold millions and would also be a great holiday gift. On my way north to job sites in Massachusetts, upstate New York, and Northern Connecticut, I often stop for some lunch or produce for dinner at McEnroe’s Organic Farm Store, and sure enough Ray McEnroe is featured.
If you are looking for a great holiday gift, this is will be a wonderful addition to your list. My description has not done it or Francesco Mastalia justice.