One of the big things I noticed in moving back to Hamilton from Toronto is that, in Hamilton, most people don't know who the great chefs are in the city. And there are fantastic chefs in this city!
In Toronto, most people know the name Susur Lee even if you don't know the names of his restaurants. I recently embarked on a personal project to help Hamiltonians become more aware of who the great chefs are in the city. I had my first shoot just a couple weeks ago, with Fraser Macfarlane, head chef and partner of Quatrefoil Restaurant in Dundas.
The goal of this project is to photograph: the city's chefs in their environment, the restaurant itself, and a few items from the menu. I feel this project can help shed some light on the names of our city's chefs and put a face to those names. Photographing the environments and menu items helps to illustrate the atmosphere of the restaurant and the quality of food that is served at the establishment, something I believe to be revealing about the chefs themselves.
My first impression of Fraser was one of affability. He is very likable and friendly and we had a great time shooting and joking around. My extensive improv comedy background not only enables me to find common ground with my subjects very quickly, but it allows me to gauge their personality and interact with them at their level. You know, kind of like dealing with kids.
Once I've established rapport, I want to stay out of their way as much as possible, get the shots and have them sitting for the camera only for as long as they are needed. When shooting a person in his or her environment, the surrounding environment is a critical part of the shot. You location choice, however, is often limited by the amount of space within which you have to shoot, how much room there is for your lights, and the amount of furniture that needs to be moved to get the shot.
Shooting in a working restaurant between meals means there isn't time to move furniture out of the way and move it back. You have to work around what's there. At Quatrefoil, there were two gorgeous bench seats where I was able to sit Fraser to get the portraits. I think the image at the top is the one that best reflects his personality. Casual, relaxed and smiling.