What I Did on My Summer Vacation

The Oregon coast is rugged and beautiful. I didn’t get there this summer. Paris shared her romantic beauty with many, but not with me. The International Space Station beckoned me, but I had other plans. I had a great summer in Portland. Do I think Portland is better than the above mentioned? No, no, no! I stayed in Portland to shoot more than 70 restaurants with Laurie, for a book we’re doing on the food scene here. Just Laurie and me,  just us against the “food scene”. For me, it was like guerrilla photography, 2 hours per restaurant. Ready, set, go! I started by bringing all sorts of shit with me: strobes, c-stands, flags, laptop, reflectors. An entire station-wagonful of stuff. Once I forgot the cameras, once the CF cards. This station-wagonful of stuff got old really fast. In the 2 hours I had to shoot: at least 1 dish, the restaurant, the chef, sometimes a drink, and anything else time would permit. That’s a joke for my normal style of shooting. Then Laurie started writing for the blog Serious Eats, so we would usually shoot another dish for them. Sounds HORRIBLE, but it was great. I silently dreaded each shoot on the way to it, but wound up having so much fun! ( See: “Falling in Love Again”) Years ago, shooting for Martex with Jim Sebastian (more to come on him later), I used to refuse to scout the locations before the actual shoot. I liked the challenge of arriving sight unseen, being impressed or unimpressed, challenged, and then reacting. It was exciting. Well, this was the same thing. But there was a bonus I hadn’t expected…the Chefs and their portraits. The Chefs were great to meet, to listen to while Laurie interviewed them, and talk to before I shot them. They were such an intelligent, interesting, knowledgeable, eclectic group, connected by their love of food. Most knew each other personally, and several had been involved in the blossoming of the Portland food scene in the ’90s. I photographed them environmentally, generally in the restaurant not the kitchens. In general they had strong visual personalities, and so did the restaurants. Most liked it, some didn’t, but they all did whatever I asked of them. One was a complete asshole, but he won’t be in the book after all. Another was a pretty-boy, ego-maniac, he will be in the book even though his restaurant is just so-so (I didn’t just say that, did I?).

So what did I get out of all this, other than learning about guerrilla photography and a book? Well, it has been no secret that my adjustment to Portland has not been an easy one. And to be fair to Portland you can substitute the name of any city with a population of under 500,000. Especially the ones with 200,000 hipsters. Moving from NYC to Paris was an easier cultural transition for me, language and all. So this summer gave me an inside look at one of Portland’s true gems, it’s approach to food, to eating, to farmers, to a sense of purpose and responsibility. The chef’s were just great and they provided me with a greater understanding and appreciation of my “new” hometown. Working closely with Laurie on a long project that she was so passionate about was wonderful.

Laurie at Yakuza, standing in for a Chef's portrait

And we discovered Roost, a really wonderful restaurant.


5 Responses to “What I Did on My Summer Vacation”

  • Colin Lane

    Hi Bruce! Who was that French Canadian assistant you had who drove out to the Hamptons without your cameras? Didn’t you fire him? Hahaha! I am going to try and make it out to Portland/Seattle this year. I’ll let you know.-Colin

  • portlandgirl90

    What a great team!

  • Steve Cohen

    I remember being on many of those location shoots – you knew it was time to shoot when the truck was empty!

    Nice to hear your voice via the blog Bruce.

  • Bruce Wolf | Part II | School of Architecture and Allied Arts Blog

    […] With all his work, his reputation and his legacy, it is no wonder Wolf is carefully watched.  Coming to Portland in 2009, a blog post by his then rep, Stockland Martel declared “BW MOVES TO PDX and POSTS photos.”  It was a series of photos posted on Wolf’s online social media presence that precipitated a small tempest of curiosity—Wolf was doing something new, something different.  Maybe Portland enabled Wolf to branch out into a new perspective, and explore that “loneliness” he talks about.  Whatever it was, we can read about the “guerrilla photography” Wolf and his wife, Laurie launched into.  Photographing over 70 Portland restaurants for Portland restaurant scene, Wolf found his way right into the delicious underbelly of some of Stumptown’s most coveted pla…. […]

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