The best part of waking up… Who are we kidding, the only thing getting us up is COFFEE. So many of our morning routines require a cup of java before anything else can be done. The rich scent arouses our senses before the first sip
But how does the delightful brew become the caffeinated fuel running our day to day? It all starts with a tiny seed originally discovered in Ethiopia. There is a lot of skill required to take a simple bean and turn it into a delicious cup of coffee.
We had the chance to work with Leslie Mah, the roaster and head of operations for Sudden Coffee, to represent her field for our project, Women’s Work.
Leslie’s passion for coffee has brewed since she was a child and channeled that interest into a thriving career which is quite a feat in a male-dominated industry. In 2012, “Roast” Magazine conducted a survey that found only 13 percent of professional roasters were female.
“You can’t taste the gender of who roasted the coffee. That always just made me laugh. I don’t taste a cup of coffee and go, ‘Wow. That’s a male perspective’.”
Leslie faced many challenges when she first starting her career. However, she quickly began to understand the nuance of being close to the roaster and soon was in sync with the machine.
Soon she became flexible and understood that every coffee has its own personality. A roaster helps the bean express itself through patience and a trained palate. Neither of those traits depends on gender. In 2016 Leslie proved how precise her pallet is with her 2nd place win at the US Cup Tasters Championship.
“I wanna stay in coffee. I wanna be in coffee no matter what. And I want to continue to use my palate and my love of sharing taste with the world. If I could, I would roast forever.”
We find that so many times women are denied even the chance to prove their skills. A woman’s inability to lift a 150 lb bag of coffee beans over their head doesn’t prevent them from creating a delightful cup of Joe and Leslie is proving that fact everyday.
They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach and if you were armed with Georgetown cupcakes your crushes heart would be in the palm of your hands.
These undisputed delectable treats have tantalized taste buds for over a decade. Sisters and owners, Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Berman, officially opened their doors over a decade ago in Washington, DC on Valentine’s day in 2008.
Since then they have expanded Georgetown Cupcake to six cities, ship cupcakes nationwide, and have developed a cupcake and frosting mix baking line in partnership with Williams Sonoma. With a menu of over 100 different flavors, they now bake over 25,000 cupcakes a day and have over 300 employees across the country.
As an addition to our ongoing Women’s Work project we asked the sisters who inspired them to become the cupcake queens they are today. Sophie and Katherine’s love of tiny cakes started early in their lives.
They spent much of their early childhood with their grandmother, Katherine Ouzas, watching her bake during the holidays and special occasions.
Not only did they develop their passion for baking from their grandmother but learned the importance of hard work. As a non-english speaking immigrant from Greece, their grandmother created a life in the United States with her husband. She had achieved the American dream and with those skills passed down, Sophie and Katherine had the confidence to follow their dreams.
Love comes in so many forms and places. From their grandmother, Sophie and Katherine learned and experienced the joy that they could bring to others through baking – the notion that something that they made with their own hands could bring happiness to others. And thatʼs ultimately what their business is about – spreading love, comfort, and joy to others.
The Crisman team assembled at the Philadelphia International airport only 16 hours after the ball dropped.
The team was off to their first string of shoots for 2019. Noel, our production coordinator, arranged 7 shoots in 3 cities within 11 days, no big deal. The team consisted of Chris, Robert, Mike, Noel, and a former team member Jared Castaldi. They were ready to take on the challenge.
This trip to the West Coast was dedicated to our ongoing project, Women’s Work
Their first stop was Las Vegas to meet and photograph four very different women. They had the privilege to meet Desiree Reed-Francois – Athletic Director of University of Nevada – Las Vegas
Abingdon Welch – Pilot Meena Vohra – Medical Director of Children’s Hospital of Nevada
and Tonya Rhodes – Casino Shift Manager at Mandalay Bay. Each experience was unique and worthy of its own story for another time.
At the end of their time in the city that never sleeps the team partially disbanded. Jared headed back to the East Coast; Mike threw a camera and a fishing pole into his car and hit the road; and Chris, Robert, and Noel drove west kicking dust behind their gear packed Suburban. They were driving to Los Angeles to meet Heidi and Renae Moneymaker – Stuntwomen,
and Danielle Perez – Standup Comedian.
These two shoots allowed Robert to flex his photo assistant skills. As a producer, he rarely has the opportunity to build a light while on set. Typically he is juggling dozens of tasks and it was nice to be Chris’s photo assistant once again.
“It was like riding a bike.”
On January 8th Chris and Noel left Robert to fly back to the office. After two full days in LA, they packed their bags once again and were ready to head north to Palo Alto. There they would finally meet up with Mike for the final shoot with the Vice President of Google, Yoky Matsuoka. They hit the winding roads north of LA and for the first time in days, it didn’t rain. Supposedly it only rains in LA in January… Who knew?
The team’s shoot with Yoky wasn’t scheduled until January 10th. With this bit of downtime, Mike could hunt down more beautiful landscapes. When the team was finally reunited in Palo Alto they were full of stories to share and tales to tell.
Their time at Google was a wonderful opportunity to work with Yoky and see their stunning campus. Once wrapped the only thing left for them to do was to get on a plane on the 11th at 6:02 AM. This, of course, is a lot easier said than done. Especially when traveling with 7 checked bags filled with gear. They always give themselves enough time for the process. There was the talk of not even sleeping, but in the end, they all caught a couple Z’s. 6:02 AM came quickly and the team was happy to watch the San Francisco skyline drift into the distance as the traveled into the sunrise. They had done it. 7 shoots in 3 cities in 11 days. A great way to start 2019!
As we spend the last few days of 2018 in reflection, we view our recent past with great fondness. 2018 has been a year of continued change and growth defined by new challenges.
All along the path, we have created many memories.
We have traveled all over the land and worked with so many wonderful people. Some long time conspirators and other new faces that we will welcome back to our team when the right time comes.
No matter where a project took us, each one allowed us to dive further into the depths of creativity and to make each opportunity count.
As we look forward to even greater challenges, our team continues to grow. This year called for expansion and we were fortunate to have Noel Pattani hop on board.
Noel is currently our production coordinator and we are excited to see how her strengths continue to develop as a part of our team.
With her help, we have expanded Chris’s personal project, Women’s Work. Her creativity, spirit, and strong values have brought a new sense of life to who we are.
Mike Ryan will be entering his first year as a full-time member in 2019.
It seems like it’s been years, but his commitment and dedication restored a balance to our team as well as helped shape how we get it all done.
To be part of so many projects that pushed our creative limits has been a thrill and a pleasure. As a team of creative people, we require challenges and 2018 has been full of them. From creating a lush garden in studio during December, to traveling to Cape May, NJ to capture an oyster farmer and her crew at sunrise, to working 18 hour days in the scorching summer sun, we will continue to raise the bar on creative productions that bring out the best in everyone who is part of our what we do. We are grateful for the opportunity to do what we love and to share our passions and strengths with you.
One to 2019 – Our next call time hits in just over 72 hours.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
But, who are the creators of those delectable treats? It’s not the cheerful St. Nick with a little round belly, that shakes when he laughs like a bowlful of jelly. The magical sweets are created by the Candymaker, also known as a Confectioner. These sugar-rush masters make it difficult to settle our brains for a long winter’s nap. They have the ability to take simple ingredients, the right amount of time and heat to manifest treats we literally dream of!
A career that is fueled by a love of sugar is not meant for everyone. We asked Candymaker, Davina Soondrum aka @misswonka, what inspired her to venture down the path of sweets.
I could not think of anything more addictive than making others happy by something I created.
She is a self-proclaimed sugar pusher at heart and found inspiration from such icons as Sylvia Weinstock,
Jacques Torres from the PBS show Dessert Circus,
and Marcel Desaulniers, author of “Death by Chocolate”.
These three idols, however, did not spark the sweet tooth within Davina. They just encourage it. Roald Dahl’s whimsical tale of a young boy and his adventure in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was what excited her passion for confections.
This fantastical tale ignited Davina’s imagination and will forever be the catalyst of her career.
I am the maker of music, the dreamer of dreams
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
When we first met Davina she was a candymaker at Shane’s Confectionery but has since then moved on.
Today she creates delightful goodies as the pastry chef at Lacroix while simultaneously working on her pet project called “Hey, Sugar”. With her personal confectionery circus where she see herself as the ringmaster. “Hey, Sugar” allows her to research and develop chocolate bars, infused cotton candy sugar, hand pulled sugar confections, and gummies. YUMMY!
There are exciting things to come from Davina and we can’t wait to try all over her tasty treats.
As the California wildfire season comes to the end we look back at one of the most damaging to date. The devastation that ripped through the state did the same to so many of our friends and family and at this point, the destruction from the fires can be seen from space. When thinking about our defense against the out of control havoc most only know of firefighters, but these selfless heroes arrive when damage has already begun. Now with flash floods rampaging through the fire-scarred earth, many are left to wonder what can be done to prevent such massive ruin?
It seems like a delicate match and Mary Lata has made a career striking that balance. As a Fire Ecologist Mary’s job is to observe and monitor the Tonto National Forest to decide when a fire should burn or be put out. At times she prescribes controlled burns as a necessary strategy for the health of the area.
Yes, sometimes fires are set for the betterment of the environment. Like most of us, Mary too didn’t realize that this was a job she could have until she was working at Badlands National Park as an Interpretive Ranger. It immediately became obvious to her that fire ecology was what she should do. She finds it hard to imagine a life that doesn’t involve working outside with fire and natural lands.
To understand how fires become out of control you must first understand the natural impact they have on the ecosystem. Fires are a necessary part of nature. It’s a disturbance just like flooding, wind-storms, and landslides. Many environments like savannahs and prairies require regular burning to allow many native plant species to germinate, establish, or to reproduce. Wildfire suppression not only limits these plants to thrive but could potentially eliminate them all together. Wildfire prevention also exacerbated the lack of control we have once a fire takes hold.
A natural wildfire will create gaps in the vegetation, which help to contain and not allow them to become massive fires. So, when we prevent mother nature’s failsafe and allow plant life to grow uncontrolled we give a flame the fuel to thrive. Through controlled burns, we create the ability to limit the damage of fire can do. Mary, like a master chess player, watches over our terrain as if a well played board. Observing and planning her next move.
When we heard about Stryker Farms and Nancy Poli we envisioned the next perfect Women’s Work shoot. Nestled just two hours outside of Philadelphia is where Nancy and her son, Nolan Thevenet run Stryker Farms. Unlike the traditional large pink pigs from Old McDonald’s farm, their Farm specializes in heritage pigs.
Nancy and Nolan raise a mix of 6 different breeds; Tamworth, Berkshire, Hereford, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and Large Black. These old-world breeds have a tendency to grow slower than conventional pigs resulting in a more flavorful pork. Stryker Farms takes pride in the fact that their pigs are raised outdoors and enjoy a natural diet of non-GMO grains and grasses without the use of antibiotics or hormones.
After a bit of pre-production, handled by Robert Luessen, we were ready to visit Stryker Farms on April 17th, 2016. With a sunrise call time Chris, Robert, Jared Castaldi, and Sam Green hit the road north towards Stroudsburg.
With every mile, we drove the more the urban landscape drifted away leaving room for lush wooded landscapes. After a few music albums and several random conversations, we arrived at the dirt road of Stryker Farms.
Once at the farm we were greeted by a little shop selling their wares, such as cheeses and sausages. We drove past the shop, knowing we would return to stock up of delightful treats to take home. We continued to drive towards the buildings that housed the livestock. In a addition to pigs, Stryker farms also raises beef and dairy cows, chickens, turkeys, and goats.
I don’t know if you have ever been on a farm but you can’t visit one without experiencing a particular smell. This time was no different and the stench was unbearable. The muck created by the animals was everywhere, as expected. We need to set gear down on the ground but had no intention of anything becoming covered in manure. So we planned ahead and added plastic bags to the gear prep list. The plastic bags were wrapped to the bottom of all stands and power packs were placed in them. Of course, this was a time before we used battery powered lights so the farm quickly became covered with cords. To make things more difficult we wanted to keep the wires above the manure-covered ground. So we strung them like festive Christmas lights throughout the space.
Once all of the lights, extension cords, and power packs were prepped and ready to go it was time to set up the shot. Chris came to Skryker Farms with a strong image in his mind’s eye. The vision was there and it was time to make it a reality. There was a path that directed the pigs from a lower housing location to an upper feeding area. This was the space that would allow Chris’s vision come to life. To create the illusion of Nancy calmly standing in the middle of stampeding pigs we realized it needed to be two separate pictures that would be combined in post.
The composition that Chris envisioned was with Nancy centered with the pigs running on both sides of her in the path. To achieve this it would require the camera to float in the middle of the chute. We decided that we needed to create a rig. Something that would allow the camera to stay in the space while the pigs ran through. The team devised a metal bar that attached across the path where the camera would be secured.
While shooting Nancy, Chris would use the rig as a tripod but of course, he too couldn’t be in the chute once the pigs were set loose. It was decided he would use a remote to fire the camera while standing safely outside of the action. After a few tests of the remote to ensure it would fire we were ready to begin.
We were truly lucky to have such a charming and captivating subject as Nancy. We quickly got what we need from her and were ready to move on to the unpredictable part of the day. The pig run. We only had one opportunity to get this shot. Once the lower pen door opened the pigs without direction would instinctively run up the hill for their anticipated meal. Once Chris and Nancy climbed out of chute we were ready.
Release the PIGS!
With great excitement, the pigs rampaged up the hill running underneath the excellently placed rig/camera setup. At the same time, Chris was fiercely pressing the remote to fire the camera as to capture the thrilling moment. Once all of the pigs were clear of the chute and happily eating, it was a wrap. We began to clean E V E R Y T H I N G and then did another thorough cleaning once back to the office. Our time at the farm was quick and unforgettable. Nancy and her corkscrewed tailed co-stars were a delight. They gave us everything we needed to create a beautiful photograph that focused on the moment. We found a little piece of magic on this shoot that helped us create something unique and memorable. We hope you enjoy it.