Graze: Birmingham Event Photographer

Graze: Birmingham Event Photographer

Last Sunday evening, the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network hosted local farmers, chefs, and diners for their Graze: Birmingham fundraiser at Avondale Brewing Company. ASAN put on a great event and the farmers and chefs cooked up some absolutely delicious food. I volunteered to provide event photography for ASAN, one of my favorite nonprofits. The network is committed to promoting sustainable agriculture in Alabama, and if you'd like to learn more about them, check out their website at asanonline.org.

Because local, sustainable agriculture is something I wholeheartedly believe in, I am offering a dollar-for-dollar discount on any corporate event coverage (or wedding coverage) for donating to ASAN! Donate up to $250 to ASAN (including the cost of your Graze: Birmingham ticket), and I'll kick that much off the cost of any photo services booked by December 31, 2015.

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Promotional Photos for Snow's Bend Farm

Promotional Photos for Snow's Bend Farm

For nine years, I have had the great privilege of photographing Snow’s Bend Farm. I’ve captured everything from the owners' wedding to documentary projects. When I recently received a note from Margaret Ann that they wanted new promotional photographs for their website, my eyes lit up. I love honoring the hard work of makers, artisans, and producers by creating images of their work.

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Van Alen Institute's Future Ground competition in New Orleans

This week I am in New Orleans photographing the final days of the Future Ground competition. With design teams from around the country presenting their final ideas about how to utilize the vacant land that New Orleans possesses following Hurricane Katrina, my mind is taken back to all that time I spent in graduate school reading and rereading pieces of literature by and about the Detroit Works Project, which addresses a similar issue. It's always extra rewarding to photograph an event about a topic that I have so much interest in--to be inspired not only by the aesthetics of the subject matter but also the ideas at hand.

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Allstate Sugar Bowl Gameday

Allstate Sugar Bowl Gameday

On the first day of this year I was lucky enough to photograph my team (Roll tide!) play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans' Superdome while I photographed the goings-on in the Allstate suite above midfield. A few of those images are included in the Corporate Events page of this site, but I wanted to share a few more of my favorites here. 

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Birmingham Industrial Architectural Photographer

Birmingham Industrial Architectural Photographer

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing an industrial building outside Birmingham. The owners needed some updated architectural photography. Here's the result.

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Guardians Institute for Tulane City Center

During the summer of 2013 I had the pleasure of photographing the building that Tulane City Center constructed for New Orleans’ Guardians Institute. Guardians is a nonprofit dedicated to the development of youth through literacy, physical fitness and New Orleans’ indigenous cultural arts.

The building consists of two main spaces: an exterior stage for performances, especially by Mardi Gras Indians, and the interior workroom. That door you see is large enough for fully dressed Indians to walk through.

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A Pig With a Purpose

This second installment of images from Clawhammer Farm will detail the process of slaughtering and butchering a pig. Here’s fair warning: if you don’t wish to see graphic images, please move on to this post about the farm, or this post, or maybe this post.

(This post was originally made on September 10, 2013.)

So, just how does a farmer slaughter a pig? I’m an avid (and conscientious) meat eater, and I. love. pork. Ribs, fried pork chops, Boston butt, barbecue, tenderloin, pork and greens…. you name it, it’s likely that I love it. (With the exception of chitlins. Been there, done that, don’t need to go there again.) I’d often asked myself the question, and this summer I had my first chance to see the process. Slaughtering on site is saved for occasions when farmers and their friends will be eating the pig, since meat that’s sold has to be slaughtered, butchered, and packaged at a USDA-inspected facility. So witnessing a slaughter on the farm was an odd sort of treat.

 I just couldn't resist...

I just couldn't resist...

Nick and Becky, the farmers at Clawhammer, put a lot of thought into how they slaughter their animals, and do their best to make sure the animal becomes meat in a humane way. In the case of pigs, first the chosen one is shot in the head with a small-gauge rifle, then the farmer quickly slits its throat. The pig will lie still for just a few seconds before it begins thrashing around, so the aim is to slit the pig’s throat and allow it to begin bleeding out before the convulsions start. 

(I’ll admit now that I was shooting pictures, not taking notes while all this happened. It’s likely that I’ll get a word wrong here or there, but I assure you that I’ll explain to the best of my ability.)

David, the resident farmhand/photographer/woodworker, and I had been waiting patiently all day, making sure we didn’t miss the big event. Finally, word came: “it’s time.”

First, Nick had to choose a pig. He wanted one that was between 50-60 pounds live weight. The “grower” pigs, which are grown to be slaughtered, were all hanging out near their feed bins when killing time came. Below, Nick steps over the fence and takes a moment to survey his surroundings before wading through the mass of swine.

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The best way to weigh a pig in the field: pick ‘em up by the back two feet.

After the pig is chosen, Nick shoots it in the back of the head.

Before the gun is fired, the pigs are blissfully unaware that they’re about to lose a companion. A shot rings, the surrounding pigs jump surprisedly, then turn to find out what’s going on.

Nick quickly slits the pig’s throat to sever the jugular artery. The other pigs act like teenagers in the front row at a concert–wide-eyed and intent on the show. They don’t seem particularly afraid, just interested. The pig dies quickly, and soon after, the rest go back to their business like nothing ever happened.

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Tools are tossed aside so Nick can concentrate on getting our pig out of the pen and onto the four-wheeler.

When discussing animal slaughter, the farmers often voiced a couple sentiments. Nick would remark how quickly a pig or chicken goes from being seen as a living, breathing animal to occupying the mental status of meat. After witnessing the pig’s death, and slaughtering a couple chickens, I can agree with that sentiment. Although the animals do convulse after being killed, it’s clear from their eyes (Becky’s oft-remarked concept) that their life-giving force has already left.

Nick then straps the pig onto his four-wheeler and hauls it to the barn.

The pig is hung, then bathed in a hot lye bath, which loosens the hair and top layer of skin, making the cleaning process easier.

The pig stays in the refrigerated truck overnight because the meat is easier to work with when it’s cold.

When it comes time for butchering, the pig’s brought back down to the barn. Since he’d be roasting the entire pig, Nick decided to debone it instead of dividing the meat into traditional cuts. Below, he has almost finished removing the backbone and ribs.

Nick shows us the stomach lining, which can be used for casing sausages.

People gathered around the roasting pit for 5-odd hours to watch the progress as the pig roasted. Here, Nick talks to Dart the farm dog.

Pig’s almost ready to be eaten!

We devoured that pig.

I hope this post has been somewhat enlightening. After seeing so many upsetting images from factory slaughterhouses, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a farm slaughter. The process I witnessed was graphic, to be sure, but it wasn’t horrifying. Our pig had a purpose.