I recently had the pleasure to convey inspired work through a portraiture project, courtesy of FotoFocus!is a biennial event that celebrates the art of photography. This year, I was asked to do portrait work for Francis Michael’s gallery Pop Revolution. The subject of the portrait was Todd Hudson, a prominent entrepreneur and owner of the Wildflower Cafe in Mason, Ohio.
A fun part about this project was that there were no rules or guidelines. It was all up to me, so I had flexibility with my vision and creativity. I decided to let most of my inspiration for the piece come from getting to know Todd (nicknamed during the photo process “Wildflower Todd”) and the story behind Wildflower Cafe.
I knew that I wanted the resulting images to be whimsical and a little bit fun. In order to achieve this, I brought in photography set stylist, Chelsea Cutrell, whom I have worked with previously on DAAP and Tether projects.
Wildflower Cafe is a farm-to-table restaurant located in a converted house. The cafe has a seasonal menu that coincides with the availability of the farms where “Wildflower Todd” sources his food. Food quality is of the utmost importance to Todd, so he ensures that the food he serves comes from a sustainable farm source.
When we went to meet Todd, we sat on the back patio and chatted while I tried one of his specialties. The overall atmosphere matched Todd’s personality: down-to-earth and mindful. We discussed his friendship with Jon Branstrator, “Farmer Jon”, the owner of a local no-till farm. As we listened to Todd, we discovered that his shoot needed to be at the farm with Jon!
When I went to the farm to scout shooting locations, I had the pleasure of meeting Farmer Jon! Jon’s background is especially cool, as he is constantly learning new science-based farming techniques and traveling around the world to teach other communities.
Although the original project only required one portrait, we had four pictures in mind going into the actual shoot: a portrait of Todd, a portrait of Jon, a picture of them together, and then a table scene set up in the middle of Jon’s pumpkin field. These images could not have come together more perfectly.
On the day of the shoot, the pumpkin field was lush and beautiful because of the previous night’s rain, and patches of clover filled the spaces between the pumpkins. I knew that we had to get some shots here, and Jon was totally game to lay down in the clover among the pumpkins for an amazing capture.
We shot Todd’s portrait at sunset to get the most captivating images. Dressed in his signature apron, we had Todd hold his favorite cooking utensil – a cast-iron pot – in one hand, with a bouquet of wildflowers in the other. We filled the background with fruits and veggies to evoke an earthy, authentic setting. I also used one of my favorite portraiture techniques, which is to make the subject appear outlined by light while the other aspects remain natural. I find that this adds an interesting depth to the shot.
Please visit Pop Revolution to see the final portrait of Todd live in person. It will be hanging this month!
Overall, I was so excited to create this portrait of Todd, and the shoot blossomed into something so authentic and wonderful. Jon’s portrait turned out great too, and was very true to his nature. Everyone was excited to be there and make this a success.
I came away from this experience being (even more) inspired by people like Todd and Jon, who are both successful at simultaneously doing what they love and enjoying life.
Ultimately, this adventure started for FotoFocus, but it turned into a passion project. We were all excited and honored to be a part of it and support the mission behind Todd and Jon’s work: local and sustainable sourcing.
Photography: Tracy Doyle
Photo assistance: Jim Talkington
Stylist: Chelsea Cutrell
Style assistance: Ashley Elizabeth