Penny's Pastries. An old favorite from an assignment for Entrepreneur Magazine.

It's fun to look back at assignments that generated images I really like and try to understand what commonalities that exist with the work I am doing today. This was shot on location for an article about "failing" and getting up and trying again.

I'd never met Penny before we got the assignment to shoot and I walked into her small, commercial kitchen in central Austin cold. The first thing I did was to put the gear down and ask for a tour. We walked through and while Penny pointed out things that would be of interest to a chef or baker I was busy looking at the angles and "props" that might tell the story we needed to share in one image. Part of taking a tour is that process of looking for common touchstones. Austin was a smallish town then. Who might we know that intersects both of us? It was Patricia Bauer Slate who started the first real European style bakery in all of Texas.

These were the film days and we worked with big lights and big cameras. As Penny and I chatted and shared connections my wonderful assistant, Anne, set up lights and a medium softbox which would be out main light for Penny. We used several other lights with reflectors fitted with grids to put sufficient light on the background areas.

By the time I started setting up the shot and positioning Penny we were chatting like old friends. I chose a 100mm f3.5 Zeiss Planar for my Hasselblad 501, took a few black and white Polaroids and started shooting. Penny's look is absolutely perfect. The magazine loved the shot. We made a new friend. We got paid. Almost two decades later the shot looks fresh to me and I remember the afternoon as being fun and productive. I also left with a bag of outrageously good cookies.

When I look at the picture now I realize that I've let life speed up the process of taking images and I'm not reaching as deeply into the process as I once did. I'll start working on regaining that sense of engagement and depth first thing Monday morning.  We think it's about gear but it might really be about spending more time working with people and sharing the joy of making art together. Pretty cool.


Anonymous said...

I love portraits with genuine expressions like this.

The Taylor wessing prize has almost become parody with photos of gloomy looking people being thoughtful...


Larry Cordeiro said...


Love the honesty of the shot, and I totally bought into Penny's smile and bake goods. Worse, the true measure of the shot is you have me thinking about our local bake shop and stopping by for a cup of coffee and cookies. ;-)