food

My Best Life

 Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Right now, I am living my best life.

Wait...I take that back.

I am living my 95% life.

The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.

I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.

I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.

Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.

It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.

Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!

Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.

But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.

 

 

As I see it

tomato soup
Chef

Recently, I spent some time shooting behind the scenes with the Chef Ken from  NAPA  in Mt. Pleasant. I followed him around like a lost puppy, watching him craft dishes and cook delicious, made from scratch foods right before my very eyes. I lurked near him in the kitchen, dodging busy sous chefs and prep cooks. I listened and asked questions while still trying to be a silent observer.

To be honest, this is sort of what I love - what happens behind the scenes. What does life look like when you peek behind the velvet curtains we veil everything with. Is it authentic? Is it beautiful? Is it messy and gritty? I love all capturing the reality of what is happening - whether it's a chef dishing up his daily orders, a nurse doing infusions on a cancer ward, or a mom with her baby at the park. It's what I come back to as a photographer time and time again - authenticity. It's what challenges me and excites me at the same time. Getting a shot that isn't staged or styled is harder than it looks.

I approach all my shoots the same way I approach life now - with wide eyed curiosity and a deep desire to show life as it is and how I see it.

 

Lately

raised beds

I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully quiet = busy right now!

One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am wrking on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?

Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!

sprouts
chopping
carrots
seeding
magnolia garden-137.jpg

In the middle.

pumpkins

Cultivating things takes patience. It's a lot of work in the beginning. A lot of planning, nurturing and caring for the eventual lovely harvest that yields all the best parts. But what about the middle part?

The middle is where the work really is getting done, but you can't see it. Sure, you can define the measured growth along the way. Pull a few weeds. Do a little watering. But the parts that are really making things happen are a little undefined. Maybe the fruit hasn't started forming on the vine. Maybe it's happening underground in a place you can't see it. But the magic is in the middle.

The middle part is always so undefined...uncelebrated. It's the part we want to be over, so we can see the fruits of our labor. We want to fast forward through this part when in reality, this is the most needed part. This is where ideas incubate and bloom. Where you build the muscle for the product. It's where you refine and redefine what the final outcome will be and how it will look. It's essential in the end product.

We are all in the middle really. We are all watching patiently. Revising. Revisiting. And just watching patiently to see what comes of it all. Be patient here. This is where the good stuff is happening.

Blooming.

Growing...

 

A Fresh Future

  Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

This past weekend, I got to attend 6 (or more...it's all a haze now) events for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. One of my dream events was shooting at Fresh Future Farm – an urban farm created as a response to addressing food, health, economic, and environmental disparities. Fresh Future Farm is in the middle of what's known as a food desert in North Charleston - an area where grocery stores have pulled out of the area because these are unprofitable neighborhoods. And as you may well know, grocery stores equate to big business.

So there I was, shooting a farm to table dinner in the middle of a food desert on the cutest little farm I ever did see, with some of the top chefs in the country cooking over open flame and plating up one of the most spectacular meals I witnessed in all the events I attended... maybe even in my whole life. All of it was Inspired food from the region – some of it grown right here in Charleston.

As I stepped away from the event goers and party planners into the field of collards and cabbages, I took a moment to appreciate where I was and what this meant.... For me. For the community. It was all a little overwhelming to be honest. Not only am I doing PRECISELY what I loved (HELLLOOOOOO.... farm, food, & people are my intersectional bliss), but I was getting to witness it being done for a cause that mattered. I saw community coming together and chefs making magic.  Suddenly, my heart felt fuller than the bellies of those lucky little diners.

I am lucky to do what I do every day. It's not easy. It doesn't come with all these romantic notions of love and grandeur and cups that runneth over. Don't be deceived. This work is hard. It's relentless hustling and constant let down. It's time away on the weekends and tired muscles from walking with too much gear. But it's what fills my soul. Especially when it intersects with moments like this.

I am forever grateful for this job, this life, and this continuously unrelenting call that hasn't left me since I first picked up a camera at the age of 12. I love what I do. But today, I feel inspired and incredibly lucky to just be here...basking in the aftermath of it all.

Thanks CHSWFF2017. I can't wait to see what you cook up for next year!

 

Cultivating faith

 A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at  Compost In My Shoe .

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.

This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits. 

But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas. 

And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.

 

Giving Thanks

thanksgiving

Yesterday was another Thanksgiving. Another reason to pause and show gratitude for the things we have which isn't a tall order for most of us in this country. Our forefathers took over one of the prettiest frontiers of the planet filled with lush forests, dry deserts and vast fields to live a life most people only dream of in their lifetime. We owe grace to that.

Yet still, for some, there are days it's hard to find grace in the mix. Things go wrong. Family gets sick. Relationships crumble out from underneath us. And money can be hard to come by in our society which is focused today on more abundance than I think yesterday was built on. It's hard to find a balance in that. It's hard to say "I'm lucky" when we are feeling less than so.

But pause for a moment. Look around you. Remember the things that matter most. Find something you have that fills you up. Sometimes it's family or a friend. Sometimes it's the place you live or a pet you couldn't get by without every day. Some days it's merely that you have a roof over your head, food in your refrigerator and a soft place to lay your head each night.  Whatever it is, find the gratitude within it and give it the honor it deserves.

Today - on the day after Thanksgiving - I am grateful that I have people I love, a roof over my head, clean water to drink, freedom, the best bed in the south, and some seriously good deep fried Turkey. I have it all, even when I don't.

Everything I need is there...right in front of me, just waiting to be appreciated.

 

Hidden beauty

 Tomatoes. Shot for  Plate South.

Tomatoes. Shot for Plate South.

There is beauty everywhere - just waiting to be discovered.

It's waiting to be found in the corners of your world. It's waiting to be seen in the most obvious of places. It's in the simplest of things and the most complicated places. It's always there...a part of life that eagerly and patiently awaits your discovery. You just have to want to see it.

Indeed, there is beauty everywhere. But it's your job to go and find it.

A Few Things

  Plate South

Plate South

It's been hard to keep up with what I am working on these days. My job takes me from babies to brunches to beautiful women and everything in between.  I am months behind on blog posts and image posts and all the things I want to tell everyone about each amazing day I had - every one seemingly better than the one before it. Here is a short view of some of my latest shoots. I love every delicious bit of my work and I am always grateful I get to carry a camera around with me and take photos of the BEST things in the world!

New Happenings

La Gloria

So....things have little topsy turvy this summer to say the least. That's not to say they are bad...just a little more messy than I am used to.

You see, this summer I decided to embark on a passion project I have been working up in my head for some time now. I decided to take some things I am very passionate about and combine them into one place where my skill set could grow and flourish. Sometimes as creatives, we don't get the projects that showcase our best work, so instead of waiting for the opportunity, I decided to make the opportunity. And so, Plate South was born. 
 

Plate South is a blog that I have created for my very own selfish purposes. I have always been a huge fan of photographing people and their stories as well as lifestyle around those stories. And I love food - I mean, really...who doesn't? I really love food photography as well. So I created a blog designed to highlight all the talents I have as a photographer, a writer, a designer and a foodie.

Plate South is about the culture of food in the South. It's about eating. It's about dining out. It's about the makers and the purveyors. It's about the markets and the recipes. It's about everything that makes up the growing, evolving, changing food scene we are now experiencing as a culture. 
 

 This is Eddie.  You should read about him on the blog . He was an amazing character to interview!

This is Eddie. You should read about him on the blog. He was an amazing character to interview!

This blog is for me. But it's also for you. If you are passionate about food or southern food or food photography, this is something to follow.

I am still for hire. I REPEAT...I AM STILL FOR HIRE! This is just something I am doing as a side project for myself to showcase to you some of the talents I have as a photographer. So enjoy the blog and read along. You are sure to find some little nugget of what you like along the way.
 

Let me know what you think and what I can do to make it better! If you have an idea, feel free to call me and let me know! I'd love your feedback!

Much love! And thanks for all the support, friends!

Libby

Cooking up a plan

  From my shoot with  Charleston Shop Curator  out at Wild Dunes recently. More to come!

From my shoot with Charleston Shop Curator out at Wild Dunes recently. More to come!

I have been spending time this summer cooking up a new project I have become pretty passionate about. I didn't realize when I started mulling it over in the beginning of this process that it would actually come to pass. Ideas around here can be like throwing pots of spaghetti at the wall - you just have to see what sticks. And when it does, you know it's ready.

I am enjoying the extra push it's taking to get a project going. It's made me realize a lot about passion and how the things you are really just obsessed with eventually bubble up to make themselves known. You can't deny passions. They consume you and push you to do more.

And that is a good thing.

 

Chicken Soup

 Chicken noodle soup.

Chicken noodle soup.

A few weeks ago after a downright summery few days, the temperature here bottomed out and dropped a good 25 degrees. While I welcome the cooler weather (we have enough heat here in Charleston), that dip in temperature felt downright arctic...so comfort food is coming my way.

To me, there is no other way to combat the cooler temps than with some much needed homemade chicken noodle soup with a loaf of something crusty alongside. I was lazy and didn't want to run to the store, I decided to whip it up with what I had on hand - which turned out in my favor. If you ever make noodle soup from dried noodles again, kick yourself. Refrigerated noodles are the way to go and because my child is a super spoiled foodie and WILL ONLY EAT THESE EXPENSIVE NOODLES, I keep them stocked in my freezer.

It's the most simple food and since there is still a touch of chill in the air, I will probably be making this again this week because we ATE IT ALL IN ONE SITTING. It was that good. 

I don't have a recipe because I am HORRIBLE at measuring and recording it. But here is a link to something similar.

Foraging

 Foraging from our backyard loquat tree

Foraging from our backyard loquat tree

 He's cooperating, but very unsure.

He's cooperating, but very unsure.

I spent my summers slightly sunburned, running around outside in the fresh air, chasing fireflies, and picking perfectly ripened blackberries for my mom behind the watertower at the top of the mountain. We never heard the word foraging. We just did it. I lived in a neighborhood edged with forests and farms, so foraging for wild berries and wildly growing culinary treats just sort of happened.

When we moved to the south during my teen years, everything was different. We lived on a barrier island on the coast of South Carolina that looked more like a lush, tropical forest than the woodlands and farms I was used to. Everything looked exotic and exciting. And a little bit poisonous. And honestly, as a teen, I had better things to learn than what was yard berry was edible and what I should fear. So I stayed away from most things thinking I would suddenly die upon ingestion. 

As the years passed, I found myself longing for those blackberry bushes I foraged in my youth. For some reason, they seemed like a treasure that nobody knew about for years but us...like our own secret garden right up the road. It was a treat saved for a few short weeks every year. And although I loved eating the plump berries right off the bush, my pudgy fingers stained purple from their juices, I was always excited to bring them home to my mom to see what magic she would make with them - cobbler, pie, preserves. It was the stuff dreams were made of. 

Somehow this unfamiliar territory made foraged foods seem harder to come by in South Carolina. But as I learned more about the culinary south, I realized there was a whole slew of foods at my disposal right here in my own backyard. I moved into my current house about 11 years ago. On that day, I noticed a bush dripping with what looked like tiny apricots against a backdrop of fuchsia azalea blooms . Golden yellow in color, I had seen these bushes around the south for years. Little did I know I had a loquat tree right in my own back yard. The very start to my own little backyard farm.

This year is my first year harvesting these babies. They are tart and juicy and have a great texture - sort of peachy. So we will be experimenting with drinks, preserves, foods and maybe even a desert or 2 over the next few weeks before our quickly ripening bush goes to the hungry wildlife of the neighborhood.

I can hardly wait to see what goodness comes out of it all!

 

The Tastemakers

 Amalia Scatena | Executive Chef at  Cannon Green

Amalia Scatena | Executive Chef at Cannon Green

  Chef BJ Dennis  | Personal Chef and Culinary Artist

Chef BJ Dennis | Personal Chef and Culinary Artist

Carrie Morey | Owner of Callie’s Biscuits

 Dantera Richardson | Owner of  Swank Desserts

Dantera Richardson | Owner of Swank Desserts

 Vinson Petrillo|  Head Chef at  Zero George Cafe + Bar

Vinson Petrillo|  Head Chef at Zero George Cafe + Bar

 Vonda Freeman |  The Beverage Director of  Indigo Road Group

Vonda Freeman |  The Beverage Director of Indigo Road Group

As you may know, some of my very favorite things in the world (in no particular order) are as follows: Food, Photography, People, Portraits, Fashion. So few weeks ago when I got a call from my girl Andrea of Charleston Shop Curator to see if I wanted to photograph some ofCharleston's best tastemakers, I leaped at the chance to do this project (Truth be told, I sort of forced her to call me with my voodoo magic, but don't tell her that). Her roster of individuals included some of Charleston's leaders in the food & wine industry right now - coming from all corners of the business.

These people work tirelessly to give us the best dining and drinking experience that Charleston is known for.  And on the cusp of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, the timing was perfect to highlight these amazing people in a way they don't normally get to be shown to the public.

Since these people are usually seen and photographed in their apron, chef jacket, crocs, Andrea and her partner, Venita, had the great idea enhancing their already amazing styles with a fashion shoot.  And lucky for us, Cannon Green graciously let us shoot with their beautiful restaurant as the backdrop to our great shoot.

Did I mention I love what I do?

If you aren't familiar with these names, I highly recommend you get familiar with them. Each of these F+B pros bring something uniquely amazing to the experience of food in the Charleston Area.

Organic Farming

dirt
seed packets

You wouldn't think farming would be one of those careers that would require the tender care and patience of a mom with a newborn, but it does. The sleepless nights. The worry. The patience. The uncertainty. They all come with the territory. And decision making for times of crisis come along when you least expect it.

When unknowns come along like cold snaps, flooded fields and bugs feasting happily on your delicate plants, you are left as heartbroken as a parent watching their child struggle through an illness they picked up at that birthday party over at the Chuckie Cheese's. Helpless and frustrated, you do what you can. And you ride the wave in hopes that it's not a total loss.

Then there is the blood, sweat and tears that go into it. The reading. The research. The uncertainty. But you keep pressing on, like a weary soldier. You do the work because it's your passion and joy. For the organic farmer, there is no easy answer. There is no shortcut.

Just like parenting, it's all just trial and error. And hard, hard work paired with a whole lotta love and care.

For more information on Jim, his farm share and his awesome ingredients, visit his website.

The Internship

 The Intern - with Andrea from Charleston Shop Curator

The Intern - with Andrea from Charleston Shop Curator

I have a special treat today! I had an intern with me all week last week...an intern also known as my 13 year old son - Graham. We had quite a busy week of shoots and meetings and all things shown to people who run small businesses like invoicing and estimates and emails and...well...you get the idea.

I also showed him the ins and outs of social media and blogging (one of the biggest parts of my days). So as a treat, I asked him to write about his experience on the week and what we did.

So without further delay....here it is! Take it away GRAHAM!

____________________________________________

 The Potato Roll from O-Ku, Charleston, SC

The Potato Roll from O-Ku, Charleston, SC

This past week I was on an internship with my mom, Libby of Libby Williams Photographs. All in all, this whole week has been really fun. I got to experience the weird schedule that my mom has, the people she works with, and all the things it takes to run a business of your own. We had a lot of shooting this week, but did some other really important things that it takes to run a business (like blogging, social media and billing!).

On Monday, we went to Botany Bay Plantation and Steamboat Landing down in Edisto for a personal project she was working on. Tuesday afternoon and evening, we had a photo shoot at a new restaurant in town called 5 Church with the Charleston Shop Curator and The Cocktail Bandits. It was part fashion and part food and lots of fun! Wednesday was a shoot at the Asian restaurant O-Ku – which was my personal favorite – with the Charleston Shop Curator again. It was more fashion, food and fun which seems to be a theme they are working on together (I could get used to that!). And finally on Friday morning, we had a photo shoot with the owner of Compost in My Shoe (Jim) where we photographed him and the process of what it takes to run an organic farm. This is an ongoing project my mom is working on with Jim and has been happening for about a year.

Of course there was lots of other business I learned about, but the shoots for me were the highlight of what we did.

The whole week has been amazing and a truly fun. Who knew work could be fun! Sadly this might be the last time I intern with her... so thank you so much mom for everything that you do and this amazing experience I got to share with you!

_____________

Awwww...you are welcome buddy! I am going to miss my little pack mule next week. Come back anytime!

Brunch at Indaco

menu
milk and honey
patatas bravas
Andrea2
hash
Andrea
bloody mary
secrets
pizza
brunch
boys
pizza

I recently went to brunch at Indaco, with the always lovely Andrea from Charleston Shop Curator, and her adorable family for a special feature on her blog. To say that the food was tremendous would be an understatement. To say that we ate like kings for a day would be more than a grand understatement as well. It was, without a doubt, one of the best meals I have had in a while.

Charleston is brimming with restaurant options these days, so brunch can be a hard choice in a city filled with delicious options. But this gem did not disappoint in any way. Not only were we seated immediately, but the service was perfectly timed. And the food....AAAGGGHHH!!! The FOOD! So good! We powered through Patatas Bravas (the best thing we ate), Milk and Honey (perhaps the best ricotta I have ever tasted), Breakfast Pizza (eggs on pizza for the WIN), Nutella Pizza, the Chorizo dish and Eggs Al Forno (I die), washed down with a slow gin fizz and a bloody mary (spicy and delicious). Not a bad way to end the weekend.

If you are in Charleston, don't walk... RUN to this brunch. The food was incredible, and the staff could not have been more accommodating to our eccentric group of diners - not to mention me snapping photos of every dish that came out. It couldn't have been a better experience.

Indaco is on Upper King Street and is open for brunch on Sundays.