I love a good challenge. A few months ago I received an assignment from the design consultant team EmDash to come up with a photo concept to go with a an article in Denison Magazine’s Winter Issue. The task was this: visually demonstrate Denison University students tackling the challenges of calculating world food need, in an interesting and conceptual way. Erin Mayes from EmDash and I met up and hashed through a fair amount of ideas…some good, some middling, some laughable terrible. Ya know, the usual stuff that arises from a brainstorming sesh.
In the end, we decided on riffing on “bean counting”. I hopped in my car and went to the Austin Antique Mall. Always an excellent source for off-beat props — and they let you setup a business account (swoon). I had an idea to re-work an abacus…lucky for me I found two that day, and one looked like a dad-made-it-at-home-in-the-garage version, so I picked that one figuring that would make it easier to dismantle.
The day of the shoot, I gathered up some counting bean-like groceries, and headed to the studio. Model hands were cast — big thanks as always to Chad “Science Hands” Tomlinson for once again being a willing and skillful model for me. The abacus turned out to be even dreamier than I thought it would be in regards to its ease of being pulled apart. The whole thing could be unscrewed BY HAND. For the record, those of you reading who don’t often work with props, they rarely work out even better than you’d hoped. Then the “timer” began. The “timer” being sliced frozen okra. If you think fresh okra is slimy, I recommend you behold the monster that is thawing frozen okra. We couldn’t use them in their frozen state, as they wouldn’t skewer well. It was basically a drippy, snotty mess by the end of the shoot. Again, big props to Chad and his ability to casually slide edamame with the impending doom of drippy okra coming at him.
In any case, the resulting photo was a fun, moderately institutional/instruction manual version of calculations of food need.
Cheers to EmDash for the fun project!