May 08, 2017 - No Comments!

It’s Nice That

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Photographer Brian Finke traces the “birth of booze” with his series for National Geographic

Words by Rebecca Fulleylove

Photographer Brian Finke has worked with National Geographic on his first cover story for the magazine. Having worked with Todd James, a photo editor for the publication, on past assignments, the pair had “built an understanding” of the type of projects that fit Brian’s punchy style and interests. “When [Todd] reached out to discuss working together on The Birth of Booze we both thought it would be a great follow up to the first story I shot for National Geographic around the subject of meat explains Brian.

The brief was to unravel the origins of alcohol and led to the photographer travelling for four months around Peru, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, China and the USA. In the mag, the story explores the idea of how alcohol has been a “prime move of human culture” which has fuelled “the development of arts, language and religion” since its beginnings 9,000 years ago.

“For about three weeks, Todd and I were in constant contact discussing all of the background research that he compiled and then we began to discuss areas of how to build out the story photographically,” Brian says. “Then together we started to co-ordinate the travel and logistical needs involved in sending me out on the road.”




Brian travelled to working communities where alcohol production was still an integral part of life, and he enjoyed witnessing the “ancient processes involved in alcohol production that are still in existence today”. “Overall it was visually stunning but I also came home with an incredible understanding and respect for what it takes to produce alcohol on every level, from large scale production to small communal batches,” explains Brian. “I was looking to capture the real-life moments in each community, so I could give National Geographic’s readers an understanding of the role of alcohol throughout history.”

The social aspect of alcohol is a key part of the project, and Brian has captured numerous groups of people and neighbourhoods drinking together glugging drinks and having fun, and there’s a universal camaraderie throughout the series. “What I hoped to have illustrated is the cultural significance around alcohol consumption and production all over the world,” says Brian. “Each community we visited had such a unique style and vibe, but there was always such a wonderful community of people that were involved in its creation and with each new country I visited, I really began to appreciate that aspect of the story.”



April 12, 2017 - No Comments!


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Renowned travel writers and editors on the photographs that transport them.

Tara Guertin

Brian Finke’s work was on my mind for fifteen years before I commissioned this photograph. I first noticed Finke in the late ’90s, soon after I moved to New York, when we were both in our mid-twenties. Over the next decade and a half, I watched him refine his sharp, high contrast style while straddling the art and editorial worlds. Cheeky and dark, his photographs are impressively consistent and instantly recognizable.

When Brian and I finally met in 2013, I was working as the photo director at the then fledging travel magazine AFAR. On a visit to New York, he and I chatted over a few bourbons at a local barbecue joint. Brian shoots vices, often sex-related, but not always: frat boys half naked, dripping in beer; women in hip-hop videos or beauty pageants; and marijuana producers. I considered him for many assignments, but AFAR focuses on experiential travel, rather than these nefarious pleasures. Nothing seemed right. So I waited—until a story about one of my own weaknesses crossed my desk.

Mezcal wasn’t something Brian was particularly familiar with, but I had a feeling that the Mexican liquor and its culture would be right up his alley. He returned with a body of work that thrilled me. Recently, we met again. Waiting for me on the bar was a glass of mezcal, neat, and a print of this photograph. Maybe Brian has discovered another vice?

Tara Guertin is Director of Photography at AFAR.

March 14, 2017 - No Comments!


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How to Make Baby Bees and Other Weird Stuff Great to Eat.

Finke isn’t a foodie. He’s a photographer. He spent last summer shooting The Science of Delicious for National Geographic. The trip took him from a lab in Florida where scientists engineer tastier tomatoes to an experimental food workshop in Toronto where people inhale flavor clouds. And that was the normal stuff.

Dr. Linda Bartoshuk 352 392 1991 Dr. Jennifer Stamps 904 476 1350 Food Science and Human Nutrition Building  527 Newell Dr, Room 405 University of Florida Gainesville Gainesville, FL Dr. Linda Bartoshuk developed the Blue Stain Tongue tests fifteen years ago at Yale University.  This test determines if one is nontasters or supertasters. The test involves counting the number of papillae on the tongue- the more the papillae the more taste sensors a tongue has. Super tasters have much more papillae than non tasters.  This test was developed by Dr. Linda Bartoshuk 15 years ago at Yale. Bartoshuk is now a professor at the University of Florida. Normally, people prize highly acute senses. But taste is not so simple: super taste may be too much of a good thing, causing those who have it to avoid bitter compounds and find some spicy foods too hot to handle. This unusual corner of perception science has been explored by Linda Bartoshuk of Yale University, who first stumbled upon supertasting about 15 years ago while studying saccharin. About one in four, she discovered, qualified as supertasters, a name she coined. To find what made them special, Bartoshuk zeroed in on the tongue's anatomy. She found that people have different numbers of fungiform papillae, with tongue topography ranging from, say, sparse cactus-pocked deserts to lush lawns. To qualify for super stardom, which is a genetically inherited trait, a person has to have wall-to-wall papillae… Most people are tasters, but as many as 25 percent of people of Caucasian descent are non-tasters, according Danielle Reed of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. Women are more likely to be supertasters than men. “Taste only happens when molecules bind to receptors on the tongue,” she says. “From there, signals go to certain parts of the brain. Smell happens when odour molecules bind to receptors in the nose, and from there signals go to different parts of the brain. They eventua

Head Chef R&D Lars Williams extracting rose flavor/water using a rotovap or a rotary evaporator; Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark; Contact: Arve Krognes  +45 32 96 32 97,

The weird stuff included a visit to Louisiana State University, where scientists study catfish to better understand taste. The whiskered bottom-feeders navigate murky water using tens of thousands of tastebuds that cover their bodies. “It’s the same idea as if you took your tongue and, like, stretched it around your body,” Finke says.

Later, at the University of Florida, Finke discovered that he isn’t a supertaster. Such people have an unusually high number of papillae, the bumps on your tongue that contain taste receptors, and it makes them hypsersensitive to flavors. Experimental psychologist Linda Bartoshuk coined the term in the early 1990s. Her team tested Finke, who isn’t a supertaster, and his assistant, who is. “He doesn’t like foods that I would think are deliciously spicy, because it’s too much for his palate,” Finke says.

Not being a supertaster might explain why Finke is so gastronomically adventurous. When the folks at Nordic Food Lab, the Copenhagen outfit that investigates “food diversity and deliciousness,” offered him a few bee larvae, he happily popped them into his mouth. Oddly, he doesn’t remember how they taste—“Maybe crunchy? Maybe not crunchy?”—but he quite liked ants. “They have a very strong flavor,” he says. “Salty and robust.”

Finke visited 10 labs, cooking schools and restaurants like the Fat Duck in Melbourne, where the sorbet comes with a box of steaming oak moss that you sniff while eating. He shot, as he always does, with a Nikon D800 and off-camera flashes that cast everything in an unappetizing glow.

The project opened his eyes to the bizarre lengths people go in pursuit of flavor. But if you love food, you’ll try anything. Even ants.

January 09, 2017 - No Comments!

It’s Nice That

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Brian Finke captures the glitz and glamour of the Ms. Senior America beauty pageant

The Ms. Senior America pageant was created in Atlantic City to celebrate the older ladies of America and challenge notions of beauty and its place in American culture. Photographer Brian Finke was asked by Good Housekeeping to “do his thing” and capture all the drama and glamour of the pageant in his brash and glossy style.

“I’ve photographed a lot of competitions over the years such as cheerleadingcompetitions and bodybuilding says Brian. “I’ve alway been interested in the subtle moments backstage where the anticipation and vulnerability comes out in the contestants, they’re very telling of the personalities of the people.” Capturing contestants aged 60 – 90, a range of emotions are portrayed in glitzy colours and intimate crops, yet Brian is careful to combine stage shots with behind the scenes images to create a richer narrative.

“[The contestants] loved the attention, they are there to be seen and perform; being there shooting was just adding to the scene,” he says. Like with many of his other projects, the photographer made sure to go in with an open mind. “I always like showing up without preconceived ideas and photographing what I’m drawn to. I was very impressed watching the ladies own it on stage – I wanted them to look amazing.”



December 01, 2016 - No Comments!

The Standard

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The Many Faces of The Standard Spa, Miami Beach by Photographer Brian Finke

Photographer Brian Finke, whose editorial work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and Esquire, turns his eye for detail to The Standard Spa, Miami Beach’s poolside scene.
If there’s one thing we really know at The Standard, it’s how to create indelible spaces where people can let loose and be their true selves.A classic example is our beloved pool at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach. It’s as reliably joyous a place as you’ll find in this topsy-turvy world—as good for basking in the sun, sipping frosé, and taking a dip, as it is for some first-rate people watching.

Day in and day out, a sundry cast of characters gathers around this idyllic spot to laze about, play, and plunge. It’s the kind of place where you’d happily ask a perfect stranger to apply a bit of sunscreen, and they’d surely oblige.

Recently, we dispatched photographer Brian Finke, whose editorial work has appeared in The New York TimesWiredNational Geographic, The New Yorker, and Esquire, to document the many characters that comprise this iconic scene. From muscle men and flight attendants, to waffle houses and people eating at their desks, Finke has a special eye for the eccentric details of daily life. Sure enough, he captured that and much more at our Miami playground.

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