In a loose reportage style, photographer Brian Finke has captured the art of pasta making in five different cities in Italy for gourmet food magazine Saveur. From small, family-run businesses where pasta is made in the streets to large scale, factory production, the contrasts in the series are both delicious and fascinating.
“The assignment was to shoot in five cities, some multiple locations, in as many days, so my quick, real documentary style of shooting the food and aspects of production fit perfectly,” explains Brian. “Each day was like five or six hours of shooting, followed by three or four hours of driving to the next city. I was always moving and shooting – it was a whirlwind road trip starting in the south of Italy in the city of Bari, zig zagging across the country to finish in the north in Predazzo.”
Brian has captured a real sense of atmosphere and the personality of places the Italian staple is made, as well as the diverse methods used. “I feel like my style brings the viewer to the places in a real and relatable way,” says Brian. “It’s to capture subtle moments when photographing food, to photograph people engaging with the food, eating, drinking, making it, capturing moments that bring it to life.”
The contrasts in the series are what makes it so mesmerising, with the freehand style of the street pasta makers creating small batches of orecchiette, to the workers in the factory measuring individual conchiglie by the millimetre to make sure they’re perfect. The more abstract pasta shots add another, more graphic layer to the series not only highlighting the volume of pasta created by the bigger producers but also the unlikely beauty of the wheat-based product.
“Photography for me is very much about the experience of being out in the world, seeing and learning. Assignments provide this opportunity. I go into situations knowing very little, being a bit naive,” says Brian of his experiences during the project. “I think that works perfectly and is part of the process, to arrive somewhere totally new and through curiosity to discover and photograph and for that excitement for discovering to come through in the photographs and story telling. With this assignment I was psyched to go to Italy and meet these amazing people doing what they love to do.”
Renowned travel writers and editors on the photographs that transport them.
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?