Sky Full of Bacon

How To Photograph a Grahamwich

To do this properly, I need to get the veggie wrap, but— shortribs?  Smoked whitefish?  Those sound so much better. Lunch wins out over the needs of the blog… I’ll just snap a few candids while I wait…

I’ll take it to the seating in the back, there’s natural light— oh hell, some other guy’s already shooting there.

Shortrib it is… looks great… you can hardly see the meat though. I’ll move some of the shoestring potatoes in front…

There’s the meat. Let’s try an arty angle…

Or one that puts it in the context of the store…

Or the context of the dining experience… no, that’s not it. What I need is natural light, to really give it three-dimensionality and some dramatic contrast of light and dark. Turn on the macro, too.

Perfect! Now that’s how you photograph a Grahamwich!

(If none of this makes any sense to you, read this.)

So I read on the blogs that Graham Elliot was in Paris. Aha! My perfect moment to visit Grahamwich without risking a thrashing from a Texas bullwhip. So after shooting an upcoming Key Ingredient, I walked over, ordered a shortrib sandwich, and waited. As soon as I snapped the candid at top, the manager noticed me. It quickly became clear that he knew who I was, and the backstory of why I was taking photos. “Why, is there a Wanted poster in the office with my face on it?” I asked. He laughed, and when my sandwich arrived I was treated to chips and a drink on the house. (The chips, dusted with cheese and chives I believe, are very tasty, but the portion is huge, we’ve been munching them for two days at home— you could easily split among two if not three or four at lunch. The housemade orange soda was first-rate, too. It’s easy to drive your lunch bill to $20 with these things, but at least they’re really very good.)

I went up front to get natural light, since Steve Dolinsky was hogging the back getting B-roll for an interview he did earlier— I’m in some of it, trying to be practicedly casual in how I eat my Grahamwich. (It was actually a big media/industry day— Julia Kramer of Time Out popped in as well, and so did a chef from Longman & Eagle. Hope they get regular customers too.) The manager offered me a new vintage tray to shoot on, and dressed my sandwich with some extra shoestring potatoes. No glycerine or other tricks of the commercial photography trade, though. Several more tries, and— in the end I had a shot that I thought demonstrated how good a picture you could take and still be an amateur with a pocket camera taking no more than a couple of minutes to get your shot.

So how was the sandwich? Shortrib’s an easy layup, to be sure, always comfily ingratiating, and if they couldn’t get that pretty right it would be shameful; but you have to balance what you put on it, too many sandwich places smother good meat under creamy sauce or overdo the bread (pretzel roll, probably LaBriola). This was a really well-balanced sandwich, well, apart from the extra shoestrings for visual effect, surely 2-3 times the normal amount. And I was impressed to see the staff working furiously not only making the sandwiches, but remaking some of the toppings as we watched, in order to ensure that everything was as fresh as could be. I’m eager to try more… as soon as I find out Elliot’s out of town again.

ADDENDUM: See here. Elliott is probably being a bit sarcastic about little old me, but all I can say is, blogging may be a smalltime thing but it’s on the level: the photo wasn’t good, the sandwich was, and I said both honestly at their respective times.

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