Saturday, April 30, 2011

Behind the Scenes ~ Cirque du Soleil "Alegria"

I was fortunate enough to get behind the scenes access to Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria” to see the rehearsals and learn about the work involved in such a show. The elaborate costumes and make-up were only in support of the incredible talent of these performers. The elaborate set made up of hidden trampolines, spinning raised floor, and trapeze sets took over ten hours to set up. The make-up that the performers learn to put on themselves takes a couple of hours to apply. Even though I did see the rehearsals, the same act that night with the stage, costumes, and make-up made the experience astonishing. Atticus laughed hysterically at the clowns but by the end of the show could not pick one favorite performance. They were all incredible. Christopher and I both agreed though that the contortionists were the most unbelievable, not just their extent of their flexibility but the perfectly synced and flawless performance. / The show is currently at the DeSoto Civic Center until May 1. Read Stacey Greenberg's review here.

Special thanks to Kerri Guyton and Genevieve.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Collages by Arian Behzadi {Album Cover Inspiration}

I fortunately stumbled upon these collage illustrations by Arian Behzadi as I was trying to decide whether learning to do brush strokes on the computer was better than just creating real art and photographing it. The technique, colors, and layering yet clean look was exactly the inspiration I needed getting into the album cover design for Tristan Clopet. Tristan sent an album cover he liked that reminded me somewhat of Arian's work. Since the concept of the album is almost psychoanalytic it was interesting that Arian's work looks like it evolved from the inkblot idea and that he studies Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. Asking him whether he creates these collages to sell, I was surprised he started making them just for other people's enjoyment. After being published in a few magazines, he has gratefully received freelance work requests. See more of his work here.

Images used by permission. All Rights Reserved.

If you haven't seen the single cover art for Tristan Clopet I completed earlier this month, see below. Stay tuned for his full length album "Name it What You Want" out May 31 and my interview with Tristan soon on the blog.

Currently Snacking ~ Drag'n Frozen Treats Lemon Sorbet

After my nice lunch downtown, I happened to run into Sam and his Drag'n Frozen Treat cart, luckily this time with cash. I got the lemon sorbet not expecting it to be in an actual lemon. What's great is that the frozen lemon "cup" keeps the sorbet from melting. See a photo of Sam and his cart on [ seen ] here. / You can contact Sam by calling 340.7102.

Photo by Sophorn

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cirque du Soleil Alegria {Sneak}

Here a just a few shots from the rehearsals and a look backstage  for Alegria that got me excited for the show later that evening. It was such a wonder especially for Atticus. I'll show more photos and share a review later on the blog. In the meantime, catch the great write-up from Stacey Greenberg here and get your tickets soon.

Photos by Sophorn.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Motivational Monday ~ 30 Years / 30 Lives Photography Exhibit

30 Years/30 Lives
Photo exhibit to mark HIV/AIDS’ three decades. Display to run simultaneously at three locations April 15 - July 31

Award-winning professor and theologian Kimberly Vrudny will speak about her photography exhibit, 30 Years/30 Lives: Documenting a Pandemic at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 12 at Methodist Healthcare’s Center of Excellence in Faith & Health, 1265 Union Ave. An artist reception will follow at 5:30 p.m. at Church Health Center Wellness, 1115 Union. Ave.

30 Years/30 Lives follows the lives of 30 people in South Africa, the United States, Mexico, and Thailand who have been touched by the HIV/AIDS pandemic either personally, as a family member, or through their work in an organization.

“AIDS has become a disease of the poor,” said Church Health Center executive director Dr. Scott Morris. “Telling the story of AIDS through art is a powerful witness to the suffering this virus causes and the hope people of faith can bring to those affected. The Church Health Center is proud to be involved in this exhibit.”

The exhibit itself will be on display April 15-July 31 at Church Health Center, Methodist University Hospital and St. John’s United Methodist Church, all of which have sponsored the free exhibition.

Kimberly Vrudny is the Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

An interview with Kimberly Vrudny can be found on the Church Health Center publication, Church Health Reader at

For more information, contact Jeff Hulett at 901.272.0010 x1304 or hulettj [at] churchhealthcenter [dot] org

Images and information courtesy of Church Health Center.

A Modern Gem

This past weekend I visited Eads, Tennessee to see this modern gem, which because of its rarity in this area or Memphis could not refuse the offer to help new owners Rachael and Luke renovate it.  The home was designed by an architect, unknown at the moment, and has not undergone any updates since the early 1980's. The entry is dramatic but the key selling point was the light filled living space shown below. Consider this visit Day 1 of this modern design renovation project which you'll be able to follow on the blog.

I've already studied up on mid-century modern Eichler homes and their renovations and also have been exploring interior paint color visualizing programs like this one here. / Thanks so much to my friend Tucker for referring me to this project.

Photos by Sophorn.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tasted ~ Cheffie's Cafe

Cheffie's Cafe is an appropriate restaurant to review on Earth Day for many reasons. {1} The new Cheffie's location is convenient to the Memphis Greenline. {2} It shares its entrance and space with Cruiser's bike shop. {3} The menu offers healthy sandwiches and salads with locally sourced ingredients. {4} Cheffie's is in the process of getting Project Green Fork certified.  Unfortunately though, we don't own bikes {yet} and had to drive over last Sunday for lunch. Every table on the large deck patio was taken but we were happy to have a seat in the rustic modern interior dining space.  The warmth of the wood and the large picture box windows made the indoor experience feel much more outdoor. I know I've used that "rustic modern" style description before in the Pielab review with Atticus even wearing the same shirt in those photos, but it's a welcoming comparison.  The communal tables they also had gave a very positive vibe of bringing the community together. Below is a list of what we tasted with favorites marked with an asterick.*

Crunchy roast beef sandwich with French's crispy fried onions / Corn & bean salad / Pomegranate sweet tea / Tiramisu gelato*

PB & J* / bottle of mango smoothie / Raspberry gelato*

Custom built salad with house made bleu cheese dressing* / Dulce de Leche gelato*

We of course had to order a serving of gelato which we did get to enjoy on the deck's tree bench. I didn't want to share my tiramisu gelato whatsoever. Already a tiramisu dessert fan through and through, I now consider Cheffie's gelato version an official "to crave" item.

Celebrate their grand opening tomorrow April 23 from 11:30pm to 6pm with live music on the patio. More details here.

Cheffie's Cafe
Chef Jennifer Chandler
483 High Point Terrace
Memphis, TN 38122
ph +1.901.343.0488

web / facebook / twitter

Cheffie's Café on Urbanspoon

Photos by Sophorn. Logo on last image via cheffie's.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Q+A ~ Jeni of Oishii Eats and Dylan of Eat Drink + Be Merry

Today I’m thrilled to have two of my favorite bloggers/photographers answer my questions about them, their amazing work, and even Memphis and food trucks ~ Jeni Afuso of Oishii Eats and Dylan Ho of Eat Drink + Be Merry, a young couple out of Los Angeles brought together by their love of food. Austin actually brought the three of us together as Jeni found my blog through a search of places to see for their trip to Austin. My series documenting my New Year’s trip to Austin led them to stay at the Hotel San Jose and eat at Homeslice Pizza. Jeni and I soon became twitter friends, and I then discovered her blog and Dylan’s blog. I was completely awestruck with how personal and beautifully they presented, not food reviews necessarily, but their stories on food and the people behind the food. I included just a few of their photos that will surely inspire all the food bloggers out there. I love that they even add the graphic text overlay so well.

“We enjoyed hearing the stories behind the food and eventually realized how important it was to include people in our food shots.” “With food photography, I approach it as though it's a story or a recap. When I write about food, I don't want you to just see what I ate'. But more so, this is 'how we felt' when we ate it.”
~Jeni and Dylan on their photography and writing approach.


So as a fellow Asian, I don’t feel as rude asking, “What is your ethnicity?” I assume Jeni you have Japanese roots with your blog name Oishii Eats. How has this influenced your adventures in eating and food blogging?

I’m half Vietnamese and half Japanese. My mom is from Saigon, Vietnam and my dad is from Honolulu, Hawaii. (They met here in Los Angeles on a blind date and eloped 6 months later in Vegas.) My adventures in eating started 10 years ago when I moved to Osaka, Japan to teach English on the JET Programme. Before Japan, I ate only meat and fruits. No seafood, no veggies, none of that. I ate a lot of Vietnamese food growing up, but since my dad had a Southern (because he was stationed in the South back in the day) and Chicano (grew up in San Fernando, California) stomach, most of what I loved was fried chicken and Mexican food. When I moved to Japan I knew I was going to have to start eating fish…my worst fear. I grew up not liking fish and gagged every time I tried to eat fish. But my principal at one of the Junior High schools I was working for in Osaka invited me to a dinner…a sashimi dinner. That night I he told me to “Fight-o!” He cheered me on as I closed my eyes and ate sashimi for the first time. The sashimi wasn’t bad, it was actually tasty. Ever since then I knew I had to give everything a try.

I was born in California and I'm 75% Chinese and 25% Laotian - but I only speak Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. I grew up in a predominantly White and Latino area near Pasadena, CA and grew up around very few Asians. Like most kids, I wanted to assimilate into the mainstream and I often felt left out because I was "oriental". It wasn't until high school that I started to immerse myself back into Asian culture - whether it be food, family and cultural events. I was very proud of my heritage and eventually ended up majoring in Asian American studies - my college was also 45% Asian. So you can see where my love for Asian food is derived. Lately, I've been really interested in learning about my 25% Lao heritage and all of Southeast Asia.

Have you always lived in LA or the area? What brought you to LA if not?

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, about 15 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles. By the age of 12, I knew I didn’t like living in the suburbs. By 14, I was going to high school in Boyle Heights (East LA). My husband and I now live in Silver Lake, a neighborhood 5 miles away from Downtown LA.

Born and raised near Pasadena, California. Jeni and I love the diversity of Los Angeles and don't see ourselves moving anytime soon.

Jeni, is teaching still your full-time job and photography your side job?
Teaching is my full-time job and full-time passion. I’m currently teaching in Koreatown. Most of my students are Central Americans. They are amazing kids with big dreams. They’ve got a lot of barriers that will keep them from succeeding (language barriers, gangs, our public school system), but we do all that we can to provide equity and access in the classroom. Photography is our side-job. It’s my outlet to express myself and my way to control factors that I can’t seem to control in teaching.

Dylan, is photography your full-time job?
I'm a freelance advertising and interactive art director for my 9-5. We enjoy photographing food, travel and portraiture whenever we get the opportunity and have been doing this professionally for the last 3 years. It's awesome having two different careers that you love.

Dylan, I’ve read Jeni’s side of the story on how she developed a crush on you before you met in person and how sweet you were when you finally did meet. What is your side of the story of how you first discovered her and your first meeting?
I ran into Jeni's blog back in late 2005. I recognized some people she had taken a group photo with in one of her postings and figured she probably went to the same college as I did. We started to read each other's sites on a regular basis and chatted online. A few months later, I had set up a dinner for a dozen or so LA food bloggers to finally meet one another and that's the first time I met her in person. From there, we ended up having our first date at a taco truck in Echo Park. Next thing you know, I proposed to her in Mexico City and we got married in Las Vegas. It all happened so fast.

I’ve only discovered recently that I wanted my food photography to be not just still shots of plated food but more shots of eating and enjoying the restaurant. Both of you photograph that enjoyment so well. Has that always been your mission from day 1 of food blogging? What made you realize it was important?

I am not sure what my mission was when I first started my blog in 2006. I just gotten over a long relationship and needed a way to express myself. I enjoyed food and enjoyed sharing my experiences with food. I started to realize the role of people in eating and even preparing food when Dylan and I started dating. We enjoyed hearing the stories behind the food and eventually realized how important it was to include people in our food shots.

Eating is a very personal and emotional experience for some people. It's important to capture mood and energy. Our food photography in the very beginning was atrocious, maybe it still is! I've always had a love for photography, as early as 15 years old. I found my old parents 35 mm film camera and took a few classes at Art Center in Pasadena. But my Asian parents felt photography was more a hobby than a career and I enrolled in a 4-year university. In college, I would sneak into the photo lab and develop my own B&W film. I lost interest in shooting for a good 10 years and then when I met Jeni, decided to get back into it because we both enjoyed documenting what we ate/cooked. We only had a point & shoot camera and like most people, eventually graduated to a digital SLR which was a big deal. Through years and years of shooting, we've finally found a style that we are happy with and approach everything we shoot in the same manner. With food photography, I approach it as though it's a story or a recap. When I write about food, I don't want you to just see "what I ate". But more so, this is "how we felt" when we ate it. I try my best to make the reader feel as though he is there. If we ate in a dimly lit restaurant with tabletop candles, then that will be the way I shoot it - usually not with flash. Also, shooting at a slower shutter speed to capture motion is one of the best ways to achieve liveliness. Sometimes, although a food shot may be beautiful, it can appear flat. It took me a few years to get where I'm at, and I'm still learning. If this all happened overnight, I'm not sure that I would enjoy photography as much.

Can you share some food photography tips including any technical aspects?

Lighting is key. Lighting is what I care about most. We will always try and find a table by the window. Nothing beats natural light. We also shoot in RAW. Shooting in RAW gives us so much more control in when we post-process.

Tips for shooting in a restaurant. These are from good/bad experiences and I'm learning something new every time. Practice how to shoot discretely and quickly. It can be unnerving to capture a photo if people are watching you. Have a dining companion interact with the food - twist the pasta in a spoon, use chopsticks to pick up noodles or have them putting food in their mouth. Have fun with it and try not to look too flat. Take time to set up your shot as you'll save yourself a lot of time during post processing. If a can of coke is too distracting in the background of a shot, move it! Wealth can get you far but manners are invaluable. If you want a particular shot, it's best to ask the manager/owner because after all, you are in their "house". Be respectful of people and understand body language when you're trying to take a photo. Sometimes a friendly smile and hello will get you your shot with no problems.

As well as writing about food, you both write about travel which of course is connected to more food. What have been your favorite places so far? Is there a place you want to visit but haven’t yet and why?

Vietnam and Japan will always be one of my favorite places to be. I feel my mom’s heartbeat in Vietnam. I understand the reasons why she is the way she is when I visit Vietnam, especially Saigon. It’s very humbling. Japan is where I “grew up”. It’s where I became an adult and learned to be on my own. It’s where I learned how to elbow men who were standing to close to me on the train. (Haha. My mom would be proud. ) I can spend forever in Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s timeless there. I also wouldn’t mind getting lost in the medina in Fez, Morocco again.

Dylan and I love looking at a world map and saying, “Where to next?” It’s been a blessing to travel with him. We’ve been traveling at least once a month for almost year. It’s pretty crazy. We never thought we’d actually live our dream. Next stop, I think I’m going to take him to New Orleans. It’s been a while since I’ve been back. I was there in July, the month before Katrina hit. It will be very humbling. It will be great to see my Uncle Loi again. We’re hoping to travel the Silk Road one day. I’d love to collect spices along the way.

I know you have told me Memphis is on your destination list. May I ask what you look forward to on that future visit?

You’ve done an awesome job representing your city Sophorn. Memphis seems to have a great style and some tasty looking places to eat.

Memphis... BBQ! We're fans of Portland and Austin and know that every American city has a piece of culture that we want to experience. To be honest, your site has solely inspired our interest in a possible Memphis visit. You make us see Memphis the way we like to see things.

You visit and blog about many food trucks in LA. Memphis will soon start the food truck trend. What are your suggestions on what food trucks we should have?

Good food. There are a lot of tasty food trucks here in LA, but not all are tasty. I think a lot of trucks are riding the novelty train and are compromising the food.

Memphis BBQ trucks. Your trucks should collectively represent your good city. In Los Angeles, we have over 500 food trucks, at least. There is a truck for almost anything you can think of. Although a truck is mobile, the owners have to be sensitive to people's demands. Are Japanese grilled offal skewers going to fit the target? Or would a bacon wrapped hot dog be more appealing? I'm interested in the type of food trucks that will debut in Memphis!

Thanks again Jeni and Dylan. / If you want to sort of meet them, watch the video below to understand their love of food. 

Place To Be from Joel Kuwahara on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

seen: A New Blog on Memphis + Keep Calm And ...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Downtown Memphis, S. Main and Union storefront sign, animated gif

As I was photographing Memphis for possible shots to contribute to the new collective street photography blog of Memphis called seen, I saw this great rotating sign. Everyone seems to have this Keep Calm and Carry On poster but I have never seen its counterpart shown on the back of this spinning sign until now. Makes me smile, particularly the installation of the two messages. Go see what photo I took from yesterday that posted on the street photography blog here {}. It's a photo for Atticus.

Film photos by Sophorn.

Tasted ~ Memphis Food Truck Fare

I was late to the "party" and am late blogging about the event, which I hear was at least a whopping 800 person turn-out, but maybe I'm the first to blog that the food truck ordinance, loosening restrictions on food trucks, has passed! The third reading of the ordinance was held yesterday afternoon and with the unanimous vote can now become law. Thanks Memphis for showing your support!

The Food The things we were lucky enough to order just before the event closed were both from the Fuel Cafe truck. We tasted the vegetarian tacos and veggie burger just because the ran out of the other things, but after devouring them, I would very likely go straight to the vegetarian options if given the choice.

More Thanks The food truck fare was brought together by the newly formed group headed by Mary Cashiola called Beyond Barbecue. Read more here. Thanks to the Center City Commission for hosting the event. Thanks to the participating food trucks ~ Fuel Cafe, Yolo, Square Meals on Wheels, Crepe Maker, Scooter's Barbecue, and Kona Ice. Thanks to the lovely lady who let me photograph her food and her cute outfit. And thanks again Memphis.

Photos by Sophorn. Logo by Sophorn. {Sorry, logo could have been better. Maybe I'll revise for the next fare.}

Friday, April 15, 2011

Caritas Village { Foodie Memphis Sneak }

We had a delicious dinner at Caritas Village this past Wednesday night at this month's Foodie Memphis gathering. Full review and more photos later on the Foodie Memphis blog. / Don't miss the Broad Ave Art Walk tonight from 5 to 10 pm. Caritas Village is just a street or two south of Broad Ave if you want to grab dinner there before or after the art walk.

Photo by Sophorn.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Visible" From the Top { Visible Music College }

I got a rare and very cool view of Memphis yesterday. Thanks to president of Visible Music College Ken Steorts for the special tour to see the renovation progress of Francis Gassner's C & I Bank Building, one of his favorite buildings in Memphis.  It was thankfully saved from demolition last year. /This level is to be the library floor.  Visible Music College {previously Visible School} hopes to complete construction by August 1 of this year. The building is located at 200 Madison Ave, north of Redbirds stadium. More photos and details later.

Photos by Sophorn. Renovation design by archimania.Construction by Grinder Taber Grinder.
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