Overview

“Setting the Table”

Raising awareness and support for the Oregon Food Bank

Sponsored by: Pro Photo Supply, Venue Pearl, House Spirits, Pushdot Studio, Rogue Brewery, Vibrant Table Catering & Events, The Party Place, Sake One

When the economic downturn really started to hit the creative community last year, a group of five photographers got together to talk about the situation. All are regular photographers for Portland Monthly magazine, but they had never met in person. The photographers met, shared ideas and decided that perhaps there could be some advantage to working together instead of against each other for photo assignments.

Photographers Steven Scardina, Lincoln Barbour, Brian Lee, Stuart Mullenberg and Daniel Root found themselves seeking the chance to tell stories and connect with their community in open assignments that would test their creativity and spark new ideas. The group is oriented both to the photography community – seeking to connect with other visual artists in the creative hotbed of Portland – as well as to the community-at-large – with outreach and pro-bono work for non-profits a priority. The work together satisfies a curiosity about how individuals can all see the same object or idea differently. The collective is called PhotoForce.

“PhotoForce is a creative force, bringing the collective energy of some of the top photographers in Portland together,” said Brian Lee. “PhotoForce is also committed to being a force for good, helping worthy non-profits and companies tell their story in new ways.”

Scardina has been an active volunteer for the St. Vincent DePaul food pantry, stocking the shelves with regular visits to Oregon Food Bank. He knew of the scope and impact of their work and also that Oregon has one of the highest rates of hunger in the nation. He shared his idea with the group and they all agreed that it was the right kind of assignment. They met with representatives from OFB, proposed that they each would photograph pro bono, and that the images would be a gift to OFB. It would be a chance to heighten their own awareness of the scope and benefit OFB brings each day, as well as sharing stories with their clients and those within the photo community.

“It was hard to believe that some of the top shooters in town would call us up and offer to do this. I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” said Amber Stinson, public relations associate for OFB. “When we first met about the assignment, I told them about all of the different facets of our work, from working cooperatively with farmers, to the food production companies that support our work, to the statewide network of food pantries to the thousands of families who need and receive this food. They got it – and got to work.”

Daniel Root traveled to Canby, Hillsboro and Ontario, staying in cheap motels and meeting people along the way. He saw first-hand families arriving at the food pantry and packing their weekly boxes with the food that would nourish their families. He also ended up at the Sisters of the Road Café, where meals are served for the needy each day.

Stuart Mullenberg and Brian Lee traveled together to Echo, Oregon to visit a farm there that donates vegetables to the food bank. While some of their images are of the same subject, they couldn’t be more different. Lee captured black and white imagery of trucks filled with fresh carrots. Mullenberg grabbed color portraits of the farm workers.

Lincoln Barbour found himself documenting the warehouses and other locations where the food is trucked and stored. And Scardina put his eye on the Blanchet House and St. Francis Dining Hall in downtown Portland, where he captured colorful close-up images of the food being served.

“One of the best things about this assignment is having a group of other photographers to share your work with and get some feedback. We were all able to test new techniques and get feedback from other photographers that we really respect,” said Mullenberg.

And, thanks to sponsor ProPhoto Supply, the photographers were supported in trying out some new lenses and other equipment along the way.

An event featuring the exhibition of images in large format was held at Venue Pearl – 323 NW 13th Avenue Portland, Oregon on January 21 from 5:00-10:00 p.m.. The opening benefited OFB and offered the photographers and their clients, colleagues and members of OFB to celebrate this generous, unique donation.

Somehow, it all seems to fit – photographers keeping busy during a down economy, helping to tell the stories of others who are feeling the pressures of unemployment and financial burden, with a variety of others supporting the effort with donated prints, space and beverages.

“We want to be a force for good, and are thinking about what our next assignment will be, and how we might have the chance to work together on assignments for our clients – to bring our different creative sensibilities to bear in a wide variety of settings,” said Scardina.