An analog barista leaving in a manual world, he is.
He is of the kind that is habitual in habit, purist in performance and understated in understatements.
He’s Shaun Alan Behrent, and not, not Shaun Alan Behrent.
s: Tell me about your coffee ritual?
Shaun Behrent: Its a small black coffee and reading a book before I go to work usually at my neighborhood coffee shop.
s: So, how did you get to become a barista, was it after a lot of home brewing?
sb: I was in Western Massachusetts and doing my coffee ritual there. I needed a job, and where I was working, the owner had some guest baristas come up one summer and they trained me. I decided to make a big move and jumped to the city and got lined up with Joe. I had a job before I had an apartment.
s: That sounds about right for New York. We laugh.
sb: Specialty coffee is always around me, it was my parachute when I wasn’t sure where my life was taking me.
s: And, now its taken you to being a barista and working with your own photography up and around you. How does that feel?
sb: Its weird. Wow! Give me some time to think about that one? Well, its like how many musicians actually listen to their music, some don’t want to hear their music or listen to it after it’s made. From my perspective it’s always this dualistic zone I get into. If I have some rapport with a customer I want to be like hey, did you see my photos on the wall. Conversely, I’m also a very quiet, low-key person. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. Usually, I’ll wait for opportunities, to speak about it.
s: Speaking of opportunities, you’ve been to a coffee origin producing country, hence your photos in the exhibit, Verdad or Something. Can you share how the trip and subject occurred?
sb: I had a weird summer, with all these expectations on how it would go. It involved a relationship that went as fast as it came. I’ve talked about it for a few years to travel by myself. So, I finally booked a ticket, figured I would spend less time moping and more time changing my life. I have a really cool relationship with one of the farms through Joe, so it was very feasible and an exciting opportunity.
The photos in the exhibit are the culmination of trip coming together in my head. We visited this last farm, which was the first farm that they came to build. It was very enchanting. It was raining all day the previous day, so some of the road had washed out and there was crazy construction work going on in the middle of the jungle. We went down a winding steep road with little houses littered along the way.
s: Oh, I love it!
sb: Yeah and we get to this farm, Finca Mama Nina (near Jinotega). And, its covered in fog and I knew that this was exactly what I wanted it to be like. My hosts were apologizing and I said no, this is a gem, you don’t understand.
s: I understand your photos very well. So different than the typical origin photos that one sees, can you tell me about your choices like shooting in monochrome?
sb: I took three cameras on the trip, all manual. I’m tried and true analog, it makes more sense to me. On this day, I used one roll of film, 36 exposures. It was perfection in my head. These were the shots that I wanted and it was exactly what I was going for. I had no idea what the airport X-rays could potentially do to it, or, the various climates the film was exposed to film. I even got it developed at CVS, putting my photos in the hands of fate.
s: You trust a lot and trusted all along the way that what was meant to develop would develop.
sb: True. Even the exposure meter didn’t work; it was all intuition on a Canon F1. It’s a beauty of a camera, very robust and matte black – its my pride and joy and a gift my grandfathers brother who used to work at Kodak for the longest time.
s: My uncle told me once, “the way to see is not to see.” “Verdad, or Something” – its quite a title. There’s so much that can happen to an image in photography after a photographer takes a picture. I’m interested in your thoughts on truth in photography.
sb: The first two days on the trip, at night I’d sit around and draw, meditate and listen to the jungle. I was trying to put so much energy trying to define what this experience was and would be. “Verdad, or Something”, is just a clever, witty way of answering that. For my own perspective, I’m not really good with words, so I entrust my photos and my drawings to speak for me to speak louder than the words, that’s my kind of truth, undiluted, unbiased.
s: Given that truth, what do you think the value is for a coffee space to include art?
sb: It’s beyond value. It separates the impersonal food service interaction. In lieu of it, it’s a very human interaction that people get to have in the morning. It’s “tell me more about this, I have a few min while you make my latte” as opposed to “That’ll be a $1.50, thank you.”
You can view more of Mr. Behrent’s works online here.