what a decade!
Ten years ago, I had a question. What if coffee was more than a drink but a lens to look through, a filter, as it were, to tell stories and allow those stories to reveal a culture?
I’ve tried to answer that “what if’’ ever since I asked it, way back when, while sitting in a corporate office on the 45th floor of a building in New York, just blocks from Bryant Park.
On the start of this journey and along the way it’s always been about the people. It’s the people that grow the coffee, it’s people that make the coffee and, it’s people that drink the coffee. It’s that simple and that complex.
I am the people and so are you. This journey has not only documented my realities but those of others. It’s allowed me grow as a human, a storyteller, a visual cartographer, and it’s brought me to encounters, passerby’s, conversations which have included some of the most unforgettable human beings I’ve been honored to meet in my lifetime. Today, I’m grateful to call them friends and family.
I must say, I was kind of overwhelmed to look back and decide how to not only celebrate ten but to share that celebration. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing that privately. In doing so, it is how I came to realize that this celebration had to first begin how it started, with me. I went back to the beginning; to the napkins I doodled on, to the apartment I lived in, to the coffee shops I hung out in, to the conversations I had, to the friends that came along with me, to the name I started with, to Red Horse Café – a corner coffee shop on 6th avenue and 12th street in Park Slope Brooklyn where I launched the what if. Then, as the story goes, The Coffeetographer was named s.md.lr – an acronym for small, medium and large, an ode to coffee, its traditional sizes and all the contemporary culture I’d soon come to curate. On that rainy summer July night where I explained my thesis for what was to become a defining decade of my life, I was all the nerves and the joy, as I started out on a journey that would become a great teacher and a worldwide companion.
Is there a grandiose conclusion that I have after ten years of what is now The Coffeetographer? No. Is there a profound discovery that I have after ten years of what is now The Coffeetographer. No. Is there an answer that I have to my initial “what if?” Yes. What if’s become what is if we dare to answer the question with our life’s work.
“coffee is a culture,” me.
Because I gave my question the validity to be asked and explored there now exists – in all its infancy, fragility, mistakes and success – a volume of work: stories, images, travels, coffee and experiences that maybe can only be told, heart to heart, that answer the what if. This is what I call success.
I, coffee and the culture have come a long way in ten years. I’m not here today to tell you where coffee, culture or even The Coffeetographer is going – to be honest, I don’t know. What is more, a global pandemic that’s upended the very ways of our known world, cultural habits, processes and social norms is with us. I’ll continue to navigate cartographising coffee culture the best way I know how and see you always on the coffee side.