Philadelphia was better than I could have expected. I went down on Thursday night for the NCTE Conference, to take some photos and do some culinary exploration. The conference itself was surprisingly useful, and I learned a whole new bag of teaching tricks and perspective; it is usually hit or miss with educational workshops, so I was satisfied with what I walked away with. The food was unbelievable. The first night in we made it to a restaurant called Lolita that served authentic Mexican food, and I have to admit that this place was so good that it made my top five of restaurants. So good, in fact, that I ended up going back on Saturday night again. The food had a whole new set of flavours, textures and tones that I had never encountered before. Canadians really don’t get Mexican food served beyond tex-mex, so things like tamale, tostada and tortilla are always a bit processed. If you ever get to Philly, then you just have to go to this restaurant. I also made it to my third Iron Chef restaurant, Morimoto. I had been to Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay) and Babbo (Mario Batali) when I was last in New York City, so it made sense to hit Morimoto’s original place in Philly. It was stellar: clean, novel and cool. It reminded me of the styles I ate in Japan, but did have a distinctly different edge to it.
The photography in Philly took a back seat until Saturday. I was not really sure what interested me visually, because it has similar architectural styles to Boston and New York. I did not want to flash a big camera in the rougher parts of the city, but I also did not want to just focus on heritage U.S.A. In the end, I was struck by the racial and financial divide that is so clear in America. My recent trips into Boston, Atlanta, New Orleans and now Philadelphia, only cement the need for more education and tolerance in our world. I will admit that it also made me remember just how blessed I am to be doing what I want, to be able to chase my dreams and make some money doing it.
The Liberty Bell tied a lot of emotions together for me. The irony of having homeless men just beyond the corridors of the park was not lost on me either, but the mythical narrative surrounding the bell brought the best of what is good about conceptual U.S.A. to the forefront. The idea that liberty and freedom are paramount to growth and prosperity rang true in the cracked, fragile muteness of this great American symbol. The myth might not reflect reality, but it does give us something to aspire towards, and that makes all the difference.
On the business and artistic side of things, work is ramping up again to a busy pace. I just finished shooting a series of new products for Paderno tonight, and will be receiving another shipment of catalogue products within the week. I also received my first commission for an artistic concept piece tonight. Dr. Conley from Brock University just hired me to shoot a cover for an upcoming academic book of essays on James Joyce being published early next year. While I won’t give any details yet about the project, I loved the concept he had and will begin testing shots for that later in the week. The opportunity to do a cover for an intellectual project is so unexpected, but enthralling to my weird, little brain.