Joe Kitchen: We’ll Drink to That!

ADC Member makes a splash in beverage photography

It’s Photography Month here on the ADC Blog, a time for the people in the ADC community who are normally behind cameras to step in front of them, so to speak, and share their stories. Photographers aren’t the biggest segment of creatives amongst ADC Members, but their passion more than makes up for their numbers. Whether they’re veteran shutterbugs, newcomers just starting to make a living, or just people who love to shoot on the side.

Our next ADC Member to be showcased in Photography Month is a New York-based architecture and still life photographer who has made a jump into the beverage world.


Joe_Headshot_2221622757JOE KITCHEN
Commercial Photographer
New York, NY
(646) 559-6146



How old were you when you became interested in photography? How did that interest come about, and how was it fostered?

I was in 8th grade when I asked for a camera with lenses you could remove for Christmas. By chance, my aunt moved into a new office and found a Nikon FM2 with two lenses, and gave it to me.

Do you remember the earliest photograph you ever took?

The earliest serious images I remember taking was with my 4×5 camera in college. Up until then, photography was more of a hobby, but using a view camera turned it into a passion. I bought a 4×5 camera my senior year, and captured black and whites of Marist College covered with snow at night.

What type of photography would you say is your specialty, and how did it come to be your specialty? Can one be transient — starting in one area of photography but evolving into another?

Architecture and still life are my specialties. I was never into photographing people, especially with a 4×5, so buildings and landscapes became an interest. When I became a professional, shooting architecture was a natural choice and then evolved to include still life and beverage.

I think it is absolutely possible to start in one genre and evolve into another, especially if those genres are related. Architectural, especially interior, photography is still life at a large scale, so it was a natural movement to go into still life.

Define your photographic style in a single sentence.

I produce images with clean, crisp but contrasty lighting with a lived-in style.

What’s your favorite camera to shoot with? What’s so awesome about it?

My go-to camera is an Acra Swiss RM3Di, which is a digital version of a 4×5 field camera. It’s relatively small, portable, and provides amble movements and tilts/swings, both of which are important with architecture and still life.

Most cameras do not have movements or tilts/swings. Movements allow me to maintain the perspective and avoid key-stoning of buildings and products. Tilts and swings allow me to distort the focal plane, such as getting the entire drink in focus when looking down.

What is the hardest part about making a living as a photographer? Any advice on how to overcome that challenge?

Since everyone has a camera on them 24/7, the market is flooded with great images. Even if someone is visually illiterate, they will happen upon a great subject in a great composition with great lighting and produce a great image by accident. Many clients now feel that creating a great image is just pressing a button or tapping a screen.

However, creating great images repeatedly on demand requires talent, developed skills, planning and production. Showing this to clients and convincing them there is a value in hiring someone who has these skills is what is so challenging today. To overcome this, I have increased my marketing efforts on explaining and showing the production and planning that goes into a shoot.

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

There is not one project per se, however when I create images that surprise and excite my clients that is what I find most gratifying. Many of my clients see their buildings or products day in and day out. So when I produce an image no one thought of, and happens to be everyone’s favorite, then I know I was successful.

“…when I produce an image no one thought of, and happens to be everyone’s favorite, then I know I was successful.”

What would be your dream client/project/collaboration?

Any project where I can travel. I like to travel and see other places, so regardless if I am going to shoot a building or just working in studio in another city, I get excited.

Nowadays everyone has ‘cameras’ in their pockets and Instagram on their phones. How has this changed the photography game? How has this changed your photography game?

It’s a double-edged sword. Instagram, and other social networks, make it easier and cheaper to get exposure. However, this has flooded the market with competition, so it is more important then ever to develop a vision that sets you apart and can be trusted.

“So, you’re a photographer?” What’s the strangest question you’ve received when someone learned what you do?

I always get asked who I work for and who would need that type of photography. Most people think photographers just shoot weddings, events or the news, not realizing advertising images need to be photographed as well. It’s a foreign idea to the average person.

“Most people think photographers just shoot weddings, events or the news, not realizing advertising images need to be photographed as well.”

What are your other creative outlets and sources of inspiration?

Aside from great photography, I get inspiration from cinema, especially for lighting. Lighting for film is about emotion, and I try to bring that to my photography. For instance, the “Bourbon, Neat” image with the “sun” setting in the window behind it was inspired by a Mad Men bar scene.

Fill in the blank: “When I’m not shooting, I am…”

…I am cooking, traveling, or relaxing.

Which professional photographers do you look up to, whether from afar or as mentors?

Chris Barrett in Chicago, Ashley Morrison in Ireland, Rob Grimm in Chicago, Bill Cahill in L.A. and others.  All of these photographers are at the top of their game and do not sacrifice their vision.

When all is said and done, what is it about being a photographer that gets you up in the morning and drives your passion?

I am always doing something different, in a different place, working with different people, producing different work. The life of being a business owner may be a filled with uncertainty, but that is what I find most exciting.

Photography Month takes place throughout March, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!