Paul S. Bartholomew: Feast Your Eyes

"Country boy from Pennsylvania" places food in the photographic spotlight

Welcome to a brand new week of Photography Month here on the ADC Blog! We are showcasing the shutterbugs within the ADC community, sharing both their work and 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 industry veterans, newcomers just starting to make a living, or just people who love to shoot on the side.

We had a wonderful time this past weekend with our ADC Hands On Food Photography workshop, and now we have another ADC Member who plies his craft in food and beverage — who also loves to both create and consume his subjects!

Bucks County, PA



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

I was about 19 years old when I first became interested. It all started from my fine arts background as a painter. I started college without even considering photography at the time but eventually became more and more interested after taking some classes. Besides formal education, I owe a lot to the photographers I assisted during the earlier years of my education. This pointed me in the right direction and allowed me to experience different specialties to consider for my own photography direction.

Do you remember the earliest photograph you ever took that moved you?

I remember some earlier photographs during college. Most notably, I recall a photo series I worked on that used a special film called Kodak Technical Pan. This film was mostly intended for a lot of scientific purposes because of its super fine grain and
contrast. I decided to get lost in the woods and photograph macro details of tree roots. I just found the texture incredible with that film and it was the most smooth looking film grain I ever saw. The images had such a unique quality to them. Back then it was rather neat. These days we can replicate this with medium format digital.

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?

My specialties are interior design, food & drink photography. Most of my work is in the hospitality industry that often requires all of these specialties. I could be doing a hotel or home photo shoot one day and a cocktail photo shoot the next.

Can one be transient? Yes, this is what happened with my work. I was only an architectural & interior design photographer for 10 years. Over time I started to work on a food & drink portfolio because I realized I knew a heck of a lot more about food and
cooking than architecture. I always feel that following what you love is the best way to go. There has to be a passion for the subject matter to make great photography. Otherwise you’re just going through the motions and creating lifeless work.

“I always feel that following what you love is the best way to go. There has to be a passion for the subject matter to make great photography.”

Define your photographic style in a single sentence.

Clean, selective and produced with lighting that has a natural feel.

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

A Leica S Medium format camera. What’s so awesome about it? The medium format sensor along with German optics will create the most incredible photos. Plus, I’ve been using Leica cameras all of my career and find that the unique characteristics are part of my
photography style.

Are there any specific accessories or tools you’d be lost without?

My Gitzo tripod. Without it, I’m dead in the water and nothing happens. I love the quality of Gitzo tripods and they are well worth the investment.

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

Competing with so many photographers out there. I see a lot of both awful and awesome photography out there and it’s super competitive. You must be a much better quality and we harder working than the competition. You have to live and breathe photography. It’s a lifestyle with constant evolving.

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

I did a photo shoot for New Jersey Monthly covering Cape May Sea Salt last summer. The project involved following a well known chef around his sea salt facility while he explains the process and harvests the salt. This was a challenging setting to work with since it was inside a greenhouse that was over 100 degrees.

The assignment had very limited space planned out for publication and I guess expectations were low. I could only go by a rough
description before arriving and hoped for the best. I brought a lot of photography equipment to cover myself in whatever situation. Upon arrival, I found the facility full of character and the chef was the perfect model. It was a great time with a lot of great photos. I’d love to do more of these projects.

What would be your dream client/project/collaboration?

There are so many directions to go and great people to collaborate with. Off the top of my head, I’d like to work on a book with David Lebovitz. I’m a big fan of his.

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 has opened the world up much more. Yes we have overwhelming amounts of content, but when you filter though it there is a lot to get inspired from and learn. I find it interesting to see the lifestyles of those who I admire.

Now I’m rethinking my approach to photography in general. Before, I was always looking for that perfect photo for the portfolio. Now I’m trying to work on images as a series and eventually incorporate a lifestyle.

“Before, I was always looking for that perfect photo for the portfolio. Now I’m trying to work on images as a series and eventually incorporate a lifestyle.”

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

Most people have no idea what I really do so I expect all kinds of questions. A common question is “Do you really do this for a living?”.

What are your other creative outlets and sources of inspiration?

I love to cook and make cocktails. I’m a bit of a cocktail nerd. For creative recharge and inspiration, I often find myself meandering the backroads of Bucks County, PA where I live. There are so many beautiful places to get lost. Even though I mostly
work in the NYC area, I’m still a country boy from Pennsylvania.

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

…I am looking for great food or trying to make great food to photograph.”

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

From afar I admire Anna Williams and David Loftus.

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’m always driven by the need to capture the things I love. That has always been the great motivating factor.

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