August 27, 2014 -
Q+A with Clarissa Westmeyer, This Season’s Featured Photographer
Any foodies in the audience may recognize this month’s featured photographer, Clarissa Westmeyer, from her work in Edible Cleveland. A Cleveland transplant from Martinsburg, West Virginia, Clarissa’s passions include capturing unconventional beauty with her camera, fashion, and taking care of her eight backyard chickens.
We’re thrilled to feature Clarissa’s unique, ethereal photographs of some of the local produce that we serve here at Spice. Her work will grace our walls through Summer 2014. In this interview, we get to know the person behind the pictures as Clarissa tells us a little about her background, what inspires her and what she loves about supporting local business.
Q. What brought you to, and kept you in, the Cleveland area?
A. I actually came to Ohio when I started school at Kent State. After graduation, I was offered a job at American Greetings. That’s what brought me to Cleveland. I worked there for a couple years and then threw myself out into the freelance market and ended up being hired full time.
Q. If you weren’t a photographer, what do you think you’d be doing?
A. Oh, gosh. There are always so many creative ideas and things that I fantasize about doing! It ranges from being an organic farmer to a florist.
Q. How would you describe the style of your photography to someone who had never seen your work before?
A. I’m not very good at describing my own work! Other people have described my work as being sunny and happy.
Q. How do you choose your subjects when shooting for fun?
A. There are a variety of subjects that I’m captivated by. I guess it’s almost a challenge for me to find beauty in everything. I try to see beauty when it’s something that someone might not usually think is beautiful.
Q. Do you have any favorite local locations to shoot?
A. No, wherever I’m wandering I keep a photographer’s eye out for seeing beautiful things.
Q. Your work encompasses a broad range of subjects: What do you like about working with food specifically?
A. I think my sister put it best once. She was able to be in town and assist me on a job and she says, “Clarissa, you get to play dress up with food every day!” When we were little, dress up was our favorite game. We had a little box of crazy clothes and would play dress up together. I thought about that and said, “You’re kind of right!” For my profession, I also get to do a lot of designing of what the set might look like and it’s a collaboration, but I really enjoy that part of it too.
Q. On Edible Cleveland, it says that you have the “best-fed chickens in Cleveland.” Can you elaborate on that?
A. Sure! So I keep some backyard chickens. I currently have eight of them! At work, because we have so much food in the studio, we end up having a lot of food scraps. Whether it’s excess from shoots or leftovers form lunch, there’s always food. So at the studios we have chicken buckets, which are just normal buckets around the studio that I bring home to my chickens. Everyone, including clients, coworkers or stylists, know that any food scraps can go into the chicken buckets. Chickens actually eat more than just chicken feed, more than people would think. They love everything from lettuce to grapes and blueberries, to even cupcakes and shrimp!
Q. What do you think is the appeal of local restaurants and goods for a growing number of consumers?
A. I think it’s just a wonderful feeling knowing that you’re supporting your community and supporting your neighbors. The quality of what you get is so much higher and it’s so much more thoughtful to support the people around you. It inspires us to be more thoughtful in everything we do. Just knowing that the food that you’re eating was either grown by this person or that a good was made in your area is a great feeling.
Q. What was the best part about working with Spice?
A. It was a nice change to have an assignment to shoot a very specific thing. There are things that inspire me all the time and it can almost be overwhelming! So it was nice to be able to narrow the focus and to know that this was exactly what I had to do. I also loved going down and meeting the people on the farm and just talking to them and finding out that they’re as passionate at what they do as I am about what I do. There is nothing greater than seeing someone happy at what they’re doing!