Something I've come to value are immersive experiences. It's the reason why I spend days in the backcountry, months on a bicycle, or a week at Burning Man. It's the way I process my surroundings and build a foundation for creating images. This summer marked the first time I was able to have this type of immersive experience when working for a small business. To my delight the employers were also friends.
Last winter Kevin Peterson from Sfumato Fragrances walked into Eldorado General Store to give us a cold pitch about his hand-made fragrance line. Tall, quiet, and calculated, Kevin gave us a polished presentation and overview of the fragrances he had been crafting. We were hooked, Sfumato was the first fragrance Eldorado would carry. His scientific approach to scent coupled with his wife Jane's sharp eye for design made it clear that this was a couple following a passion. When Kevin asked this summer if I wanted to lend a hand helping them prep for the holiday push, I was excited to not just help, but to get a closer look at all the subtleties that define the soul of their products.
Sunday's were usually production days. Sessions would begin with a little coffee followed by cueing up the first (of many) classic rock albums on vinyl. After this initial jump start, the afternoons would carry on smooth and steady, much like how their fragrances are designed to evolve. We'd fill vials, fold boxes, cut samples, and wax seal packages for impending delivery. Tasks were delicate and precise, the pace was focused and yet relaxed. The attention to detail in each step was something to marvel at. Musical gaps between record changes never lingered too long.
I'd bring my camera, but would wait until something during the session struck me to photograph. Never had I really created images this way, but that was the power of being immersed. Actually working with the product and experiencing the environment gave me a different level of appreciation for photographing it. As much as I wanted to shoot all the intricate details that compose the actual scents (there are TONS) I tried to distance myself and point out the less defined activities that make Sfumato so authentic.
Regardless of the day's progress, we always would stop for sunset. The couple's 3rd story patio provided sweeping views from the Ambassador Bridge to the western edges of Corktown. Depending on the mood, either a fine craft brew or a freshly muddled mint julip (that's of course with mint from the garden) would accompany the wind down. Kevin has been playing guitar for years so usually he'd play a few tunes as the colors in the sky began to deepen. While it seems simple and even obvious, stopping to watch the sun fade really sets the tone for what you value.
Witnessing someone's passion is a pleasure, but getting to participate warrants another level of appreciation. As Detroit continues to make itself known as a community of builders, crafters, and creators, its important that endeavors like Sfumato are recognized. Not just for their desire to build a product, but for the reasons why they created the product in the first place. It's taking time to enjoy the neighborhood, sharing ideas with friends, and appreciating the gaps between the process that makes Kevin and Jane's vision so honest. Sure it'll always be about scent first, but it's nice to know Sfumato values the details that encompass what it means to live your passion.