Monday, April 5, 2010

The People of Topeca Coffee: A photo exhibit by Jeremy Charles.

The People of Topeca Coffee, by Jeremy Charles

Jeremy Charles is a name one hears often in the movers-and-shakers circles here in Tulsa. He's a photographer known for his work with Tulsa's musicians and bands, as well as his photos that regularly serve as the cover of local publications like Urban Tulsa Weekly. But, he's most passionate about editorial portraiture. Lucky for us, Jeremy has a show of exactly this sort hanging in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Gallery now through April 27. 

 I asked Jeremy to blog for TDT about the show, and he was nice enough to give us a few sneak peaks of what's in the gallery at the PAC, too. Take it away, Jeremy.

I got to know John 'Chip' Gaberino III and Margarita Lopez Gaberino, owners of Topeca Coffee, by way of my former job, a place where we drank a heck of a lot of Topeca coffee. I was familiar with the rich history of the company, a family-owned and operated coffee business dating back to the 1850s. So when they invited me to visit Las Fincas Ayutepeque and Manzano in El Salvador, I was naturally ecstatic.

Once I settled into the farm and saw firsthand the intricacies of coffee agriculture, I felt a tinge of shame knowing I had too often taken for granted this substance I consumed daily. The complexities of coffee cultivation were substantial, the process arduous, but I got a sense of something larger happening. After witnessing the driving passion Emilio Lopez had for his family's legacy, for his farm, for his dedication to growing excellent coffee…it was then that I truly recognized it as Art.

The People of Topeca Coffee, by Jeremy Charles

Topeca isn't just another coffee farm. They practice a "Seed-to-Cup" approach, a term they coined to describe their business model. Topeca coffee starts as a seed, grows in rich volcanic soil, is processed, roasted, and packaged for sale all in the same spot in the valley of the Santa Ana volcano. The same hands that planted the seed are involved throughout the entire process. Those were the hands that interested me.

The People of Topeca Coffee, by Jeremy Charles

And so, I decided to focus on the characters of the farm - the people whose lives where intertwined with the very coffee I drank every day. I wanted simply an honest, straightforward look at the folks who make it all happen. And they were good folks, gracious and graceful, always at ease, without pretension. Many of them have worked for Topeca for decades, and their families before them. When they looked into the camera, it was a real moment. And that's all it needed to be.

To meet Jeremy and learn more about his work, be sure to attend the opening reception of the Topeca exhibit tonight at the gallery from 5:30-8:30pm.

1 comment:

Kellyology said...

LOVE these photographs. Hope your reception was a success Jeremy.

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