Self-described "beertographer" and Bend resident Matthew Ward (aka: Bend Brew Daddy) has two passions common to a large swath of Central Oregonians: photography and craft beers. A stay-at-home dad, Ward was in the habit of heading outside with a beer in hand for some alone time when his wife Lisa came home from work at night. One such evening, he found himself captivated by the vivid colors on the horizon refracting through his amber glass. Ward has spent the last two years, as he jokingly puts it, "obsessed with taking beer photos." But his Bend Brew Daddy brand is about much more than simply documenting a good brew. Ward's kinetic and playful photography style—he is fond of balancing bottles and glasses in amazingly acrobatic configurations—captures the dynamic flavors and outdoorsy ethos of Central Oregon's fine breweries and the beers they produce.
The Source: What beer are you drinking right now?
Matthew Ward: Something hoppy or sour...or both! Ching Ching by Bend Brewing Company, Maui Wowie by Silver Moon, Comatose by GoodLife and Half Hitch by Crux are my current local favorites. Before we moved to Bend in 2009, I was a red wine kinda guy. If I had a beer at all, it would be a stout, like Guinness or Murphy's. Being in Bend, I've developed a taste for hops and a passion for craft beer.
SW: Why did you decide to turn your lens on craft beers?
MW: Craft beer is extremely photogenic, and dare I say, sexy! The colors are so vivid, and there's a sort of translucence in beer and bottles that I'm really drawn to. I would say it is the equivalent of someone who photographs hot rods or classic cars. There's a passion behind it.
SW: How does your approach to still life photography differ from the usual stock photos—bubbly brews poured into a glass set next to a bottle—that are typical of beer photography?
MW: I never really thought of my work as still life, because of all the action and movement I like to capture in my shots. Having been a photographer for most of my life, I'm constantly dabbling with different styles and techniques—both artistically and commercially—and always looking for that one thing that will set me apart. Balancing bottles and glassware on all kinds of earthly surfaces is my claim to fame, but I like the traditional bottle on table shots from time to time as well. One of the hashtags I use on Instagram is #craftbeeracrobat. I am obsessed with creating beerscapes that have never been done before. The great thing about craft beer is that I'm continually inspired to keep things fresh. It's a case where art inspires art.
SW: How do you determine the right setting for your "models?"
MW: When I'm home, I usually look outside at the sky and get a gauge on how the scene feels. Then, I stare into my beer fridge (yes, I have a beer fridge) to find the right pairing. I pair with things like lighting, feel, color, location, season, etc. Sometimes, this process takes so long, the outside look and feeling has changed by the time I have chosen the brew. With the Silver Moon Get Sum shot in the calendar, the label portrays an outdoor, active lifestyle, with little figures climbing the letter "U". In choosing the location at Smith Rock, it was important to the feeling of the shot to have actual rock climbers in view. My wife Lisa was able to climb above me to set up the shot, while I stayed below several feet with my camera.
SW: Why did you create the Bend Brew Daddy calendar?
MW: The Bend Brew Daddy Calendar was created out of two necessities. One, I wanted a way to find all of the beer events in one place. Two, I needed an item under $20. All my work before the calendar was in the form of canvas prints. Although they are stunning to look at, I wasn't selling a ton of them, and felt a need for an item to showcase my photography while providing excellent value to the end user. The main objective was to create something that was desirable and valuable, even to those who had a calendar already. I'm excited to get going on the 2016 version soon.
Brew Daddy exhibit
Bishops, 130 NW Oregon
6-9 pm, Friday, March 6