It is my hope that the present community of Fort Wayne will be documented somehow. As we all know, in the last few years Fort Wayne has exploded with a new hustle and bustle it just did not have before. Thankfully, our art community has reflected that expansion and grown to meet its new audience. Every person has something so valuable and unique to share and teach one another. The featured artist for this week is no different. My interview with him made me realize that he fits in just about perfectly with the Fort Wayne I have come to call my home. Everything can change in a week, a day, a second. And if no one records it, no one will have the ability to remember or experience beauty from times once they have passed. People, light, and the places in Fort Wayne right now are begging to be recorded for the history they are making.
Noah Huffman, an analog photographer and barista at Fortezza downtown, intends to do just that. He is currently enrolled part-time in Huntington University’s Professional Program and works independently on his own to document humans as the beautiful things that they are. When I first wrote questions to ask him, I did not know much about his body of work or focus yet. I had seen his Instagram, @brnbs_photo, so I knew his work was in black and white and that he focused primarily on people and architectural feats. When I asked him what his favorite thing to photograph was, though, his response made the sides of my mouth lift upward:
“Human people (or lizard people, I don’t discriminate) are these dope, enigmatic things with pretty faces, hair, eyeballs, shoulders, and arms and stuff. They make images important, because they are important.”
It is sometimes easy to think that people are awful when the world is filled with so much corruption and hate. It is vital to realize that if we refocus our energy and time on those who stand up against this hate and darkness to make the world a better place, eventually it will be. If we let ourselves be inspired and capture human beauty and effort to facilitate change, maybe we can motivate others to do so. If we focus on the light, it will spread. Noah is inspired to create by people, light, and unused film stocks calling his name.
When I asked Noah about his favorite photographer, he told me about Alan Schaller, a member of Street Photography International who also shoots in black and white. Of course, I did some research on Mr. Schaller, starting with his website (alanschaller.com). Once there, I saw his work on the Calais Jungle, the Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, his collaboration with the Olive Ridge Project in Dhuni Kohlu Island, Maldives, and many other efforts to document people overcoming adversity and combating evils of the world. Noah recommends to “definitely follow him on Instagram” (@alan_schaller). If Huffman can reveal the beauty and nonprofit efforts of Fort Wayne the same way that Schaller has across the world, our city is going to be looking damn good. I am reminded of the “Humans of New York” effort when I look at Noah’s photography so far, especially since he does such an excellent job capturing the human condition. I thought it was funny that Schaller had also done a couple of projects with coffee beans in Rwanda and the Yayu Wild Coffee Forest since Noah works as a barista.
Millennials everywhere have time management skills that I like to highlight whenever possible. Noah is in school, has his job as a barista at Fortezza, and does his photography on his own time. When I asked him about how he balances his work schedule, his answer was refreshing:
“I make coffee for a living at Fortezza. It is literally the best job, and gives me more than enough time to shoot on my days off. Plus, I’m always meeting cool people. Keeps me caffeinated and inspired!”
It always makes me happy to hear about local businesses who take care of their people. As a server myself, I completely related to what he was saying. The best way to meet people in a city is to be present in public spaces. If your job lets you do that while simultaneously earning money, that’s pretty much paradise. When asked, he revealed that his focus in his photography isn’t really to make money at all. “Hell, I don’t even care if I lose money!” he admitted, “I just want to photograph people, because people are important.” I am continually pleased about how many people in this city I meet who have a job to pay their bills but also have some crazy beautiful medium they conjure up in their spare time.
Huffman is not originally from Fort Wayne. He grew up in the Northern Chicago suburbs and just moved to Huntington about 4 years ago for school. So, what can we do as a Fort Wayne community that helps retain people like Noah? Here’s what he said:
“I stayed here because of the people. Fort Wayne has this bizarre and beautiful blend of cultures that continually inspire me. Interesting people and places are everywhere, and they’re just begging to be photographed. Plus, there is this huge emphasis on local businesses that I just didn’t see at all in Illinois. This place is important!”
Thank goodness I get to live somewhere that I can afford to support local. Our generation will not be forced to stay home, hypnotized by TV screens, and convinced out of chasing our dreams. I love living with such creative, beautiful people who are flocking to this city. We can afford to participate, and that is so much more of a key to our success than people realize.
So, where did it all start? What caused Huffman to pick up a camera and capture history? I wanted to know (so I asked). His story is one of continual growth, both internally and technologically:
“My first camera was a primitive digital camera, circa 2000. It hooked up to my computer via firewire or something. It was like a megapixel. A single megapixel. Plus, it was made of blue plastic, so it went well with my blue plastic sunglasses. It was really cool. My first real” camera was a Nikon D5100. It had a flippy LCD screen and I really liked that.”
It is important to realize that everyone must start somewhere. Empires are not built in a day, a year, a decade even. It takes hard work and sacrifice to achieve our desires. Noah was very raw and honest about this. He said he wanted to be like the beautiful landscape artists he was seeing online when he was younger, so he went out and bought an entry-level DSLR, a vintage 24 mm lens and started shooting. “I failed,” he admitted, “almost gave it up, but I found myself enjoying all of the candid photos I would take of my friends while we were out shooting landscapes.” This is how he discovered his niche in the photography world. “People are way cool,” he finished. He turned what he perceived to be failure into a diving board, launching himself off into a new adventure to explore the beauty of the human experience.
Now, Noah works in 35 mm, and medium format film. He has almost fully transitioned to analog and develops the film himself and scans the negatives into his computer for editing. He is very interested in having the ability to have constant access to his own full darkroom, so if anyone reading this would like to work alongside him and has this resource, please feel free to reach out to him. I was wondering why his works were all in black and white, and his response baffled me. In response to a question about the medium of his works, it was revealed they are mostly B&W because he is colorblind and it just makes more sense to him to do it that way. My mouth dropped open when he said this. With each question I asked, I realized that what others view as limitations can, in fact, allow us to see the world in a unique and beautiful way.
Artwork from left to right: “Puddle Jump” (2017), “k l a w : s s o r c,” (2017), “Public Market After Hours” (2017)
If you would like to support Noah, see his work in person, or commission him for a project, there are a few ways to go about it. He currently has a few pieces up at the Dash-In. They can be found on the brick wall in between the front and back rooms of the restaurant and are for sale. Across the street, you may be able to catch him at Fortezza (if you’re lucky). His work can be found on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/brnbs_photo/), and he is quick to respond via Facebook as well.
Written By: Jenna Turpin