Who is your creative crush?
If you are someone who creates something with your hands or possesses an incredible talent, I will fall hard for you.
It’s one of the reasons we work with so many artisans at Beekman 1802.
It was no different when we started working on our latest book, A Seat at the Table.
I started following Christian Watson on Instagram (@1924us) based on a random referral.
This is the first post that popped into my feed.
And from that moment on, I was smitten. (I never told him that I keep this screenshot on the desktop of my computer.)
His words and the images that he uses to accompany them did what any really good art should do—it awakened my own creative spirit.
I followed the link from his profile to his website, 1924.us, and sent a message to see if he had any interest at all in doing the food photography for the cookbook we were planning.
He was only 23 years old at the time. He had no idea what a “Beekman Boy” was. He had never seen “The Amazing Race”. We were complete strangers to him.
His reply was short and honest.
“I would love to do this. I have never shot food or a cookbook before though.”
I told him that I didn’t think it mattered. I had seen his work and believed that he could do it.
We set a date to begin shooting several months later, and over the course of time, I saw him taking more and more shots of food on his Instagram.
He was actively trying to learn.
On the date he arrived, I picked him up at the airport in our old farm truck. He walked through the sliding glass doors of the terminal just like he was stepping from another dimension: gawky and lean, effortlessly stylish in that way a Depression-era waif might be, and he carried with him two enormous worn-leather suit cases.
I never told him this, but I was tongue-tied the whole way home.
Over the course of 2.5 weeks, we worked from sun up to sun down, shooting all 120 recipes in natural light.
One evening we were planning to shoot a recipe that could be cooked by a campfire, and I told him that I wanted to capture the stars shining over Beekman 1802 Farm.
“Of course,” he said.
A few minutes later, I got a text on my phone: “I am trying to shoot an image of the heavens. How do I do that?”
It was sent to me by mistake. He had intended to send the message to a friend with more knowledge of low-light photography.
I never told him this, but it made my heart flutter. It reminded me of my own youth when I was too embarrassed to admit what I did not know but also determined enough to remedy it.
Christian left when the assignment was over.
A year later, he published his first book of photography, and in his eloquent introduction he wrote about sitting on a park bench in little Sharon Springs, NY, and simultaneously stumbling on the fact that there are little things in the world that unify us all.
“Every small town smells like hickory,” he wrote. And this became the title of his book.
I have only seen Christian once in the last two years, when he and his lovely fiancé Elle-May Leckenby happened to pass through NYC on an evening that I happened to be in town.
In that time, I have been awed by him and frustrated by him. He has missed deadlines and sometimes shown disregard for how his actions and decisions impact others.
But I still love him.
Much like a father loves a son.
And I watch in wonder as this young person grows up right before all the eyes that are watching him on Instagram.
I had 30 furtive photos of Christian (!!!), often captured unknown to him—like watching a bird go about daily life from the other side of a pane of glass.
It is a reminder to me that it is OK for someone to inspire you, and it is OK to love them with all your heart for it.
When you get your copy of A Seat at the Table, (click here), please take a minute to let Christian know what a wonderful job he did capturing the very essence of this book and our community. He was 23 then.