A couple of years ago I came across a great video series called 'Made by Hand'. They had a few great videos about people in various crafts ranging from a bicycle maker to a bee keeper. One of the videos stuck with me though. It was this video about a small cigar shop in New York called Martinez Cigars. They roll their own cigars out of this tiny little shopfront in Manhattan.
While I wouldn't call myself a cigar smoker, I do enjoy the odd cigar every now and then and so this definitely peaked my interest. I thought to myself - the next time I go to NYC I'll definitely have to check them out. Lucky me, not too long thereafter I got a chance to go to a customer support conference in New York so I had a long weekend in the city. I jumped at the opportunity to head over to Martinez on a Saturday but to my disappointment, on the weekends they stop working pretty early and only the shop was open. The staff however were so friendly, I picked up a cigar and they offered me some rum and I just sat there smoking, drinking and shooting shit. They had loads of customers coming in doing the same thing and it was just the friendliest environment. This was a place I had to come back to.
Fast forward 2 years, the next New York trip is planned and this time I'm well prepared. A weekday set aside, cameras packed, well stocked up on Tri-X. I'm ready! It proved pretty useful to have been there before as I now knew how dark it was going to be - hence the B&W film.
First thing first though. Buy a cigar, sit down and take it easy. One of the great parts of photography is when you get a chance to get to know your subjects. So I took a seat in one of the odd chairs and just started chatting. I'm usually pretty shy but I had planned this for too long not to make an effort. All the patrons seem to be regulars. It's the day before 4th of July so it's pretty busy. Customers are stocking up for the long weekend or just getting the odd one for the special occasion. These people to me seemed like the "true" Americans. I often say that New York isn't quite America. It's just a melting pot of people from all over the place and while yes, it has loads of American culture it's also cultures from around the world which is what makes it so special. Either way - these customers, the people working in the shop, the people just hanging around smoking in the shop - they're just salt-of-the-earth people. No tourists, no dressed up fashionistas, no bearded & tattooed hipsters - just real people. It's tricky to explain. All I can say is that I love this place. I tentatively asked if they would mind if I took a few shots and it was no problem. I started snapping away and I think after all this writing it's time that I just show you how it all came out.
I'd strongly recommend that you visit this place if you're ever in New York. Buy a cigar if that's your thing but even if not, just have a peek inside. Just make sure you're there on a weekday to catch them rolling the cigars.
All photos are developed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab.