Setting out to record “an accurate portrait of pie” in the South, photographer Alan Gastelum joined pie maker Nicole Mournian, filmmaker Casey O’Brien, and producer Alessandra Molina on a road trip like no other — the pie road trip.
But before we hit the road with these intrepid pie lovers in search of some American pie, we must got back to the beginning of things. Or, at least, to the beginning of Alan and Nicole. The two met on a shoot whereAlan was photographing Nicole for an assignment. Nicole impressed him with her “natural talent for baking.” And, as it so often happens when meeting incredible people on set, they established a great friendship. Consequently, when Nicole was invited to the National Pie Championship in Florida and decided she’d make a pie-trip out of it, Alan was her first choice to record the adventure.
Joining the two across the States was filmmaker Casey O’Brien, whose task was to make a documentary of the trip. The idea behind the journey was simple:
We want to explore the long tradition of pie making in the South and discover why it’s such an important part of the culture there.
As for Alan, his motivation was to capture honest pictures to create an honest portrait of pie culture — ”a story that hasn’t been told.”
Before heading out, producer Alessandra Molina took over logistics, carefully planning each pie stop along the way. Alan prepared in a slightly different manner, by re-reading Avedon at Work: In the American West for inspiration.
Soon they were off, traveling through 10 states in six days and shooting at eight locations. So what was the pie-filled trip like?
It was a blast and we met so many amazing people.
Some of his favorite stops included Pie-o-neer in Pie Town, N.M. and Pie Lab in Greensboro, Ala. Pie Lab was especially interesting as pie is just the tip of the iceberg for them.
We were completely fascinated to learn what pie has done for this community. It would take too long to explain their many accomplishments, but it’s well worth your time to read about the charity they donate their profits to — H.E.R.O.
Alan’s favorite story from the trip also comes from Alabama.
We were on a two-lane road and saw a small animal in the distance. As we got closer we noticed that it was a tortoise in the middle of the road. “You’ve got to be kidding me! We are actually witnessing a tortoise cross the road!” It was too good to be true. So we stopped and safely helped our little friend across, however, it was a bit faster than he would have done on his own.
After countless miles and pies, Alan looked back and considered the things he learned along the pie-way:
The response to the trip and the photos has been great so far, with food writer John T. Edge saying, “This is a beautiful portrait of pie in this American moment”. They now hope to get the story published in a national magazine to share the story with other pie aficionados. Their long-term goal is to publish a cookbook filled with Nicole’s new pie recipes inspired by the trip.