After relocating to Austin from New York City in 2008, photographer John Davidson met James Holmes, the owner of Lucy’s Fried Chicken. James had initially commissioned John to create images for Olivia, Lucy’s popular sister restaurant. Olivia had been recognized that year by Bon Appétit magazine as one of the Ten Best New Restaurants in America, so John had his work cut out for him.
I owe James a considerable debt. He was taking a chance hiring me – or more accurately, he was giving me a chance – since I’d only recently picked-up a camera in earnest again, having worked as a freelance writer for most of the preceding decade.
That first shoot must have left a great impression on James because John was immediately hired to make the pictures for the original Lucy’s Fried Chicken website. Business thrived for Lucy’s, and so did the relationship between John and James. By the time James opened a second Lucy’s location, the scope of John’s photographic project had grown too – helping him solidify his niche in the Austin photography scene.
By the time a third location – Lucy’s at the Lake – opened, it was clear that the images needed to have more of a narrative aspect to them, rather than merely representing fried chicken and oysters in their various forms. This goal aligned with my strengths. Even though I’ve done quite a bit of work with restaurants, photographing food is, for me, only one piece of the puzzle. Fortunately, I was given fairly free reign here in terms of the creative approach.
Like all great creative briefs, the one for Lucy’s was accompanied by great food and margaritas. James was able to adequately articulate his ideas about what he hoped Lucy’s would become, giving John the creative reins to fly with it. Lucy’s now boasts four Austin-area locations and has gained quite a following with its annual SXSW party and a write-up in the Chicago Tribune.
The defining feature of Lucy’s by the Lake is – you guessed it, the vast outdoor seating that offers customers a stunning panoramic view of Lake Travis. With a grand opening in February, James wanted the images up on the website as soon as possible. Unfortunately, John didn’t have the luxury of waiting around for perfect weather conditions, although 80-degree weather isn’t unheard of in Central Texas during the winter months.
I got lucky with a day of clear blue skies, but it needed some careful editing to suggest that chilly winter light was actually spring or summer. There were lots of images of people in coats huddled over buckets o’ fried chicken that never made it past the first edit.
John has received great feedback on the images. Friends from as far as England have reached out to tell him that his photographs have their mouths’ watering and that they want “to go there and eat right now!” Nationally renowned art director DJ Stout has featured John’s work in his monograph Variations on a Rectangle, and a picture of John’s three-year-old son diving into a bowl of mac n’ cheese (which now hangs framed in his kitchen) ran full page in the magazine The Local Palate. John anticipates there will be more Lucy’s in the pipeline, and having enjoyed the work so far, hopes to keep shooting for James.
See more of John’s work at johndavidsonphoto.com