About Me

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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chasing Martinis

"One martini is all right.
Two are too many, 

and three are not enough."
                            - James Thurber

I suppose we must each find hobbies in our lives that make some sort of sense to our view of the world. Amateur photographers want to document the world around them, as painters do but in a different way. Other people collect those works and (hopefully) display them as some sort of commentary about themselves as art lover

Austin, TX
Doll collectors and paraphernalia enthusiasts want a tangible thing that some how, in some way, has meaning for them. Sports enthusiasts keep themselves in shape and endure that competitive side of their nature. In essence, they collect muscle tone and good health. (And sometimes broken bones.)

Among other things, I collect martinis. Images of them, I mean.

Maybe I ought to start from the beginning.

As a traveler, over the years I have several things and collections which I indulge when I'm on the road. They would be called hobbies in most cases. For example, I collect shot glasses. Lots and lots of them, it turns out, as the years have gone by. 

Each glass represents a destination and adventure, some more than others. I have more than a hundred, a total which does not include those places I visited prior to collecting. Yes. I get around.

Auckland, NZ

San Diego, CA
(For the first few years of traveling the world as an adult I was collecting coffee mugs. I discovered, after a year or so, that the mug collection was becoming pretty unwieldy. When I switched to shot glasses my wife voiced utter and complete approval. But I digress.)

So collecting shot glasses became a hobby, which I happily indulge pretty much upon arrival at any given (new) destination. 

Separately, however, as a photographer and aspiring travel-writer, I found myself fascinated with documenting our adventures in various countries. One of my favorite categories became focussed -- excuse the pun -- on wine. One of our favorite activities in places like France, Australia, the Napa Valley, Virginia and elsewhere is the tasting of local wines. In fact, tasting wine in each of the world's top wine districts has become one of my Life List ambitions.

Rapid City, SD
Naturally I began documenting those tastings with my camera. And while I think it's a little unsettling for the wine pourer,  I have several portfolio-level pictures which were taken as a result of a casual wine-tasting session. Particularly of the pour. (It's a naturally photogenic moment.)

I've also photographed rum drinks in the Caribbean, Mai Tais in Hawaii, and tequila in Mexico. Bourbon in New Orleans. But collecting images of various mixed drinks, while interesting, never caught my artistic imagination the way the martini has. Or maybe it's just because I love martinis and it's a sneaky way to order them without appearing to be a borderline alcoholic. ("It's for my Art".)

So how did I end up collection martinis --or more accurately, images of martinis -- more than wine and other mixed drinks?

You have to go back quite a few years, probably into my childhood. The martini, during the days I was in my formative years, was an icon. Of glamor. Sophistication. (And, in doing research for this blog entry's quote, above, I discovered I was far from alone. It seems the martini influenced many a mind and imagination of people growing up in the sixties and seventies.) It represented an image I wanted to aspire to -- that of Hollywood parties, Vegas. Washington DC and New York sophisticates, and of course, James Bond himself.
Las Vegas, NV

The martini as all that and more.

Port Douglas, Queensland
So, in college, when drinking was both a required social activity and at a times a competitive sport, I developed a taste for vodka martinis. Well. And Long Island Iced Teas, Tequila Sunrises, Screwdrivers and rum and Coke.

Yeah, well. Picky I was not.

But the martini is what stuck with me. Not for everyday drinking any more, but as an echo of that one-time fascination with the glamorous life. Now, when it travel, I like to relax in the evenings with a martini or two.

One thing leads to another, and one fascination combines with another, and sooner or later in this visually-oriented world, I began photographing my martinis. For the last three years it has gone from a mild "every once in a while" sort of thing to a hobby. It gives me something to do during my down hours, and I've managed to build up a decent collection of martinis worldwide.

Honolulu, HI
(One lament is that I was not yet serious about it the last time I was in Europe, and therefore missed the opportunity to photograph one in Monte Carlo. Given the influence of all things 007 in my life, that would have been an important addition to the collection.)

Some photos are low quality. Whether a result of low-lighting conditions, my lack of skill with the camera, or the low image quality of the camera I was using (the iPad, for all it can do, is not a good photographic tool, though it lets me post my martinis in a real-time basis.)

Some are naturals: Las Vegas. Del Mar. New York. Washington. Some are less so: El Paso. Rapid City. Honolulu.

(You haven't lived until you order a martini in El Paso. And you may not live long after doing so. Just sayin'.) (And you may note the Honolulu martini -- to the right -- is in a plastic wine glass. The waitress happily brought it, but apologized for the glass saying "we don't get a lot of requests for martinis.")

Some hobbies are fun. Some hobbies are full of memories, of emotions. Some hobbies are healthful. Some make no sense to an outsider, but have meaning to the collector.

And some, like collecting martinis, are just damned indulgent.


Whistler, British Columbia


  1. From wine tasting to martinis, that is a good shift. It’s a huge plus that it has different combinations for you to try. This is one good thing about traveling, you were able to explore the beauty of the place and even taste their finest drinks. And I’m sure you’ll discover more as you travel. Cheers!

    Harvey Clark @ Ziryab

  2. Thanks Harvey! I'll certainly be willing to try!