"We are a team of storytellers who weave intimate images and captivating prose into powerful, personal portraits."
We tell stories. Whether we’re capturing the entrepreneurial drive of a small business, the passion of an artisan, the wisdom of a teacher, or the spirit of a community, telling stories is at the heart of what we do. We use our own professional passions — photography and writing — to illuminate the work of others.
For several years, Our Local Commons has immersed itself in Virginia’s local food communities, producing books of richly told stories that illuminate the work of those building a new era in American food. The movement afoot in the Commonwealth is truly remarkable, and it has been our honor to work with sponsors and clients to share these stories with a wide audience.
We bring a beautiful, engaging aesthetic and tone to everything we create. Have a project that needs a team of sharp, dedicated, creative professionals? Drop us a line.
Andrea specializes in interior, lifestyle and culinary photography. With a background and education in architectural design, Andrea has cultivated an appreciation for form, space, composition and color that is present in every image she creates.
Sharing food is a way of sharing love, and some of the best moments of Andrea’s life have been spent around a table with her favorite people, eating and listening to their stories. When not behind the camera or in the kitchen, Andrea enjoys collaborating with her husband, Brian, on design and house projects and showing their young son, Clyde, the wonders of the world in which he lives.
Jenny is a professional writer and editor with a background in creative nonfiction and news writing. As owner of Fine Lines Editing, she helps a wide range of clients produce concise, polished text for projects large and small. An interest in sustainable living led her to Our Local Commons; she feels the choices we make about the food we consume present us with a tangible opportunity to have a meaningful, positive impact on our community, country, and planet.
Jenny lives in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville, where she and her husband, Egidijus, are raising four sweet children who like to chase chickens, climb trees, and eat strawberries straight from the garden.
SARAH CRAMER SHIELDS
Sarah specializes in environmental portraiture. Her focus is documenting her subjects with honest, accurate portraits. Her passion for food and stories stems from a life filled with exposure to culture and travel. She credits her parents for planting these seeds.
A Charlottesville resident for more than a decade, she spends her days documenting people, creating in the kitchen, working on an old house and living life well with her husband Matt and their two dogs, Charley and Crosby. Dual degrees in Fine Art Photography and Anthropology serve as a natural extension of her passion for understanding people and making beautiful images.
Sarah has documented people professionally for the past seven years through her studio, Cramer Photo. She lives to tell stories with her photographs.
Are you food critics?
Absolutely not! We are storytellers. Our featured subjects choose the recipes they would like to share, and we tell the story behind those recipes. All our subjects participate voluntarily and we have been fortunate to have many of them seek us out to be included. The exposure these individuals receive to a wider audience helps support and grow their businesses. That is why we do what we do.
How do you find subjects for your stories?
Our subjects often find us! When we embarked on this project, we reached out to a few local chefs and artisans that we had met over the years to help us generate our first stories. As interest in the project has picked up over time, we’ve had more local farmers, chefs, artisans, vendors, and food enthusiasts approach us with their interest in being involved. As for some of the other types of stories on our site—like Drink This!, Make This!, Happenings, and Kitchen Skills—we source these from a combination of stories we find and others we’re told about. We are always happy to receive suggestions from our readers; feel free to contact us.
Do you pay for interviews or recipes?
The individuals who share their stories, recipes, and skills with us do so out of their own kindness and generosity, furthering the community-focused nature of this project. In return, those featured on Our Local Commons gain exposure to a wider audience—one interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the skills, talents, and perspectives these individuals offer. It is one thing to hear about “local food”; we aim to give that phrase meaning.
Is Our Local Commons a nonprofit?
We are not a nonprofit, but we are a passion project, meaning that we volunteer our time, equipment, and talents to create and maintain this venture.
Why did you choose to use a Kickstarter to fund creation of this website?
When we launched Our Local Commons in January 2012, we created a website ourselves. Over the months that followed, we were delighted to find a loyal, enthusiastic readership, and it became clear that we’d need to retool our site to meet the needs of that audience.
This project is all about the pleasure of food and community, and rather than clutter our site with advertisements in order to pay for upgrades, we instead thought that crowdfunding would be a more appropriate tool. We were awestruck by the gracious support we received from individuals and businesses. A portion of those funds helped us secure the services of Convoy, a local Charlottesville design firm that helped us build a more versatile, functional site, so this project could continue to evolve and grow. It has also helped us to secure the talents of some local writers to help us increase the volume of content on our site, so we may continue to be a useful resource for our readership.
What is the story behind the Our Local Commons dinner hosted by Hill and Holler?
To celebrate our successful Kickstarter, Hill and Holler hosted a dinner at the Old Metropolitan Hall in downtown Charlottesville in April 2013. Seven of our Kickstarter donors received tickets to the event as a thank-you for their support, and the proceeds benefited our local farming and food enthusiast community. It was a fabulous evening that encapsulated everything we love about our vibrant local food scene.
Do you intend to put advertisements on your site?
We do not run ads on our site. We believe the concept of community is at the heart of our project, and we currently feel that is best supported by keeping this site focused on the food-related stories, recipes, skills, and resources of our community.
Do you eat amazing food like this for all your meals?
We wish! Charlottesville has a incredibly diverse food culture, and we heartily enjoy exploring it, both through Our Local Commons and on our own. That said, just like most folks with full-time jobs and young families, there are plenty of popcorn-for-dinner nights, too.
What is the Our Local Commons book? How is it different from the website?
As artists, seeing this project in a tangible, printed format has been a goal since its inception. Our book, which we hope to publish annually, will be similar to our website, with narrative articles, recipes, and photographs, but will have its own original content. This high-quality, advertisement-free publication will include several feature-length stories about individuals or businesses in our local food community, captured with beautiful images and words. It will also include the voices of local writers, as well as food producers and enthusiasts, who will share reflections on Charlottesville’s food culture and icons.
It is our hope that this publication will reach a broad audience and will, in tandem with the website, help to elevate Charlottesville on our nation’s food map. The book will be available for purchase in Fall 2013.
What is an Our Local Commons “sponsor”?
On our website, sponsors are individuals or businesses that donate funds to help sustain this project, and many of these sponsors donated through our Kickstarter. These funds help pay for the ongoing equipment and technology expenses, and provide resources to help us, over time, generate a higher volume of content for the site. All of us have full-time jobs outside of Our Local Commons, and these funds have been vital for helping to keep this passion project going.
In our book, sponsors are individuals or businesses that have chosen to allocate funds—often portions of advertising budgets—in order to promote others within our local food community in feature-length articles that spotlight the great efforts undertaken by those individuals to create a more sustainable, healthier food network.
Is Our Local Commons subject to copyright?
Yes. Unless otherwise specified, all photography and text featured on this site is the property of Our Local Commons, Sarah Cramer Shields and/or Andrea Hubbell. All rights are reserved. If you would like to feature an image or text you see on Our Local Commons on your personal blog or website, please ask for written consent first and give proper credit to Our Local Commons and/or Sarah or Andrea. For commercial use, publication, and general distribution, please email us for licensing rates.
Do you moderate comments on your website?
We feel that the more voices and ideas on our site, the better. This space is meant to be an informative, enjoyable resource for our community. Thus, we do not permit profanity, pornography, or abusive or mean-spirited language. Comments of that nature will be removed immediately.
So, where do you come down on one of the most important issues of our time: sweet or savory?
On this, we are divided. Sarah votes for savory, and Andrea votes for sweet. But let’s be honest: we eat everything! Happily.