Re-Imagineer #2: David Sawyer, Photographer, Wine Director & Author

You have had and continue to have a long and successful career as a professional photographer shooting for Nike, Armani, American Express and more. Along the way, you created what we call a major life layer in the wine space.  Tell us a bit about all things wine in David Sawyer’s world?

 ‘Life layer’ I love that phrase…. 

So WINE? Well to paraphrase James Brown “I’m into it man”….  much like wine itself is ever evolving, it began as a hobby that evolved into a career and is now something I’m forever learning from. Once you get sucked in, it truly is an all consuming experience and over the last eight years I’ve become well and truly all in…

I went back to school to study it, I became a Wine Director to sling it, I worked two harvests on two continents to learn it’s intricacies, I balled out with it throwing monthly six course wine pairing dinners for thirty five with my great friend John Ratliff in his butcher’s shop ‘Ends Meat’ in Brooklyn. In the pandemic I literally bathed in it. Working retail at Leon and Son Wine Shop (also in Brooklyn), and during that period I learnt how important wine is to us humans in time’s of crisis! Today I’m working on my book (more on that below), shooting for wineries, continually reading, learning, tasting, and absorbing. It’s never ending, ever evolving and I’m immersed in it all. It’s just so much fun, and honestly everyone involved in the wine sphere are so interesting and generous and I believe this is because wine is an essential part of life, it is the conduit that brings people together.

Your love of wine has now led to what will be your first book around that category. What is The Harvest: A Personal Journey into Making a Bottle of Wine all about?

This is my project of right now and I am so excited by it……  Combining my two careers into one tangible piece, “The Harvest” is a photo-narrative driven coffee table book about what actually goes into making a bottle of wine – spoiler alert it’s a ton of blood, sweat, toil and tears! 

In this day and age of the Somm films, Somms as rock stars and #wineporn, wine and winemaking have become romanticized beyond any reality and most people — wine drinkers, and even many wine professionals — have little idea about what it actually takes to make a bottle wine. I think it’s important to change this and my book does that by giving you the ‘behind the curtain’ insight. Through my photographs, stories and winemaking details, you will walk away armed with a new found admiration for all the people who work so hard to make it happen, and in turn have a far greater appreciation and respect for the contents of even the humblest bottle that graces your table. 

Getting this published is my wine goal now. 

You and your wife and kids have lived in several places.  While you reside in Los Angeles, you are planning a life adventure by planning a move to Portugal.  What led to that decision and will you continue to work as a photographer and wine afficionado?  What’s the plan?

The decision for Mara — my wife — and I was easy. Before we had kids we lived in Chicago (where we met), moved together to NYC, then to London, then to Milan and then back to NYC. We have always thrived off of change, it keeps us engaged and on our toes and with our parental duties fulfilled (our kids are now independent adults), we are returning to that lifestyle of living in and experiencing other cities and countries that ignite us, immersing ourselves in their culture’s.

 Lisbon is one of those cities — Paris is definitely another one down the line. From the experience I had last year working harvest in the Alentejo, Portugal and the people I became friends with, I realized that I want to make wine in amphora with one of those friends, and Lisbon will be a perfect base…. so stay tuned for that!

I will absolutely continue working in wine and photography, in all their myriad forms, why stop? 

So the plans are:

  • Get “The Harvest” published.
  • Keep shooting – wine related material, as well as other commissions.  
  • Move to Lisbon within the next twelve to eighteen months and make wine.