Queen City Project shows Cincinnati through new lens

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then thousands of pictures strung together in two-minute videos must be worth at least a million. Focus those two minutes of visual storytelling on local businesses and you have the mission, and the creative drive, behind the Queen City Project.

The two owners and photographers of Alias Imaging, along with a team from Bluestone Creative, decided to test an idea—to put their collective creativity behind a cool local business—and see where it would take them. With no real planning beyond that blue-sky thinking, The Queen City Project was set in motion.

Bluestone created the QCP logo and website, which was launched in early October with two projects finished, Shadeau Breads and Arnold’s Bar and Grill.

“We wanted to do something purely creative,” says Adam Henry, partner at Alias Imaging. “Something that has nothing to do with business or money, just for fun.”

The QCP team’s first target: Shadeau Breads. Shadeau owner Bill Pritz agreed to let the QCP visually document his baking process. Henry and his partner John Carrico recorded the entire bread-making process, which starts around 4 a.m. each day until he opens between 6-8 a.m.

Henry and Carrico handed over their flash drive full of images to Bluestone with a simple request. Make something cool. Adam Browning and his team at Bluestone’s studio created a grid of 10 pictures and a video which flips through nearly 2,000 images. In 1:29 minutes, the QCP illustrates the essence of Shadeau Breads.

Walt Keys of Bluestone brings the videos to life. Keys, inspired after sifting through images from his own wedding, sits down with thousands of pictures and looks for the few that encapsulate the meaning of a project. He then puts the all the videos together to tell the story at a fast-and-furious speed—mixing the feel of a flip-book with the slickness of a video. The speed of the video keeps viewers interested.

“It’s a lot like when you watch a movie,” Henry says. “Every time you see it, you see something new.”

Soon after, Alias Imaging was invited to Arnold’s weekly Photographer Friday, a part of Arnold’s owner and head chef, Ronda Androski’s blog. Adam Henry and John Carrico, partners of Alias, accepted, but wanted to do something different. They asked permission to come in to the kitchen and restaurant to capture what goes on every day. The result is a flurry of more than 1,000 photos put together in a 1:32 minute video.

When the staff at Arnold’s saw the video and pictures, Henry remembers many of them saying, “That’s exactly what it is like to work here!”

The process works because of its organic nature. Henry and Carrico start shooting without any notion of what they want to capture. They let business as usual happen and capture it as it unfolds. After they collect large amounts of raw images, they hand them off to Bluestone. Bluestone then picks illustrative images to create the static grid. Next, almost all of the images are put into the video with only a split-second of show time each.

The creators agree: The QCP isn’t a greedy venture, it isn’t a self-centered venture, designed to encapsulate the businesses that make Cincinnati unique in an unfiltered way.  

In order to capture the emotion and atmosphere of each business, the QCP takes time on location to get to know employees. While shooting their most recent project at Coffee Emporium, Henry approached an employee, Kelsey at the register. Instead of telling her to pose, he mentioned that her hair bangs looked different. Henry snapped a couple pictures of her genuine smile. While talking to Patrick, the coffee roaster, Henry and Carrico try to understand his process and how he does it. They chat about coffee beans, their origins and how Patrick came to roast coffee. It’s not a photo shoot; it’s a few captured moments of life.

QCP videos are created in addition to, not as a part of, full-time jobs. Both companies serve larger corporations. Alias provides commercial photography for P&G, Macy’s and Children’s Hospital as well as editorial work for publications such as TIME and ESPN. Bluestone Creative provides everything from web design to copy writing for brands such as Nathan’s Hot Dogs and Herzog Jewelers.

The group is still considering options for their next project, but it will likely shift away from food-service establishments. The key is to keep projects organic and fun, and approach each new prospect with an open mind.

“We don’t want each project to start to look the same,” says Adam Browning, creative director at Bluestone. “We are trying new ideas each time. We have a lot of creative freedom with this since it isn’t for money.”

The QCP plans on hosting a grand opening event after they build up more content. They have some holiday-themed options in the making that incorporate philanthropic themes. Free of outside direction and pressures, the QCP is ideally situated to highlight places in Cincinnati that might otherwise fly under the radar.

“In writing, they tell you to write what you know,” Henry says. “We know Cincinnati.”

By Evan Wallis
Follow him on Twitter.

All photos by Scott Beseler

Photos from top to bottom:
Adam Henry and John Carrico of Alias at their studio
Alias Imaging studio
Henry and Carrico
Walt Keys and Adam Browining of Bluestone Creative
Bluestone's Main Street Office
Browning's dog and the office pet, Maddog

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