On photographer Nate “Igor” Smith’s website, he writes that his online galleries are a means of attracting clients, and thus “being able to pay for food to go in my face.” His food of choice? Diner food, as one could easily guess from the photobook he’s currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter called Dinner with Igor.

Since coming to New York in 2008 with a degree in photography, Smith has carried his 35mm film camera nearly everywhere to chronicle his experiences. Smith soon realized that many of those experiences consisted of eating meals with interesting people. “Random photos of my friends eating became unexpectedly popular after I started posting them occasionally on the internets,” writes Smith.

An extension of his early series Dining With Porn Stars, published by Vice in 2012, Dinner with Igor features candid portraits of over 200 models, musicians, and B-list celebrities dining. These photos were taken all over the United States by Smith over the course of the past six years.

He spoke to us about his experience crowdfunding the book, the aesthetic appeal of the American diner, and his exhaustive attempts at restaurant challenges.


Many of your photos are taken at diners. Why is that?
I eat at a lot of diners. Diners are open 24 hours a day and they have infinite options for food. I’m a big breakfast fan and I drink a lot of milkshakes.

Yeah, there are a lot of milkshakes in your photos.
Milkshakes look good photographically.

3Stoya

Diners have a unique aesthetic—they’re pretty much the epitome of Americana. Does that inspire you?
My last book was about Route 66. I do have a fascination with Americana.


What are your favorite diners in America?
Kellogg’s Diner is the only diner in walking distance from my apartment so it is by far the most frequently used location in the book. Foodwise, my favorite diner is probably 24 Diner in Austin. I am a big fan of Brite Spot and Fred 62 in L.A.

“People taking photos in restaurants is really annoying for everyone.”

Typically, how many photos do you take per meal?
Usually just one. People taking photos in restaurants is really annoying for everyone.


Is there a certain point in the meal that you usually take the photo?
No, not really. A lot of the photos tend to be right when they get their food or drink, though. But I often completely forget so there are a bunch of shots after the meal is over and we are getting ready to leave.

3NickCatchdubs


3MattAndKim

Would you say you’re obsessed with food?
I love food an unreasonable amount, but I’m definitely not a “foodie”—I think that implies a good palate and a love of fine dining. I love huge portions and disgusting American food. I like restaurants that have eating challenges on their menu.

“I love huge portions and disgusting American food. I like restaurants that have eating challenges on their menu.”


Do you partake in food challenges?
I have done a few…mostly steaks. There is a burger at a Bokamper‘s in South Florida that I have attempted to eat twice.  It’s called ‘The Beast.’ They told me I was the closest anyone had ever come to finishing it without finishing it. I had a small bit of bread left when my hour ran out. I tried to shove it in my mouth and ended up vomiting over the railing into a pond. A photo of me holding that burger is on the last page of the book.

3Me


Have you ever won anything from completing a food challenge?
I won a t-shirt at a steak house in Delaware and I am on the Shula’s Steak House website for eating their 48oz steak.

If you could pick any person alive or dead to have dinner with who would it be?
Werner Herzog. I backed the salt that he directed the Kickstarter video for. Also, he ate his own shoe once.


Are you a big believer in film photography over digital?
No. It just happens to be all film in the book because that’s what I carry with me constantly. The photography in this book isn’t particularly good. It’s about the collection, not any specific image.

How do you pick who gets photographed for the book?
I want people that are important to me primarily but I also wanted to get interesting people in the book. Not necessarily celebrities, but people that you might recognize if you are into that person’s art or music or whatever.


3CharlotteStokely

What lead you to photography?

I started shooting when I was 15 because I needed to take an art class in high school. I had started a punk zine and record label and I figured photography could be a useful skill and my mom had a camera. I ended up going to college for photography pretty much just because I thought it would be a fun thing to do while I tried to figure out how to make a living in the music industry. In 2006, I moved to NYC from Richmond, VA, with the hopes of taking the next step with the band I was managing. I started going to a lot of parties in NYC. Party photography had just become a thing and everyone started asking me what my photoblog was. I started my old site, Driven By Boredom, up again and it sort of became a job. In December 2008, I got laid off from the last job I had and I have been a photographer full-time since.


Tell me how the crowdfunding is going and why you went that route.
I could have just put this project on my credit card and made my money back, but I really love the process of it. I have backed over 100 projects and I think it’s a really fantastic tool for people who want to create stuff. I like being able to get people involved from the beginning and walk them through the steps involved and rewarding them above and beyond for their support. My last crowdfunded project was to help pay for my Route 66 trip. Many of the people supporting it thought all they were going to get was a black and white photocopied zine and they all ended up with a proper book. This time I created a number of stretch goals and already everyone who ordered a book is getting a unique free 5″x7″ print from the book. If the project hits $3,500 everyone is going to get a pretty cool surprise.

Congrats on already exceeding your goal. Did you expect that?
I probably set the goal too low. I just wanted to make sure I hit it but the book is going to end up costing closer to $2.500 than $1,000. I raised $3,300 on the last one, and I was confident that I could get over $2,000, but I didn’t want to be in a situation where I was begging people for money at the last minute. In reality, the whole thing is more of a pre-order for the book and it helps me figure out how many I need to make and all of that. If they kick in now they will get the book cheaper than they would after the project; they get free shipping and they get the bonus stuff. My last book sold out in a month and I know a lot of people who wanted one and never got a copy so the Kickstarter is a good way to make sure you get a copy of the book. The first reward to sell out was the $75 reward which is a copy of both books which means people were more than willing to pay $50 for my last book which sold for $20 originally. Not sure if any of this is relevant, but I have been non-stop drinking coffee while we’ve chatted.