Show celebrates the small pleasure of coffee – Springfield News-Leader

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A cup of coffee is just a small thing, but when it’s good, it’s a real pleasure.

During the month of December, Springfield photographer James Radke celebrates this small indulgence in a small way — with a show of just five photographs of coffee cups at Tea Bar and Bites eatery in the Rountree neighborhood.

It’s really a larger show, Radke explained, but the rest of it — nearly 50 images — is on his blog. Tea Bar and Bites didn’t have room for the entire series. “It’s sort of like a salon setting,” he said. “It’s just one little wall, but there’s enough there to let people see the beginning of the body of work.”

Many of the pieces were taken with small, inexpensive photography equipment, including a phone that Radke said only cost about $30. “I had a little digital camera that I took everywhere,” he said, “until it got destroyed at Bull Creek. So I started taking pictures with this little phone.

“It’s not such much the tools you use,” he added, “but that you use them.”

Coffee is important to Radke and — in the interest of full disclosure — I’ll say it’s important to me, too. I can’t imagine starting a day without it and I often think of my late mother brewing her beloved Community Coffee Dark Roast (which at that time had to be imported from her native Louisiana) in a drip pot on top of the stove.

As Radke talked about coffee, he spoke of how it’s been the beginning of many good conversations. Born in eastern Colorado, he moved to Charleston, S.C., as a child, then to Springfield in 1971. When he finished at SMS (now Missouri State) in 1980, he moved to western Colorado, then on to the Oakland/San Francisco area. He returned to Springfield in 2003.

Not surprisingly, some of the most interesting coffee conversations took place over cups in the Bay Area, he said, but he also enjoys the company of Ozarks coffee drinkers.

“I’ve been drinking it since right around high school. I enjoy sitting and communing with people.

“I enjoy a coffee and I enjoy the socializing — I don’t drink anything else. I’ve made some really good friends and connected with a lot of people,” he said. Radke added that it gives him the opportunity to “be able to share in other people’s lives.”

Radke hopes that when viewers look at his photographs, they are seeing some of himself there and not simply the technical expertise that went into creating them.

When you’re studying something like photography, he said, “you learn 70 percent to 80 percent easily — that’s the technical part. But the content takes a lifetime.”

The exhibit continues through the end of the year at Tea Bar and Bites, 621 S. Pickwick Ave. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday. The remainder of Radke’s work in this and other series can be seen at www.JamesRadke.wordpress.com.

For more information on the show at Tea Bar and Bites, call 417-866-7500.

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