Norfolk resident Babs Perkins documents the stories of cheese makers, beekeepers, farmers, food producers, and cities through her powerful photographs and her insightful writing.
Writer and photographer Babs Perkins loves the outdoors, food, and travel. She spends a great deal of time in the Balkans, and through these visits, she has been able to combine those three passions into stunning photographs depicting another world. Her focus is on cultural documentation and preservation. She captures the soul and essence of traditional food producers, farmers, shepherds, cheese makers, and beekeepers. She titles these works Cheese Stories (from Bosnia), Face of the Balkans, and Beautiful Bosnia.
Babs was born and raised in Norfolk, Connecticut and after living in NYC and North Carolina, has been back in Litchfield county for 12 years. Her first love was food and she wanted to be a chef. Her culinary education began at age 14 when she worked for owners of a local gourmet food store. The husband and wife—both accomplished gourmet chefs—took note of her budding talents and gave her an apprenticeship of sorts. Exposing her to all aspects of cooking and baking, including recipe development.
In high school, Babs was the head baker at the old Litchfield Food Company. She continued to have jobs in restaurants and learned from the chefs she worked with. All through high school and college, she catering for cocktail parties. She became immersed in design, from the perspective of food, of the plate, and the presentation. After college, Babs worked as a wilderness guide. While learning survival skills and hiking the trails, she also cooked the food for the hikers. She became interested in creating trail-food recipes and came up with the idea to create a menu that sustained a seven-day trail hike. Her motto has always been, “If somebody else can do it, I could probably figure it out.” Then, at age 26 she was in a car accident which left her temporarily in a wheelchair, and it derailed her culinary career.
Years later, with a full recovery behind her, she embarked on a journey that would take her to jobs in branding, public relations, the outdoors and of course, food. While in college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she switched majors from Film to Hospitality. After graduation, she pursued further culinary education to round out her existing knowledge base. She has become involved in the Slow Food movement and continues her love of food through her Cheese Stories and other projects.
In early 2008, while working with a client in Slovenia, a woman who had circumnavigated the globe on her motorcycle, Babs got her first taste of the Former Yugoslavia. That experience would lead to more clients in the region and additional trips to the region. On one of those trips in 2012, Babs read an article in The Guardian about how traditional cheeses in France were in danger of going extinct. She became curious about the traditional cheeses from the Balkans and decided to research the cheese situation in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia and Croatia.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, Babs Perkins did extensive research and learned there wasn’t much information available in English online. After months of sending emails and writing letters and requests for information to appropriate government agencies and other officials, her efforts went unanswered. Undeterred by the lack of information she decided to make another visit to the region—remembering that so much of the business happened in person, that being in the field talking to the people was the only way to gather knowledge. She asked many questions of the locals, following threads and leads, discovering that certain methods of cheese making were also in danger of disappearing in the area. She documented the story through her writing and photography resulting in a fascinating and important body of work.
Even though Babs was a Hospitality Business major with a minor in Art during college, she is basically a self-taught, self-directed photographer. Ever since she was a child, she has had a camera in her hand, but back then she wasn’t confident in her skills. She was an extremely shy and anxious person and the camera gave her permission to observe and provided an acceptable reason to be outside. She was compelled to take pictures. “Babs is outside standing, waiting for the light,” her sister would often say to the rest of the family. Indeed the light in her photography has an ethereal quality to it, evidence that all the time she spent “waiting for the light” was worth it.
Writing comes naturally to her. Both of her parents were teachers and they embedded in their children the philosophy of learning for learning’s sake. Photography gives her the ability to get close to her subjects. In 2012 while traveling the greater Balkan region, she found that she really loved “street portraiture.” Capturing people honestly and naturally, as they were—without staging, posing or coaxing—felt right to her. Babs Perkins brings these two elements—writing and taking pictures— to everything she does: observation and storytelling. With her cross-disciplinary background, you can’t put her into a box, to one way of seeing. Her goal is to tell a more faceted story.
Her architectural images are also documentary. And her most recent exhibition called Moving Landscapes is a totally different body of work, a collection of landscapes from Ireland. It was a very rainy time and the weather inspired her. She took long exposures of the horizon and created impressionistic scenes, using the camera as a means of expressing less definitive ideas, more like a paint brush.
Prior to Moving Landscapes, she created her SoundScapes: Incidental Music series. The pictures, using two versions of the same photograph are composed in such a way as to create and new wholly possible landscape that doesn’t actually exist in nature. She has always thought the reflections of trees on the water looked like and visual representation of sound files. She mounts the images on cold-rolled steel or galvanized steel and feels “the presentation makes the whole fabrication feel more of an ‘art object’ than a boxed-in picture in a frame.”
Whether it is through her writing, photography, or a dinner party, Babs Perkins uses her creativity to build experiences and to tell stories that can be accessible to everyone, but her images are more than that— they are important portholes into other worlds and authentic works of art with a cohesive thread: the light of those worlds.
If you are interested in purchasing a work by Babs Perkins, go to:
Babs gives studio visits at Whiting Mills in Winsted, by appointment or by chance.
In April of 2019, Babs Perkins will be participating in the Spring Open Studios at Whiting Mills in Winsted. Check back with us in the Goings On section for more details.