Updated: May 24, 2018
I met Luisa by pure chance whilst out on a mission to capture more strangers for my project. I first spotted her sweeping the floor inside a shop that looked like it was still being refurbished. The glass windows stated that this was an 'artisan chocolate shop' but inside there were a couple of tables and no sign of any edible wares. Luisa looked very cute in her pinafore and dark curly hair. I thought she would make a great stranger portrait but seeing me lurking with my camera she popped out to ask me not to photograph her. We started chatting and it turned out she was not ready to face a camera just yet but she welcomed a return visit to do some photography with her products. So I agreed to go back and spend some time with her. A few weeks later I visited Luisa and she gave me a tour of her little chocolate factory and we spent an afternoon taking photos and having a heart to heart about life, love and chocolate.
Luisa has always been passionate about the cocoa bean, her eyes light up when she's talking about it. The love of chocolate compelled her to give up (or temporarily put on hold) a teaching career to devote all her time to making vegan chocolates. Her chocolate is as pure as it gets - she roasts and processes the beans sourced from various parts of the world herself.
I realised what was so special about Luisa's chocolates when she offered me a segment from one of her bars. Nibbling slowly to appreciate the taste I discovered a distinct tang of fruitiness, very much like a berry flavour. I asked if she had mixed fruits in the chocolate and she smiled as she revealed that the taste was inherent to this particular cocoa bean, which was from Madagascar (I think). The fruitiness came from within the bean. I had never experienced anything so delightful in a chocolate before. This is not only because the bean itself is tasty but because Luisa does not stiffle it with sugar and additives.
Luisa has been making and selling her vegan, low sugar and directly sourced chocolates for years. She started by selling through word of mouth and went on to sell at market stalls. Thanks to the refurbishment of Sneinton Market through a council-backed project to promote art and craft businesses, Luisa has now set up an outlet where the public can visit and buy her products. The shop is launching on 14 June 2018 but she is currently supplying local businesses and restaurants as well.
I left Luisa's place full of inspiration, a bagful of her goodies and a head full of ideas for similar shoots. She turned out to be more than a passing stranger for me but funnily enough when I posted a portrait of Luisa on my Flickr feed someone left a comment saying Luisa had been one of his 'strangers' last year. Nottingham's a small world but it appears the world of photography is even smaller.
It is clear to see that Luisa has put a lot of hard graft and love into making her chocolates taste good but retain as much of their original goodness as possible. Although like Snienton Market itself, the outlet does not seem to be very busy just yet. I do hope this project takes off, not least of all because I want to believe that people who pursue their dreams do finally wake up and smell the chocolate.