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Nizam Ali is the son of Ben and Virginia Ali, who founded Ben’s Chili Bowl at 1213 U St. NW in 1958. The elder Alis are now retired – Nizam runs the Washington landmark with his brother Kamal (not pictured).
When I first contacted Nizam, I suggested meeting at noon to film his portrait. Nizam was concerned that our session would interrupt the Chili Bowl’s busy lunch hour. I reconsidered my initial suggestion and offered an 11:30 meet. Nizam readily agreed to this. However, when I arrived at Ben’s Chili Bowl, I found the lunch counter a-bustle with hungry Washingtonians clamoring for food. Though swamped with customers, Nizam graciously sat for three minutes outside, where the bright sun allowed me to film with few in-camera metering modifications.