Food Photography. Flipping Heck, it’s a Faff
Robert Carrier, can you explain this? Is it not something the cat produced?
Robert had to fill 20 fabulous Cookery Cards for each pack of the series in 1968. They are, on the whole wonderful. But very occasionally ill-advised.
Orginal blog man James Lileks collated and venerated this kind of food photography. http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/index.html
I had two simple goals: a) to recreate in homage the cover of
the first edition of the seminal part-work The Cordon Bleu Monthly Cookery Course first published in 1968. This merits a whole article itself. I use it constantly. This picture tripped my wires as a kid and was very possibly the reason why I took to cooking b) to make a simple dish look stylish, attractive and tasty.
For both these goals I enlisted the help and the kitchen of my friend Allison, art teacher and interior designer. She has recreated, without an ounce of up-herself-ness, a French Provincial Kitchen in the Perth Suburbs complete with chandeliers, eathernware honey jars and a kitchen garden in which she keeps bees. She should know a thing or two.
Fortunately the food did not require too much fluffing. The caramelised oranges are completely gorgeous as they are, and indeed the making process yielded some of the most sensous images I shall ever take. Here are some from my private collection.
The Carbonade of beef had the right kind of unctuous exterior and depth of tone to wing it. Yet when it came to the photographing, who knew that putting brilliant white globes of cauliflower in the foreground would eclipse the meat? I just didn’t think of it. Below you can see my friend Alison’s beautiful dining setting but not much of the dish, nice composition but dreadful lighting
And that’s what gave me the idea for this piece. This is where a professional with Leichas and light reflectors and meters and fundamentally basic knowledge would have flicked the lime-light stealing brassica from the dish and replaced it with a nice dense… well who know it may have been a tiny pair of purple patent leather mary-jane shoes or a cow’s snout, it would just depend on the directions of the art-director and the market for the piece.
No, it was not the food itself that had us foxed, but a) the background and b) the props. Who knew that there are two competing shades of orange in a terracotta pot and sliced glazed carrots with thyme and honey? And who knew that the pyramid of cream-filled brandysnaps and the formless yet stable mass of oranges would defy any logically shaped background prop and always look mad? Ow, my eyes, take away the sunflowers and those jars are just plain crazy.
The answers are: The professionals. They know. They get paid to know. They plan and position and practise.
In future I shall stick to visually accurate, spontaneous and heartfelt images rather than acrobatically enticing or visually cleverer than I actually am images, (a motto many of us could well take on board in other rooms of the house, I’ll warrant). Unless I’m getting paid. (Ditto)Any images I can capture of the process along the may which a)do not steam the lense of my camera or b) show my navvy/skivvy man-hands.
Would anyone like any of the recipes from this post? Do let me know.