Food Styling

I wrote this post and forgot to save.  Guess what, Firefox was like.. NOPE!

I was reading a post on Petapixel about food styling.  Maybe from the 90s to early 2000s.  In the photo series are images that described with what stylists used to "enhance" the food for the photographs, e.g., items like motor oil, shaving cream. 

Bagels and cream cheese from  Philly Style Bagels .  Coffee from  ReAnimator Coffee .  No other added things to style this.

Bagels and cream cheese from Philly Style Bagels.  Coffee from ReAnimator Coffee.  No other added things to style this.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, food stylists did use motor oil to make meat more brown, shaving cream to make cake icing, mashed potatoes and food coloring to make ice cream.  I am sure that you can google the rest to find out yourself on what food stylists used to "enhance" the food.  Now I can understand why, preparing to photograph the food back then took much longer and with food photography, time really is of the essence.  But today? 

First, let me put this out there, all my food photographs are all natural.  You can eat the food and drink the drinks after I photograph them.  Well my fingers do get in there.. For myself, it is prepare the scene first then plate the food. 

Food magazines have gone completely all natural since 2004(?) for their food photographs.  Bon Appetit had a story on their staff photograph, Alex Lau.  It's a fun read.  But helps show what I am writing about.  Food publications food photographs are all natural.  Commercial?  That I am not so sure, but I am hoping that it is all natural too. 

So I hope this helps elaborate how food used to be stylized and how I work with making food photographs.

You do you, unless you want to be a photographer.

Since my last post, I finally was able to meet Penny De Los Santos and take her workshop up in NYC, went to California, and posted a ton of photographs onto Exposure.  I am not sure why I came back from California on Monday, but I did.  I pretty much abhor snow and winter.  

Then I read a story from Bridget Eldrige Photography about her time with Foundation Workshop.  And thought about some thoughts that were passed around, while I have been pursuing this photography work.  One thought was, "be yourself." Now everyone says, "be yourself" which is all well and good.  But not entirely good if you are a photographer.  Well specifically, an introverted photographer like myself and Bridget, in the provided link.  One of the key non-technical things that make or break photography is connection.  I don't mean the subjects in the photo, but that in itself also makes a stronger and compelling photograph.  But I mean between photographer and subject, specifically live beings- people and animals.  Food? I don't know photographer and subject is relevant for that.  

For introverts, it is hard to open up and just talk to people, let alone allowing them to open up to you as a photographer.  So that's what I mean by being yourself as a photographer doesn't necessarily cut it.  If you are wondering what Foundation Workshop is, it's a workshop on wedding photojournalism.  They throw the students into an in depth situation for them to document, which doesn't have to do with weddings.  The goals of Foundation, as the name implies, is to create a foundation of strong visual story telling.  You need to know all the technical aspects of photography prior to come out of it better.  But then again, why would you be spending $4k or so of hard earned money if you didn't know how to use your camera?

Creating a connection with the people, or animals, that you are photographing is one of the top traits that need be able to conjure up in seconds.  That is if you want to be a successful photographer.  

Knowing that this is an issue for myself, I have been since trying to strike up small talk and discussion with anyone.  So far it is going alright. I do realize that I am much more talkative to strangers, if I am traveling.  I have to say that, that while I love the in the moment photographs, but those in the moment photographs are stronger and freeing if there was a connection made between the photographer and people you are photographing.  

But, man, it is hard!  I just want to go in make some photographs and head on out of there.  Just like with my realization with my personal project, in order for me to make a story more compelling is to get them to open up about themselves.   

That's what I got when I read Bridget's blogpost, talking to people really helps make your images better.  Being serious here. 

Anyway, as mentioned, I recently came back from California.  Still beating myself up here for coming back.  I was out there babysitting my nephew Vincent for the week.  As with every time I am out there, I ponder to myself what am I doing.  Or well, what am I doing staying in the East coast?

So what do you think?  What areas do you think you are falling short in being whom you want to be?

Early Morning and the grind.

Pursuing my project, "In Search of Little Saigon in America" has been an endeavor of personal journey and understanding.  One of the reasons I came up with doing this project was to understand where I particularly fit in America and in Vietnam, well if found myself uprooting my life to live there.  As I mention in the story, I am a Vietnamese American.  My parents emigrated to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War, then had us four.  We grew up with a dual cultural identity. 

Being a food and culture photographer, the other pressing idea that I wanted to address in this project, not just to discover where I fit in, is how as our food changed.  Either from cooking methods to ingredients.

As great as all of that sounds above, the hustle is real.  I have been finding difficulty in trying to get more portraits and interviews in.  I am not complaining, it is training me to just keep going and pounding the pavement.  There are three major reasons for this.  At least in my perspective.

  1. I am not fluent in Vietnamese.  I said it.  Although I am trying to learn it, being able to discuss this prospect with the cooks and owners has been pretty daunting with me not being able to fluently speak and understand the language.  To alleviate this I have been asking friends who can speak it to go with me. 
  2. I am terrible at pitching this project.  But this could just be an issue that goes with #1. 
  3. They don't want to talk to me about their story or for me to take portraits of them

But all of those problems to be able to interview and get portraits are trite in the end.  There are always solutions to problems.  So I am just going to keep on pounding the pavement to continue this series of work.  I do really want to put it all into book form. 

One of the shops that I really want to get portraits and interview with is with Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh on Kensington Ave.  The two top photos are from that shop.  They make one of, if not the, best pho ga (pho with chicken) in Philly. 

The next project I have been working on is called "Portraits of Food in Philadelphia." It's a brief overview of the restaurants and food in Philadelphia.  Check them out on my Exposure.  On Sunday I went to Philly Style Bagels for their bagels and piece together photographs for their eventual addition to the series.  They will be moving into their own brick and mortar sometime in September.  Also I am going to do a Spot Burgers piece too.  Especially when they will get their own Brick and Mortar as well.