Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Food For Thought

For many years as a photographer, I made much of my living photographing food. In fact... my mentor when I first entered the industry was, perhaps, the first real photographer focused (pun intended) on food in the state. This was back in the late 1980's when the "Hawaiian Regional Cuisine" movement was just beginning, there was a new emphasis on both food as "art" and on chefs as artists. At the forefront of the movement were 12 local island chefs blending french cooking technique with asian and pacific rim flavors and emphasizing the use of locally grown and caught ingredients. For several years these guys were media darlings, gathering world-wide attention and accolades for their inventive, artistic and flavorful creations. The attention focused on these chefs and this movement in some ways revolutionized the commercial advertising & editorial photographic industry in the islands, opening up many new opportunities for photographers to gain exposure outside of Hawaii by creating a new demand for high-quality and creative food images. 

Back in  those days, there were very few photographers, my mentor being one of the best, shooting beautiful food. I had always loved to cook, had worked previously in the food & beverage industry and immediately recognized a photographic niche that was both potentially profitable, had little competition and was a great avenue for broad reaching exposure. The rise of the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine Movement also gave rise to a new niche within the local publishing industry with the launching of several publications focused on the restaurant industry in the form of dining guides. Maui alone has 5 0r 6 of these publications.

Food photography, at that time, involved making very glamorous, idealized, highly styled and extensively propped table-top sets. The propping was often used to accentuate the exotic  combinations of flavors & ingredients and the almost fantasy nature of such a dining experience. And... as with all trends, this style of photography, at least editorially speaking, has fallen by the wayside for a new, more simplistic, food-in-your-face, stripped down approach. I have to admit, I rebelled against the trend in the beginning. I had a hard time seeing the art in what was beginning to pass for food photography. It was grungy, unglamorous, real & earthy. I have come to embrace this trend, loving the clean simplicity of the resulting images along with the challenge of making the food the hero rather than distracting from it with artisic and elaborate propping and set styling.

For the past 3-4 years, I have been shooting less food. The international focus on the Hawaii food scene has faded from it's heyday in the late 80's and 90's and as a result, my work has evolved more towards architectural and lifestyle images for the resort & travel industries. Still, I love to shoot food and last week provided a bounty of food assignments, both for editorial features and for a resort advertising client. The above image is an out take from one of those sessions... clean, simple, colorful. 

Are you hungry yet?

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