Shortlisted.

Woop!  Proud to announce that an image I submitted from a recent test was shortlisted for the Pink Lady Food Photography Award! The shot in question, below, was of a whopper of a baguette packed with goats cheese, prosciutto, griddled courgette, roasted tomatoes, olives and basil oil and styled beautifully by Livia Abraham.

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Out of over 8000 entries, to get to the final 600 or so is obviously very exciting but I’m doubly honoured as it sits amongst images by photographers whom I’ve worked with over the years and who’s work I greatly admire.

Interestingly, the one image I got shortlisted was one I wasn't even planning on entering! It's not necessarily my 'usual' style of shooting and I had spent an hour or so one day filing through which images I wanted to put in...I took a screenshot and emailed it to myself before submission so that could look at them with fresh eyes the following day (on the bus to a shoot, which is apparently where I make all decisions, small or large!). That screenshot can be found below...

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I didn't enter anywhere near this many in the final submission, I edited it down that evening to a much smaller number but its interesting to note it didn't appear in my initial selection and I'm not sure I could tell you how or why it ended up in my second! I'm glad it did. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut.

The shortlist has some very strong images this year. I'm occasionally surprised what kinds of image end up being selected in the various categories and its always fun to see current trends in different countries and across different disciplines.  I'm looking forward to the winner being announced soon and hope to visit the winners' exhibition at the Mall Galleries, SW1Y 5BD, its on from Wednesday 25 April - Sunday 29 April 2018 from 10-5pm (closes at 3pm on the final day).

See you there!

H x

The Clink.

I got the opportunity to shoot for a brilliant charity earlier this year; one that I'd heard about a few times before and, as someone living in South London, was definitely on my list to explore further.

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The Clink serves 4000 hungry customers across four award winning restaurants within Her Majesty's Prisons each month alone, and each of those meals has been prepared and served by prisoners living and working within Brixton, High Down, Cardiff and Styal. The prisoners gain experience cooking in kitchens, serving (and even growing produce at The Clink Gardens at HMP Send in Surrey!), whilst working towards City & Guilds NVQs in Food Preparation, Food Service and Customer Service. By providing this unique opportunity, funded by the restaurant diners and donations, some 800 prisoners have graduated from The Clink training projects since 2009, and almost 100 prisoners in 2016 alone were released into work as a result.

The Clink Charity also offers events catering and, headed up by a passionate and talented team, will take the events and catering circuit by storm in the years to come, I'm sure.  I was able to shoot some of their brilliant canapes, stunning bowl food and and a selection of their delicious courses for an upcoming campaign.

I think it's a great concept, as I have always personally found cooking food brings comfort and confidence. After all, its the first stepping block of self-sufficiency (everyone seems armed with a recipe from 'home' when you first move into your own place), and food spreads happiness when it's shared with others. It's even been suggested that humans only eat when they feel secure and safe psychologically, so the preparation of food, especially for/including other people, encourages this feeling too. Happily, 250+ companies across the country agree with me and have agreed to employ from the charity's recently released trainees. 

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Book a table and check it out for yourself. Besides all the good stuff on the menu you get a side order of 'warm and fuzzies' with every meal just for supporting such a great cause.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: FOOD (in all of its delicious forms) IS GOOD FOR YOU...and, it turns out, helps other people too.

H x

January's Self-Assessment

January doesn't have the same effect on me that it does to some others; it doesn't inspire me to turn vegan, paint everything a different colour, buy a plant, learn Mandarin or adopt a new 'skin regime'...whatever one of those is. Nor do I blanket ban all alcohol (though I usually consume less after the excesses of, to be frank, the whole of December!) - the month feels long enough as it is!

The start of the year, for me, is a time for SELF-ASSESSMENT.  Financially (obviously, in the form of a painful and tedious few days of tax submission), but also in terms of my goals, my health and happiness, my career and my relationships.

Part of looking back on my year of work as an assistant and my personal development as a photographer includes taking a few hours and going through everything I've shot that I considered 'finished shots', or 'FINALS', as the folder is named.  It's interesting isn't it, when you go back? What you still like and what you've changed your mind on? What you'd do differently and what you missed the first time round? Does anyone enjoy this process?

Last week I submitted some of the final shots that made the cut to the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards. I’ve done it for a couple of years now, and as a personal rule I only ever enter images I’ve shot in the past year.  It’s a nice way to look back on my tests and how my style progresses, how the seasons affect my lighting as well as the food we shoot and how much I go through phases of inspiration! The submission itself fills me with drive and ideas for 2018's collaborations as I'm pleased to say I've had a lot more to enter this year than previous years - a trend I hope continues!

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The empty plate above is a happy full stop on 2017 and a symbol of the possible shoots, potential jobs and new ideas that 2018 may bring. For now, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed an entry makes the shortlist, looking forward to actually getting to see the exhibition this year! and getting the next test organised...

...oh, and starting February with a nice glass of wine.

H x

Lemon Squeezy.

After the success of the previous 'Modern Rustic' test, Toni Musgrave and I agreed to get together for a test to make full use of the 'zero bookings period' that occurs between the last toffee penny being consumed and the tree being taken down.

She had the idea of doing something bright and light with lemons, having a list of citrussy recipes freshly-squeezed and ready to go. "I'm in - let's do this!"

Keeping things simple and food-focussed this time, with colours inspired by last years work trip to the Amalfi coast, I took to the prop house myself to pick up a few key items.

I do enjoy prop styling, but I'd be the first to admit...I mostly feel like I'm winging it every time I go in to pull things together!  I can do it for my own shoots but to take someone else's brief, and prop it creatively with so many considerations: serving size, type of recipe, overall feel of the story, size and proportion, the look of the publication, how the photographer works with props, not to mention budgets and availability and logistics and personal style...its an artform, it really is.

We sailed through test day, with help on the day from one of Toni's friends, and I had a bit of fun with the lighting, harnessing the few rays of sunshine we have during the short, grey days we have so often in January and making the studio feel like a summery lemon grove in Sorrento. 

My favourite shot of the day: this magnificent Lemon Meringue Pie, a particular family favourite of mine and a dessert that holds dear memories of my mum and I crouched over a pan, stirring the lemon curd-like filling (admittedly shop bought, on occasion!) and waiting patiently for the squidgy capsule of citrussy essence to dissolve and pop, before both inhaling deeply that sweetness and sharpness all at once. So satisfying!

Fun to prop, fun to shoot and fun to eat.  Tests SHOULD be fun, shouldn't they?

H x

Modern Rustic.

In December I was very lucky to have been passed the details of an interiors stylist that wanted to do a test. Having assisted a few interiors photographers and having an interest in trying something familiar-yet-new I jumped at the chance and I'm very glad I did.

Antonia McKenzie worked very hard, taking my vague idea of contemporary place settings and hand-thrown crockery and combining it with what I was assured was going to be the colour of the coming year...beige. Now, I was willing to admit that my work thus far has been punchy shadows and bright colours but I loved the idea of challenging myself and doing something quieter. Calmer. I had to overcome my past experiences of growing up in RAF-base houses, painted a safe 'magnolia' colour as standard (YUK) and look at the colour, or lack of, as an opportunity to explore tone and texture instead.  Antonia put me at ease by henceforth calling it 'soft, warm neutrals' instead...which sounded much less frightful.

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When it came to the food, I knew the theme needed something classic: rustic and full of texture but not too 'comfort food', flavoursome and interesting without too much overwhelming colour. I was suggested (by long-time collaborator Amy Stephenson - Thanks Amy!) to get in touch with Toni Musgrave, a food stylist also looking to grow her portfolio, who took my ramblings and our collective pins on Pinterest and gave Antonia and I lots of elegant dishes to work towards in terms of props and composition.

With all the pieces of the puzzle lining up, test day came round quickly. To my team's credit, we ended up shooting VERY close to Christmas and so were somewhat against the clock as I'd hoped to shoot both aspects of the shoot in daylight.  I had a blast; both Toni and Antonia are brilliant fun and I got the chance to shoot a little further away from the food than I normally do, include a bit of the studio's charm and even snuck in an extra ravioli 'prep shot'.  

I've been enjoying furthering my photoshop skills recently, particularly the various techniques there are to manipulate colour. Shooting daylight (particularly in winter!) has its drawbacks, one of which is the colour temperature varying throughout the day depending on time, cloud cover and occasionally reflections of your surroundings.  I feel like with softer pastel colours you notice these differences more and I took my time with this set of images, looking at them as a group and balancing the colours accordingly so that the series had consistency.

Editing

I must admit I had fun with the process on this one, as it was so different to how I usually shoot and feel as though the team worked really well together! By the time we all sat down for a debrief, cuppa and slice of that delicious cake at the end of the day, floor mopped and hard drive backed up, we'd already dreamed up our next one.  Thanks again to 'The Two Antonias' for being marvellous and making what could have been a challenging brief a joy to shoot as the last day of 2017!

H x

Merry Christmas!

I LOVE Christmas. Christmas is a time for family, for sharing, giving (and eating!) and, for me at least...testing!  I can usually expect the assisting work to tail off a week or so before the festive break so I take the opportunity to shoot as much as I can whilst I have the time off. 

I avoid shooting anything Christmassy in mid-December as the industry (and I!) have normally moved on to Easter feasts or January health food recipes by that point, but this year I couldn't resist.  

The beginning of December meant that a few new bits were added to my kit: a gorgeous new KinoFlo and a whole load of (second hand) flash heads for me to play with - shooting past six is now not just a summer thing! I'm loving them so far, as you can probably tell!

Inspired by a shift towards the GIFs presented in portrait format, for phones and social media etc, I also shot a little how-to of my go-to...cheat's puff pastry mince pies. They are so quick, and so absurdly easy you can make them half hour before anyone 'pops round with a card'. 

I'm really grateful to anyone I worked with this year; photographers, clients, food stylists & their assistants, stylists, art directors and designers...I'm learning more every year. I would also like to thank my family, friends and my brilliant other half for making this year so memorable. I wish everyone a totally fabulous Christmas and a very happy 2018!

H x