The last October weekend, as we all know, Marty McFly was traveling back from the future, but he wasn’t the only one traveling in time at that moment. I for myself decided to take a little trip towards the past – back to where my passion for foodphotography began, rewinding life to that moment in time and space where I first discovered this beautiful profession.
It was exactly four years ago, standing in the middle of the Foodphotofestival in Tarragona, that I realized in the blink of an eye that I finally knew what I wanted to become.
Four years and many many efforts later, here I was, back at the Foodphotofestival (but this time in the somewhat chillier environment of Danish Vejle) receiving my little badge saying “Vivi D’Angelo – foodphotography & foodstyling”. Proud and happy as a Schnitzel, as the Germans say it 😉
But what is the foodphotofestival actually all about, and is it really what it sounds like? I will tell you, it’s even better!
First thing: it is three days of workshops and intense learning from great and skilled people who share their knowledge openly and sincerely. Had there been more time and less superposition in the schedule, I would have booked even more of these classes – but I finally ended up with a good mixture of three, one in foodstyling, one in lighting with LEDs, one in editing software.
Mary Valentin is a very experienced professional foodstylist, and on top such a lovely and fun person!
She gave us her class of “Foodstyling in a Restaurant Setting” at the beautiful restaurant Vedelsborg. The workshop focused on an issue I already had to face a few times: shooting a restaurant’s food on location at that very restaurant – which means cooperating and coordinating (or trying to) with a chef is much harder than it may sound. Mary explained some theory and a sort of situation „etiquette“ to then directly put a lot of useful tips, ideas and styling twists into practice. Chef Michael from the restaurant served us a delicious and pretty meal that came right handy (for both learning and grumbling bellies ;)).
Together with my new friends Paulina, a foodstylist from Guatemala and photographer Alain who had come all the way from Cuba, we styled and shot first an entrée, a variation of salmon, then a soup and finally a meat dish.
(…well, yes, it might happen that the soup gets a little over-styled after three pairs of hands have been working on it, but anyways… )
I then immediately rushed away to the next – again amazing – workshop setting: restaurant Treetop, where the class with Israeli Foodphotographer Dan Lev took place. The artificial light issue is a big one in foodphotography and I had been looking for long time for a good alternative to daylight. Well, LED master Dan totally convinced me!
The results – using Dan’s LED lamps – were surprisingly easy to achieve. I was happy. And on top of all that happiness, came some pineapple-coconut-liquid-nitrogen-popsickles.
The third workshop I attended (already on day two) was focusing on post-production, presenting Capture One as editing (and many-more-things) software. Another unique occasion, having “the-guy-who-sits-there-and-develops-this-thing” right in front of you and being able to ask anything that comes to your mind. And I did. And he had answers, too.
When I wasn’t hopping from one workshop to the next there was a whole program of conferences on the most various topics – from innovation in food to trends in foodstyling, from self-marketing to the creation of a cohesive portfolio, from project presentations to development of a personal style – just to name a few.
Another thing the foodphotofestival is: it is the basically hugest exhibition of foodphotography of all times. A vast and colorful variety of fine art photographs, printed on excellent Hahnemühle paper, set up at impressive locations in a fine, airy exhibition display. Here are just a few snapshots from the series I most liked:
Third incredible thing: Portfolio reviews. Meaning you could just book a timeslot and get to speak to editors, art directors, magazine-makers, art buyers. Make contacts. Get honest feedbacks. And there really were free timeslots.
Well, on that one I almost peed my pants. But I did it in the end. I really got the chance to have my portfolio reviewed by the art director of German Feinschmecker magazine (can somebody pinch me please, so I wake up?) – a really nice man who, at the beginning of the story, “only” was my roomneighbor at the hotel 😉 He obviously continued being a really nice man, but on top of that he had advice and very valuable feedback for me, and also gave my little creative ego a good punch in the upward direction.
That was the point: there was openness and frankness and serenity at all levels. We just sat, and looked at my pictures, talked and had a laugh.
I saw Joris Luyten again – the first person to give me any skills in foodphotography ever (that had happened just four years before) and was so glad I could show him my progress and ask him for his opinion.
On saturday, there was the final screening ceremony, showing the inspiring work of many talented colleagues. The winner of the Foodphotography Awards (which both went to this great project) was announced and we celebrated with one good, long party night.
And then there were so many beautiful, interesting encounters.
That made me realize I’m not the only one who can’t sleep the night before a big shoot, not the only one struggling with art directors, clients, direct light, heat, or chefs. Not the only one who could spend hours seeking the best lighting for the same slice of lemon. That I am not alone believing we are not just doing some superficial commercial pics here but are crafting beauty, art, politics, culture.
I finally felt I could ask questions without fear, and received many long-seeked answers. I saw that exchanging knowledge is the most natural thing in the world.
And now, back home, as I’m standing in my little home-studio, pushing pumpkin seeds and bread crumbs around in my composition and struggling to find the right angle, I don’t feel alone anymore. I know that there’s so, so many more of us out there, I can imagine their happy faces doing the same thing in this very same moment, in their studios, kitchens, backyards or even in their garages. I know I’m not the only freak here. I am part of a beautiful, big-hearted community of professionals and artists.
A tribe, as somebody said it.
A big thank you to Günter Beer for coming up with this great idea and to his wonderful and tireless team for making all of this possible.
Disclaimer (iust because I know I may have sounded a little over-enthusiastic here and there): Nobody paid me for writing this blogpost. Actually, I paid to go to the Festival. I had traveling costs, and booked a hotel. And I would do so again and again. Just so you know Bescheid.
PS: In the following, because I missed the train on Sunday morning (Deutsche Bahn Online service and Danish railways, you two should talk a little more) : a few views of the pictoresque little town of Vejle.