March 12, 2006


(Berkeley, 2001. Image copyright Hamish Reid).

Maryanne O., an aquaintance of mine down the corridor in the old building in which I live and have my studio, does food photography professionally. You know, all those succulent and luscious-looking images of cakes or fruit or meals spread across tastefully-prepared tables or restaurant counters or magazine spreads — all that beautiful stuff you want to eat (or not) the moment you see it. I love it, and she's damn good at it.

This stuff fascinates me, and it's a specialist job which few people do really well: you have to know how to light things like cutlery and glass without distracting reflections, and how to make food look fresh regardles of how long it's been sitting there in your studio. Nowadays it's often done with a 4x5 and a scanning (digital) back, which is painstaking work (and this is how Maryanne does it for the truly detailed poster-sized commissions she sometimes gets). All of which is to say I'd be hopeless at it. But I love it, and some of the poster on her walls are extraordinarily beautiful.

On the other hand, the real world's more like this (from Irina Souiki's photo blog) — a beauty of another order, stranger, harder, more alien, slightly surreal and definitely more my way of seeing. It's the sort of thing that catches my eye too, and the aftermath of eating, or of food in general, always has those little sparks of unintentional surrealism or odd colours and shapes. The unexpected, lurking there as always.

Well, there's nothing overtly surreal in this image — taken after a good meal in my old North Berkeley house — just a (for me, at least) pleasing combination of geometry (all those circles and sharp edges), colour (that pastel green isn't common in shots like this), and texture. In this shot, of course, the reflections, the imperfections, the mess, the dirt — all that — were the whole point (as if I was going to scrub the damn sink for a shot like this…).

Plus, of course, for me there's the evocation of the meal it succeeded…

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Hamish Reid is a photographer, designer, and software engineer living and working in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. This is his full profile.

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