Last weekend I went on an Autumn styling workshop, taught by food photographer and stylist Carole Poirot at The Forge in Bristol. One of my favourite things about the workshop was the space it was held in – The Forge is one of those spaces that is designed with such thought. Every detail has been aesthetically considered, from the shelving in the kitchen, to the artfully distressed brick wall, to the plant arrangement in the bathrooms. It was so inspiring to spend time there.
Another amazing thing about the workshop was all the incredible props Carole bought with her – items ranging from an old skittle from a skittle alley, to vintage medicine jars, to feathers, to intricate gold spoons were spread out on a table, ready for us to play with. My prop collection at home consists of a few chipped plates, some torn pieces of linen and a couple of spoons given to me by my Grandma, so this was another level of prop euphoria.
Carole has such an eye for arranging all manner of different things together, and encouraged us to think carefully about balance when we were making our arrangements. We all picked out different objects from the array, and set about creating vignettes and flat lays with them. It felt so wonderfully self-indulgent to spend the day faffing around – arranging worn gold cutlery, scratched from years of use, alongside purple-hued hydrangeas and wooden boards. It really made me think more about the deliberate aesthetic decisions we have the opportunity to make everyday – and the simple pleasure that can come from a well balanced arrangement of carefully chosen objects. I went home after the workshop and spent a good couple of hours rearranging the objects in my room…
I have been feeling guilty for a while about not having posted on this blog since, ahem, July. I was feeling in need of a bit of shaking up and inspiration, so last weekend, I went to a photography retreat in the Cotswolds. The retreat (yes, there was meditation in a teepee) was run by Emily Quinton, who has set up Makelight, a community of digital creatives and photographers.
The weekend was exactly what I needed on many levels, both personally and professionally, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the fact that it came right when I needed it. I was feeling a bit emotional when I arrived for several reasons, and the healing effect of being sequestered away in the countryside with a lovely bunch of women was incredible. There was mindfulness walking, arranging apples and linen on wooden boards in photography workshops (with the incredible Catherine Frawley), and beautiful flowers that almost moved me to tears (and I’m not usually one to get emotional over floristry) by Jody Page. There was laughing, and wine. I slept like a log for 10 hours a night.
One of the talks that had the most impact on me was given by Kate from A Playful Day, who spoke about the blogging process – giving stories the time they need to evolve, and allowing yourself time to develop them. When they’re ready, they happen. Some burst from you, something you need to write straightaway, others take more time. I felt so much relief to hear this, as I always have this kind of imaginary template in my head of when things need to happen. But no-one’s going to notice if a blog post takes a bit longer, are they? The story will come when it’s supposed to. And come it has.
Last month, I went to Malta to visit my friend Paris, who’s recently moved there. I didn’t really know what to expect from the tiny Mediterranean island, as I booked my flights last minute, so there was little time for any pre-holiday research. So I just had to turn up and let it unfold. From cliff-top parties to swimming in azure blue sea, to g&ts on the balcony, there were many memorable moments.
There was one particular café we frequented for lunch, so much so that the owner would inquire ‘you want some more hummus?!’ every time we entered. But perhaps the most memorable meal was at a Lebanese restaurant. We ordered hummus (of course) and the Syrian roasted red pepper dip and walnut dip, Muhammara. This was unlike anything I’ve had before, so I immediately looked up the recipe and had a bash at recreating it. Of course, this is nothing like the original (especially as I burnt my peppers slightly) but given food is so much about context, it never is.
I sometimes like to remind myself that it is possible to take photos of things that aren’t food. For work, and for this blog, I take lots of photos of artfully arranged bowls of salad and carefully constructed burgers. Most of my time is spend thinking about food – what to cook and how to photograph it, mostly. So occasionally I feel the need to step out of my photography comfort zone just a bit, to push myself by having a go at taking pictures of things that I can’t eat afterwards.
I set off to visit my Mum in Devon and my Dad in Cornwall, armed with my main camera (I have two, but usually chicken out of taking my ‘proper’ one out on the road). But this time I decided to bite the bullet, thinking that there’s no point having a top quality camera if I don’t occasionally let it see outside the confines of my kitchen.
I had all the best intentions to focus on photographing landscapes: the gentle rolling hills of Devon and the rugged, windswept beaches of Cornwall provided ample inspiration. However, I still found myself gravitating to the smaller details in the landscape, such as the texture of moss on a wall. And yes, I sneaked a couple of food photographs in there too.
Landscape photography presented many challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. Just because you’ve got a wide-angle lens and some awe-inspiring landscapes at your disposal, doesn’t automatically mean that you can produce a good landscape photograph. Photographing wide vistas is a whole different skill, requiring a different sort of mindset entirely to the macro photography that I’m used to. The many different lighting conditions require lots of swift changes to the camera settings, and you need to use high f-stops to keep the sharpness throughout the landscape.
This trip consolidated for me the type of photography that I like the most. I am always drawn to the smaller details in a scene, picking out an interesting element rather than showing the whole view. Good photography, for me, demonstrates a new way of seeing the world, capturing a point of view that someone else might not have seen, thereby throwing a new light on the subject. What I want to communicate through my photographs is small, intricate details, rather than wide vistas. However, it was good to stretch my photography muscles a bit, but I’m looking forward to getting back in the kitchen.
There is a reason for my slightly sporadic blog posts over the last month or so. I’ve started a new job, as the marketing manager for a group of cafes in Bristol. A big part of this job is food photography, and I’ve been photographing the (large amount) of dishes on their new menu. It’s quite a different thing photographing food for a business and to a brief, rather than just on my bedroom floor for the blog, but I’m enjoying the challenge. This job unites all of the things I’ve been doing over the last few years in a pretty miraculous way. Aside from the photography, I’m managing all the social media and marketing schedules for five cafes. It’s a lot to take on, but I’m really enjoying it.
Hopefully things will resume to normal regularity in the next few weeks, once everything has settled down a bit. I have always been militant about putting up a blog post every week, and then realised that people probably don’t really mind if they’re a bit irregular. These things are always a lot more important in your own head than in anybody else’s. In the meantime, keep checking the website and Facebook to
The last few weeks have been oddly chaotic, given that I now don’t have a job. I have been frantically trying to fill my time – visiting friends in London and Brighton, and my Dad in Cornwall- so I don’t get too bored. I have also started looking for a place to live in Bristol, which involves rushing up at a moment’s notice to do a house viewing. I now understand that thing retired people say about not knowing how they ever had time to work.
On the odd day where I’ve not got anything else planned, I work on a blog post. I’ve really enjoyed taking more time over them. This one, for instance, was the product of an afternoon set aside specially to play with a new ‘prop’: a piece of slate. It’s not quite big enough to be a full background on its own, so I laid it on a chair, then arranged things on top. It’s surprisingly difficult to make pecans look like they have been casually scattered– whatever configuration I arranged them in seemed to look, well, arranged.
I am an avid granola fan, consuming it for breakfast almost every day. I pair it with some thick greek yoghurt, and sometimes some chopped banana. I keep expecting to get bored of it, but when I vary my breakfast by having toast, a little part of me wishes I were eating granola. So I thought it was high time I tried making some. There are no rules here – feel free to add any combination of nuts and seeds that you fancy. The maple syrup can be substituted for something else syrupy, such as honey, agave syrup, golden syrup or date syrup (actually, I might try that one next time..).