Does a food photographer have to be a foodie?
It’s not often that you find five photographers under the same roof working together in harmony, for a common goal. What do you call it? A flock of photographers? A swarm? A collective?
The guys at Phood Studios just call themselves friends.
From the communal table that serves as the gathering point for expansive buffet lunches everyday, to the coffee machine that constantly hums, grinding proper espresso - Phood Studios is as much about the convivial atmosphere of a buzzing café, an atmosphere that promotes creative industry - as it is a serious business dedicated to producing the best in food photography.
The ethos here is that work should be as pleasurable as the rest of life; the end result of gorgeous food shots is a thing in itself that inspires the best in us, that speaks to our need for the fundamentals to be elevated, to nurture, and to place happiness and beauty in the daily context.
Take the coffee machine for example. They had a meeting about what kind of coffee they all like. Some had a taste for it strong, others preferred it mellow, they all loved it freshly ground. So, a coffee machine that could adjust the strength for each cup was found. Then they taste tested for the perfect coffee bean…
And it really is strength in numbers: five photographers mean five times the resources, five times the equipment, the backdrops, the props. Five heads all sharing their advancements and ideas; when one has a breakthrough in style and technique, everyone gets to know. It’s a good thing they are such good mates.
Differences too are celebrated: Roo comes from a love of both food and fashion; it is colour and pattern that catch his eye, the abstract details like patterns in a cockle shell, the intricate ends of asparagus. He’s not a purist though, and will happily tweak colour and contrasts to get the image he wants.
Rich however, likes nothing better than to work with natural light to get the most realistic image possible, his enthusiasm for food – as subject of shooting and object of devouring - gets all his senses buzzing.
Tony was an aspiring poet and painter before realising that photography was a way to marry his technical brain with artistry. He sees the layering of elements to build up to the final image in the same way as details of a poem invoke meaning and the brushstrokes of a painting bring a canvas to life.
Kevin’s youthful wanderlust took him around the world and it was his constant motivation to capture what he saw that made him realise he was a photographer. Now, he fuels his creative energy by spending as much time in nature as possible, getting his hands dirty building a pizza oven in his backyard, keeping his eyes peeled for textures and images to launch photographic ideas from.
For Andy, the newest member of the team, mood is everything. He works at extracting intensity, mystery, drama through his use of props, light and texture.
Phood Studios also shoot video, where director of photography and resident film-buff Tony celebrates the movement of food: be it sizzling pancetta in a pan, a rich, steaming centre escaping chocolate pudding, the ripples of home-made ice-cream being scooped.
He says the art of food photography, be it still or moving, is all about making people feel like they want to eat.
That’s the brief, pure and simple.