Finding that winning shot…
The reigning Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year is David Griffen. His image ‘Smoked Wings’ was the winning entry of the Philip Harben Award for Food in Action and went on to become the Overall Winner for 2015.
We caught up with David recently to find out more about how he captured that winning shot.
I spent a lot of time travelling in Asia as a kid so I knew I could get some colourful images out there for the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year competition. Last January, I stopped off in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on the way back to the UK from Australia. I had a meeting with a client in the city and I was excited about finding some good street food to shoot. After doing some research, I found about a street called Jalan Alor: a street food mecca. I knew it would be touristy, but I also knew there would be plenty of great subject matter. I went to Jalan Alor three nights running and there was a great vibe. I spotted the chicken-smoking guy at the end of the road just when I was about to pack my gear away. He had his tunes on, and was really going for it as he cooked the chicken wings. Each time I went back, it got better. One night he was wearing an awesome shirt and trainers, so I could see he was a real character. So much of food photography is just about food, but the people who produce it and cook it are a big part of the story for me.
Top street photography tips from David
I think it’s important to revisit a good place for photography and keep working it. I was very aware that I was walking around back streets at night, but as I kept going back I got more comfortable and started to do better work. The locals started to recognise me. Often with photographing people you have to be seen before you can vanish – you become familiar and they lose interest. This is important at markets, as you are bound to create a stir with a big SLR, monopod and gear for video. It was clear I was serious, and not just taking holiday snaps. Going back to a market means you don’t have to shoot with a really long lens, either, you can get in closer. It feels more natural and open.
As well as Kuala Lumpur, I left the city to visit Malacca, which is an interesting old port, and Ipoh where my client’s family is from. When working in these places I find it easier to be by myself. It’s hard if you’re trying to combine serious photography with a family holiday. I think when shooting full-on for a project, you have to be by yourself, and find your own path.
Please tell us a little about a day with David Griffen when you are in the studio
We run a bespoke rustic kitchen studio in Cornwall, where we specialise in shooting stills and video of recipes for various clients. We have a great selection of props and backgrounds, and often venture over to the woods opposite to light a campfire or bbq.
Do you prefer working in the studio or being out on location?
I like both, for different reasons – it's great to be in the studio where everything is controlled and organised, but I also love getting out and about and shooting on location as you have to think on your feet and use the environment around you to produce images.
What were the food photography highlights for you in 2015?
I have been involved in a bunch of cook books, and in 2015 we completed a cook book project for the client in Malaysia that I met up with when I shot the Smoked Wings image. Returning to Malaysia to shoot the book was definitely a highlight of 2015 for me.
Any New Year photography resolutions for 2016?
I want to do a little more work abroad this year – I have shoots planned for Canada, Budapest, Sydney, Dubai and France, looking to spend some time in LA or New York too.
Please tell us about any of your latest projects, exciting news that you would like to share!
We're having a lot of fun so far this year doing quite a bit of stop animation in the studio and also working with some fantastic local produce on a couple of cook books.
Coming up in April, I'll be speaking about food photography at the Terroir symposium - Toronto. The only downside to crossing the pond is it that I can't make it to the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Awards ceremony this year, but I will be avidly following it online. Have fun!