Fine Dining Columbia

In 2018 Tom Parker took home the trophy for the InterContinental Food at the Table category for his image ‘Fine Dining Columbia’.

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Technical: Canon 5d Mark 3 50mm 1.2

Description: This is the executive chef of the famous 1621 restaurant at the Santa Clara Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. It was shot for Departures, USA.

Today we have invited Tom to the blog to talk about his background and work in the sector.

Welcome Tom, we would love to hear more about your background and how you got into photography?

I worked in the city for 2 years and realised it wasn’t for me, so I moved to Nepal to write for a communist newspaper, which couldn’t have been more far removed. I bought a SLR camera and started taking photos there. I then did a masters in journalism and managed to land a job as a reporter for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service working across a number of programmes. I was freelancing for a local newspaper in London for one day a week at the same time. I then moved to Sri Lanka as I wanted to see more of the world. I was working in radio still and shooting for myself. The Asian Tsunami then hit three months after a I arrived. I was suddenly being asked by many of the top international publications to shoot for them. Over the course of the proceeding year, I started working full time as a photographer. And the rest is history - I’ve travelled to over 80 countries and am not stopping.

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What is it you love about photography of food in particular?

I am a massive foodie myself, which is one of the luxuries of travelling for work because I get to eat so many different cuisines. It’s great because you are collaborating with chefs and stylists and because it’s often a static subject, you have to use your brain in a different way creatively. But I now try and get as much movement in my food photography as is possible.

What’s a standard work day like for you?

It varies massively depending on what I am doing. If I am shooting then I am usually abroad so it means getting up super early either to catch the best light or because working with a team means a lot of preparation and discussions. Photography is largely about experimentation in spite of forward planning. Shooting days are long and mentally and physically exhausting. As the photographer you are basically responsible if the shoot goes well or badly and there are no second chances so the concentration is enormous. After the shoot which can often be 12 hours long, I have to go and have a brief check of the photos and I often make a mood board so I can see how the shoot looks as a whole and what elements I am missing. If I am not shooting, I am usually at my studio, editing and retouching and planning new shoots and meetings. With the digital world there is so much work which you have to do following up, so it’s not all glamourous.

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Tell us a little about where you live and work? Where do you draw inspiration from?

I live in Brixton, which helps that it’s a massive foodie destination. It’s also really multicultural which I feel very at home at. My studio is also in Brixton, so it’s not a huge effort for me to pop in when I need to do something. Being in London you have a massive supply of great creative people around which is way to take for granted.

My inspiration - from everywhere, from the world in general and the people I meet. I also love other photographers and like to keep an eye on what is happening- how people are shooting stylistically and also subject wise. It’s a full on job trying to stay inspired sometimes as we live in such a picture driven world so we are constantly bombarded with thousands of images every day.

How did it feel to hear your name called out as winner of the InterContinental Food at the Table category? Any highlights from the awards reception or exhibition to share?

It was fantastic - I have been lucky to win two years consecutively which is a real privilege. It’s always nice to meet people in the industry and the evening itself is really fun and of course seeing all the great work on show.

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What made you decide to enter the awards?

Winning my category the previous year and also it’s the best food award so it makes natural sense for me to enter as it’s great platform for people to see your work.

What are you working on at the moment? Any exciting projects you would like to share?

I am working on a lot more personal work at the moment, as it’s important to try and shoot what you want to produce, which is sometimes difficult as commissioned work can take over. I am just back from Borneo and Argentina which were both inspiring and beautiful places - I always try and tag on extra time in a country so that I can focus on a personal shoot. Although it’s so often that you only realise what the great project is once you’ve left!

To find out more about Tom visit:

Website: www.tomparkerphotography.com
Instagram @tom_parker_photographer

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