Jonathan Gregson – A Passion for Photography
Photographer Jonathan Gregson is a force to be reckoned with; since our first awards in 2012 Jonathan's inspiring food photography has found its rightful place in each of our Finalist galleries at the Mall Galleries London. It is not just in one category either; in 2013 he was our Food Sn-apping and Food Portraiture category winner and in 2014 our Food and its Place winner, plus many other of his photographs have reached the finals.
We were absolutely thrilled that he decided to share his story on our blog and we hope you enjoy reading all about his passion for photography.
I developed a passion for photography from an early age, and as a teenager would spend my free time shooting landscapes in and around North Wales, where I grew up. I got myself a saturday job in the local photographic shop, Royston Photographic, owned by a jazz drummer called Ronnie Aggett, and managed by a truly wonderful landscape photographer, Philip Evans. Between Philip and Ronnie, the shop was a highly creative environment to be in and I would always look forward to work so I could quiz them about art and photography. Philip had photographed many books with Friends Of The Earth, and became a mentor to me as I learned the technical side. He and Ronnie would let me borrow cameras from the shop's private collection, and so I was lucky enough to experiment with Leicas, Hasselblads, Linhofs, and Rolleiflexes while I was still a teenager.
After my art foundation course, I left North Wales and pursued photography by studying for a degree at, what is now, the University of Gloucestershire. The course there allowed me to greatly develop creatively and I moved to London shortly after graduating to assist photographers and immerse myself in the industry. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best portrait, fashion, and still life photographers at the time, and drew much inspiration from them and the way they worked. The fashion side of things wasn't for me, but it allowed me to travel around the world on shoots and to build up a diverse travel portfolio. I made the transition from assistant to photographer two and a half years after graduating and was lucky enough to work for some of the best magazines around. Much of my travel work came from food magazines, as it is harder to illustrate a story about a specific food producer, or wine region from stock libraries. Often the only way was to commission the piece, and so food became a bigger part of my work. It was a natural progression then to shoot recipes and food in the studio, and this now forms the majority of my work. I guess I am an 'accidental food photographer' but I really found something I love.
Image below: Category Winner - Food and its Place 2014
Coffee Roasting Rwanda
I have recently diversified into still life photography, which encompasses food, but in a more graphic nature. I collaborate with a wonderful magazine called Cereal, and they allow me creative freedom on the series I shoot for them.
My advice to aspiring food photographers would be to keep things simple to start off with and build up your style from there. I always see food photography as a three way split and you need all three factors to be a success in order for the image to work - photography, food styling, and prop styling. It goes without saying that the way food is presented in camera has a huge effect on how successful the resulting image will be. Sometimes you just want to shoot an ingredient in a graphic way, but other times you want the food to tell its own story - pastry crumbs on a board around a steaming pie, and gravy running down the side of the dish. This tells a different story than if the pie was sat in the oven with the perfect pastry puffed up, unbroken and golden in the light of the oven. Both ways are just as valid, but demonstrate the way the food is presented can have a huge affect on the end aesthetic. At the moment you take the image, ask yourself if the food looks appetising. A simple test, but if the answer isn't 'yes' then the image has failed before it has even been taken. For me food photography must be about food first. This sounds obvious, but so many times, the food seems like an afterthought in food photography. Good prop styling is essential and can make or break an image, but props should always enhance, rather than distract from the food. Be sensitive to the nature of the food in front of the camera and use propping accordingly to tell the story around the dish.
Food photography is seeing something of a renaissance at the moment. You only need to look on instagram to see a stream of photographs of what people are about to eat. As a food photographer it is exciting to see the medium gain more recognition. We are becoming a 'foodier' nation and as such we are celebrating food much more. Instagram has played an important part in elevating food photography, however, photographers should be mindful that whilst pre-made filters can make your picture look 'interesting', they don't necessarily make them individual. As a professional, I try to avoid the 'vintage' or 'polaroid' look as photography has become saturated with the de-saturated aesthetic. It is somewhat ironic that in the digital age the most common look applied to images tries to make them appear like they were shot on out-of-date film from the 1960s. As a professional you need to constantly strive to achieve individualism, and sometimes that means swimming against the tide to get your pictures noticed.
For more inspiration and to find out more about Jonathan you can visit:
Website - www.jonathangregson.co.uk
Instagram - @jgjonnyg
Twitter - @gregsonjonathan