We are delighted to bring you the first interview to our new mobile photography and art food column – ‘Beet Around The Bush’, edited by multi award winning artist, Armineh Hovanesian. This interview is with a very talented photographer, Eleni Gemeni from Luxembourg.
Please continue to post your mobile portraiture to our dedicated Flickr group or use this hashtag on Instagram #tawbeetaroundthebush, this way, Hovanesian will search through these artists to interview next, it might be you! (foreword by Joanne Carter).
All images in this interview ©Eleni Gemeni
What first interested you in food photography?
The many “faces” of food and how one can interpret them in a photo. I like to see food, or a dish, as a “portrait”. So, as with any other portrait, I can photograph it in many different and experimental ways. Sometimes showing its raw beauty, its freshness, its appeal and sometimes showing what it represents. To me, food can be anything from a basic need for survival, an important part of our cultures, up to a gastronomic delight and an indicator of one’s lifestyle.
Tell us a little about where you live and if, at all, it influences your photography
I live in Luxembourg. With its many traditional, bistros, ethnic, high-end and Michelin-starred restaurants it is a place of many culinary delights. Surrounded by France, Belgium and Germany with regions notorious for their traditional and contemporary cuisine, food is elevated to a highly inspirational gastronomic palette.
Which photographers, if any, have most influenced your work?
Back in 2010, I opened a Pinterest account to follow some mixed media art boards. Soon after, I started following photography boards as well, especially the ones about still life and food photography. So I created my first board about chocolate. I can still remember an amazing moody photo of melted chocolate by food stylist and photographer Eva Toneva. It was her photo that made me want to start with food photography in the first place. Then, eager to learn more about still life and food photography, I enrolled in Andrew Scrivani’s online workshops. Scrivani is a commercial photographer and director with extensive experience in areas of food and lifestyle photography and videography and definitely one of the best instructors I have ever had.
What’s a good photograph in your opinion?
I confess, I am always fascinated by all these mouth watering photographs that make me want to taste that very food that very moment. Besides these, I am intrigued by photos that I can artistically resonate with or be inspired by. I like when I see a rather common or mundane subject being photographed in a completely unexpected way.
How many shots does it take you, on average, to get the perfect image that you’re looking for?
I usually start by taking 10-15 photos using different angles and apps. If I cannot find any satisfactory photos among these shots, then I know I have to try out a different plating, lighting or composition.
When you visit a restaurant and see something on the menu, do you think more about it will taste or how it will look?
Actually both; let’s not forget we do eat with our eyes first. And something that looks good, will most probably also taste good.
How did you develop your aesthetic? What inspires you?
I am a hobbyist photographer and an enthusiast mobile photographer. Not having to meet any clients’ demands and the fact that I can take my photos with the ease of a mobile phone camera and the diversity of mobile apps, I have the freedom to try out many different approaches and aesthetics. Most of my first food photographs were inspired by the paintings of the Old Masters. Over the past two years, I have been experimenting in both vintage and contemporary style compositions and in low and high key shots. I tend to like moody photographs more. I feel that a dark ambient light emphasises and compliments my subjects more.
Can you walk us through the process of a shoot, from concept to the final shot?
My workflow consists of three stages. The first stage is working on an idea. What would I like to photograph and why? Once I have picked up my theme, I start brainstorming on how to photograph it. This second stage is really fascinating. It covers shopping for the hero subjects, searching for the right props, preparing the desired dish, if not shooting raw food, and plating everything together to create the final composition. Then comes the third stage. This is the time to choose the right lighting, set up all necessary backdrops, diffusers, reflectors, frame the food in the most complimentary way, making sure to be as quick as possible so that the food doesn’t go bad, and finally take the actual shots trying different angles and apps and do any necessary post editing. I like to do as little post editing as possible. Some retouching to remove any unavoidable reflections or unwanted spots, some tweaks in exposure, saturation and curves if needed and then maybe apply a filter that would emphasise the desired details.
What is your favourite dish or type of food to shoot?
My favourite subjects are fruits, raw veggies, pasta, chocolate, desserts and coffee.
How do you decide what is the best angle to shoot from?
It depends on the type of food or dish and the overall composition. Since I am shooting with my iphone, I prefer using the straight-on or overhead angle. I believe that these two ways allow me to focus on key details, emphasise the textures and make the food look rich and appetising.
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