This is getting crazy. Why crazy? Well how often do you get to interview photographers that you look up to? I actually get nervous emailing photographers that I admire. A lot of “what ifs” come to my mind. So you know how excited I was when Anna Williams said yes to letting me interview her. Her use of light and shadows is so amazing. Also be sure to check out her personal photography project, “The Voracity” where she explores hunger, consumption and beauty.
Q. Can you tell me what you’re trying to capture when you take your food photos?
A. When I photograph food I always think about how best to express the lusciousness of food. Good food wants to be eaten – I feel you can always find beauty in that idea. There is a real beauty in all food. Instead of just taking a picture of what is there on the plate I try to capture something luminous in the whole scene. You have to really feel into it, it isn’t something that comes from the technical side of things.
Q. What inspires you?
A. Doing personal work really inspires me because it comes from something within me – my own vision that just kind of comes out. It always feels like recharging the batteries. Also, I’m always inspired by the beauty in even the most mundane things – in the commercial world this is always what you have to do. And it isn’t something you can fake – sometimes it takes some searching but there is always a beautiful moment that can be captured. My kids are a great source of inspiration – the way they see the world and how much energy they have for everything. It has given me so much energy just to be around them, it is infectious! Finally – I’m really inspired by the creative people who are working so hard every day. Stylists are so important in this industry and the way they find the most amazing things and how hard they have to work on a shoot, I really have so much appreciation for what they do.
Q. What made you decide to go to school for photography?
A. I didn’t really go to school for photography – what drew me to that major was that first photo class where I saw how real moments could be captured onto a negative, and that instant in the developer tray when the image emerges onto the paper. The first time you see that, it is magic. After that I was hooked. When I moved to NYC I converted my tiny bathroom into a darkroom, just so I could see those images come up on the paper over and over. I was just back in my college town and visited my professor Pradip Malde – he has 2 darkrooms and his kids are even printing! That is so amazing – nothing will ever replace that first moment you see an image come into being. It is like being a kid all over again.
Q. How has the change in photography (from film to digital, from the dark room to the computer, from only a few to pretty much everyone owning their own dslr now) changed the way you see photography or changed the way you see things through the viewfinder?
A. I don’t think it has really changed the way I see things – the camera doesn’t matter very much. Light is the same now as it was before. Digital has made things a lot easier for me to shoot more and more for myself, which has become so important. So in a sense it has helped me get in touch more with my own vision. One thing that has changed so much is on shoots – the whole team gets to see the pictures come up on the screen, and make suggestions about composition. The pictures are so much more a collaborative effort than they used to be. And I think that has made me a much better photographer. I see more and more what it is that I want each photo to have, what it is that I can capture that is different than how someone else would see it.
Q. Any food photography heroes? If not any photography heroes?
A. Irving Penn has always been an inspiration for me. He was an all-around photographer and could shoot any subject and it would be beautiful, that is something I always strive for. His food images were so original and those same compositions and ideas are still being recycled today. Some of my contemporaries are doing amazing work, too. I really look up to Gentl + Hyers, having assisted them when I first got started, and now Andrea is consistently making beautiful work on her blog Hungry Ghost. They helped so many of their assistants start careers and I hope I can do the same for my own assistants! I also feel like Marcus Nilsson has really changed food photography to make it more messy and real. It was a subtle shift but he definitely changed the way people shoot. Also Con Poulos makes great pictures, and he is such a nice guy. His photos always his own touch. There are so many people doing great work!
Q. Best meal so far in 2012?
A. We’ve had a few great ones – I ate at a couple amazing restaurants in South Beach, OLA and the Dining Room. Chef Horacio Rivadero runs those restaurants and they’re both so different but the meals were exquisite! I also love the meals we have at home when the kids are so hungry and we all eat and are so quiet because the food is so good. When the kids aren’t able to talk at the table you know the food is simple and amazing. And there’s that pause at the end where everyone kind of looks around like ‘what just happened?’ I love that.