Who would have thought photographing granola could be so tricky?
Conditions were perfect. I was taking a workshop with Hugh and Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen in Aran Goyoaga’s gorgeous Seattle Studio. Hugh and Sara shared their process with us – she made the food from their new book Bowl + Spoon, while he photographed, taught and shared their secrets. The light was perfect – a gray but bright day, not glaring, not hot. Aran’s studio is full of inspiration– fresh food, flowers, props, her images and a soothing corner to lounge in full of cookbooks and sheepskins. The white walls and tall ceilings softly say anything is possible.
After Sara and Hugh demonstrated, they left us with their photogenic food and urged us to go, play and see what happens.
I picked up my portion of granola and topped it with the buffet of offerings. I snagged a few flowers from the vase above the sink and found an empty corner of an old wooden table. I wanted to tell the story of spring, a season in full swing on the west coast but yet to show up in Halifax. Fresh white yogurt, textured oats, pops of dried strawberry, blueberry juice and lilacs. The table was dark, but the bowl was white. Too white. I climbed the famous step stool, the tool required for food photographers around the world to capture the overhead shot, the one that tells the story of the table – in this case, texture, flowers, food and morning light.
I tweaked, shot, and tweaked again. It wasn’t working. The flowers were too overt, too contrived, the scene too bright and I too far away. I wanted to tell the truth – A darkish morning, flowers that were picked that dawn, gray skies, fresh food. Sara and Hugh are from southern California – Sara’s food is nourishing, beautiful and kissed with inherent sun. But today we were in Seattle where life is moodier.
At one point in the workshop Hugh sat us all down to discus VOICE. Hugh read his mission statement. He spoke of his love of light, how it wraps around all that surrounds us, and his desire to capture it on camera. Then he asked us to write down what we believed our voice to be. Some wrote in point form. Some poured it all out. A few didn’t write anything at all.
The workshop was filled with writers, designers, photographers, bloggers, career changers and cooks, all gathered together to improve on food photography skills. And inevitably, when creatives get together, self doubt is discussed. Some are simultaneously inspired and intimidated by what they see on-line. Some believe in themselves but don’t know how to articulate that through their work. Others are paralysed by what’s already out there, and wonder why, or if, there is room for them as well.
Hugh nipped this all in the bud with two thoughts (but my words, because I was listening with inspired eyes and my notes are scratchy) that really stuck:
-Think about who you are and what it is you are sharing with the world
-You are you, I am me, we are different, so there’s room for both of us
And that’s that. We are all different. Our perspectives are different, our lives are different, our stories are different and even the light through our kitchen window is different. Once we figure this out, our job is to show up everyday and work. Practice. Hone it. Take forty photos of granola, until it becomes your own.