The art of food photography: Alessandro Guerani
The visual importance of food, and the difficulty of food photography
I spend a lot of my life looking at food.
I look at the fruit and vegetables so beautifully and carefully stacked in the market stalls forming masses of color and myriads of shapes. I look at the “masterpieces” of the great chefs who take so much care to artfully arrange the food on the plates so that it is as visually tempting as it is appetizing.
Without much success, I try my hand at photographing these beauties for my MarketDay and restaurant posts, but I never get it right. And when I develop recipes, I make the most embarrassingly amateur photos of what actually does taste good in the mouth, despite the lifeless-looking photo with its hit-or-miss compositions.
My point is that food photography is not as easy as it might seem. Like any photography or art form, you need the right lighting, composition and contrasts of colors. And above all, you need talent and a good, trained eye.
In my case, I often make everyone at the table wait to start eating while I try and get it just right, because I simply lack the true artistic talent and technical skills that it requires. That might partially be explained by the fact that I ran away from the classroom at the Cordon Bleu every time we had to arrange flowers, set tables, and do presentations, so what should I expect?
I look at food blogs and food photography, and no matter how much I look, my favorite photographer never seems to change. I think the secret of Alessandro Guerani’s success as a food photographer is that he is also a cook. He develops recipes and thinks with his taste buds, just like me, but he has the added gift of being capable of capturing visual beauty and essence, in the manner of the Flemish and Italian masters.
Food is not, after all, only a story of taste
Food is not, after all, only a story of taste. It is about texture and how it feels in your mouth. It is about whether it looks appetizing, how it is presented on the plate. It is about the smells coming from the kitchen, gently seducing you to the table, and the taste you have while it’s in your mouth and the aftertaste that lingers. It can even be about sound, for example, when the alcohol goes up in flames as they flambé your crêpes Suzette.
The enjoyment of food is a coming together of all the senses, and when all the senses are happy and content, you come away from the table satisfied.
About the photographer, Alessandro Guerani
Alessandro Guerani was born in Bologna, Italy, in 1969, where he still lives. He started using cameras at the age of twenty while studying Medieval and Renaissance art history.
After college, Alessandro worked as an intern in a professional photography studio, and that’s where it all seems to have come together. Afterward, it was clear to him that food and still life photography were his calling.
But the underlying secret of Alessandro’s success is not as simple as that. He obviously has an exceptional visual sense and the technical skills required to turn this into art, but he also loves good food, especially traditional Italian cuisine, with its multitude of flavors and combinations. As a result, he knows how to make all the senses come alive in a seemingly simple photograph.
Guerani is a master of lighting, and is meticulous about every visual detail. His photos are full of color and contrast, making them rich and full of depth. They sometimes verge on the Medieval, and at other times, on the Renaissance or the Baroque. At still other times, they are spartan and ultra-contemporary, but they are always beautiful. And they always make my mouth water and my eye twinkle.
But above all, they are more than food photography. They are art. Slide-showing through his photos on my large-screen iMac truly makes feel like I’m walking through an art gallery. In the photos above, the vegetables, carrots and artichokes are worthy of a Chardin; the silver filigree platter with apricots is as rich in tone, texture and contrast as the great Italian Renaissance painters; the intermingling of the blue and white tones in the third photograph, so beautifully composed, bring back memories of blue Delft, French faience, and luxurious Italian country linen tablecloths. The knife handle is pointed toward the viewer, inviting the viewer to pick it up and take a taste.
True art is when all the criteria come together in a perfect balance. Guerani not only captures the image of the object he is photographing. He understands the very essence of its beauty and calls on every sense, thus making it much more than a simple picture on your run-of-the-mill food blog.
Recent tweets @RamblingEpicure and @SwissFoodies, 27 March 2010
Food and health
News for real foodies: recent tweets @RamblingEpicure and @SwissFoodies:
Food topics and trends 18 March 2010
SeattleTallPopp Waaa?!? Forget goat or cow milk cheese. NYC Chef Angerer makes breast milk cheese. Milk source? His wife! Recipe.
THE RAMBLING EPICURE How To Never Look Fat Again: Dressing Thinner. Time Magazine.
guardianfood Is molecular gastronomy dead? by @TimHayward
THE RAMBLING EPICURE Time Magazine: study says women who drink tend to be thinner. What’s all that about?
Now on Tablet Talk: Food writer & cultural historian Josh Ozersky lays out his burger purist’s manifesto.
Atlantic_Food Egg-less mayo: A travesty or treasure? Introducing milk mayo — the Portuguese take on the mother of all French sauces.
goodandbadfoods Meryl Streep: A veteran green activist.
THE RAMBLING EPICURE Swiss and international food news.
THE RAMBLING EPICURE 15 chocolate-covered stowaways arrested, found buried in more than 20 tons of cocoa powder.
goodandbadfoods 18% tax on soda equals 5 pounds weight loss, study finds.
davidlebovitz At the Palais de Tokyo cafeteria drinking jus de tomate, and the cashier gave me specific instructions on how to drink it.
THE RAMBLING EPICURE Learn baking at the Sainsbury’s baking college!
KyFarmersMatter Every State needs this! Indiana, UROCK! Connecting communities 2 freezer beef farmers ~Easy oppy 2buy local beef
LocavoreBlog Should Farmers Speak at a Govt Hearing on Farming?: This week marks the first of a series of antitrust “workshops…
THE RAMBLING EPICURE Mindful Eating for weight loss.
This week’s foodie overview
I spend a lot of time reading, researching and tweeting about food and restaurants these days, so I thought I’d jot down my tweets from the last few days. These are from both The Rambling Epicure and Swiss Foodies and should give you an overview of what’s going on in the foodie world this week, in Switzerland and around the world.
Sometimes I couldn’t resist writing about the snow and skiing conditions, because that determines how a lot of us in Switzerland plan our weekends, and therefore what restaurants we go to or what recipes we cook up. And of course occasionally, watches and wine . . . and this week, the Vancouver Winter Olympics and those cute wooly pigs you see in the photo.
The wooly pig, which gives some of world’s most juicy and flavorful meat and fat, raised using special Austrian techniques, is one of the latest food trends. It is in fact correctly called the “Magalitsa pig, also known as the ‘curly haired hog,’ and is a breed of pig that originated from Hungary and the Balkans known for its thick wooly coat,” according to Pub Sub.
You can taste wooly pig tonight and tomorrow, 23 and 24 February, at the Chalet-des-Enfants in Le Mont-sur-Lausanne.
The complete menu, including dessert, goes for CHF 59. Reserve by calling +41 021 784 44 80 or +41 076 565 31 58.
This week’s foodie overview
I spend a lot of time reading, researching and tweeting about food and restaurants these days, so I thought I’d jot down my tweets from the last few days. These are from both The Rambling Epicure and Swiss Foodies and should give you an overview of what’s going on in the foodie world this week.
This week was the countdown to Valentine’s Day, so I listed oodles of Valentine’s dinners, weekend packages at hotels and chocolate shops. You can find the Valentine’s venues I tweeted last week in the 20 Valentine venues, posted earlier this week.
Sometimes I couldn’t resist writing about the snow and skiing conditions, because that determines how a lot of us in Switzerland plan our weekends, and therefore what restaurants we go to or what recipes we cook up. And of course occasionally, watches and Alinghi . . .
Remember, these are just tweets
Remember these are just tweets, so they are short and sweet. They are not particularly orderly; I just tweeted the information as I found it.
I suggest you skim over the headings, and if you’re interested, just click on any of the links that interest you in order to read the detailed article.
Who knows, this might even tempt you to start tweeting yourself!
This week’s tweet list
20 Valentine venues: restaurants, chocolate and hotel packages for the “big day”!
Valentine’s events in La Gruyère.
Valentine’s package at Bernard Ravet, CHF500, hotel, champagne, 9-course dinner, breakfast for two, Relais & Châteaux.
Restaurants in French-speaking Switzerland w/ Valentine’s specials; just click on your canton! NOT TESTED BY THE RAMBLING EPICURE.
GenevaLunch: Lake Geneva Valentine’s cruise.
Ramada Geneva offering Valentine’s Day brunch as well as candelit dinner.
Hôtel des Armures in Geneva: special Valentine’s package, rooms, champagne, breakfast and chocolate.
Valentine’s package at Hotel Royal Geneva. Le Duo, chic delish restaurant & brasserie, chef trained by Bernard Loiseau.
Jamie Oliver’s Valentine’s Day menu, along with recipes and tips for a romantic feast.
GenevaLunch: Valentine’s for the “older” crowd.
Vineet Bhatia, the Bombay-born chef who first got a Michelin star at his Chelsea restaurant Rasoi, and another one a few months ago at his Geneva restaurant Rasoi By Vineet in the Mandarin Oriental, is now off to Abu Dhabi, reports Perpetual Traveller Overseas.
Bhatia changed the face of the Indian culinary scene in London, where practically every restaurant served the same old same old, by breaking out of these boring boundaries and changing it into something modern, innovative and competitive. The number of modern Indian and Indian fusion restaurants in London, from budget price to upscale, has increased significantly as a result.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is sponsoring its annual 15-day culinary get-together of starred chefs from around the world, starting on February 5. The meals will take place in Abu Dhabi’s most prestigious restaurants, with the guest chefs, who have twenty-two Michelin stars in all, working with the resident chefs. It is a real meeting of East and West.
Bhatia will be working with the chefs at Yas Island Rotana, a restaurant serving both North and South Indian cuisine, from 16 to 19 February 2010.
For more information, contact Gourmet Abu Dhabi.
Mostly Eating is one of the most well-balanced vegetarian sites I’ve seen. It is overflowing with creative, tasty combinations of flavors, and contains recipes for every course. The chestnut, parsnip and orange soup recipe is perfect for this time of year, as is the cauliflower and white bean purée. The blog does include some non-vegetarian dishes, but there is a definite emphasis on meatless.
Molecular cuisine and much more
The British Larder food blog has a sleek, cutting edge design to match its daring, cutting edge recipes. There is an emphasis on desserts, with recipes such as tamarind pears with creamed tapioca and toffee pear lollipops and lots of espuma recipes. The photos are drop dead beautiful and the general cooking tips and safety awareness information is quite useful. Very professional site.
Essentially healthy food
Essentially Healthy Food is running over with beautiful photos of colorful, tasty and often surprising combinations, with recipes such as beef stew with globe artichokes, olives & pumpkin dumplings or swiss chard salad with raisins and pine nuts, perfect for this time of year.
For chocolate dessert lovers: moelleux au chocolat!
For those of you who can never pass up the moelleux au chocolat, or molten chocolate cake, when you see it on a menu (I’m one!), check out Gastronomers Guide.
The recipe is American, so it needs a little adaptation for a Swiss or European kitchen, but that is simple enough. Replace the bittersweet chocolate by a good quality dark chocolate from your favorite chocolate shop, and use a vanilla bean in place of the vanilla extract. The cayenne gives the cake an non-traditional Aztec flavor, which I love, but some may prefer to leave out. 450° F is 232° C, and be careful because precise temperature is very important. The altitude may also affect how long it takes to cook, so watch after it carefully. Four-ounce custard cups are the equivalent of about 12 dl.
Swiss recipes: FXcuisine
With a background in international finance and law, François Xavier, who is Swiss, publishes two recipes a week.
His Swiss apple roesti is an amazingly simple, but tasty recipe, which he demonstrates in a witty video.
His recipe for Swiss apple pasta (see photo at left) is an interesting twist on a traditional Swiss dish, spätzle. Both are seasonal, because it is certainly Apple Time.
Kids in the kitchen: Oui, Chef
A former banker, Steve Dunn is based in Paris. He has five children, and for the last two years has devoted himself to teaching them how to cook and eat right, with recipes such as his bran muffins even your kids will like recipe.
For scrumptious takes on traditional British desserts: Woody the Foodie
Woody gathers recipes from chefs he admires. His sticky chocolate and toffee pudding recipe, inspired from Gordon Ramsay, is a masterpiece of a recipe, as is his chocolate bread and butter pudding, based on a James Martin recipe from the BBC food site.
Great info on everything to do with cooking: Cooking Up A Story
Tips on cooking up fresh pumpkin and how to choose just the right pumpkin. As Americans and Canadians probably already know from experience, the water content of European pumpkins is often quite different from that of the North American varieties, which becomes a real problem when you’re using North American recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Fortunately, farmers markets in the Lake Geneva region offer a wide variety of pumpkins, so you should be able to find the right variety so you can still make your family recipes. But I do forewarn you: pumpkin pie can be tricky, so it’s best to do a trial run before the Big Day.
And don’t forget to save the seeds. Larita’s pumpkin seed recipe is a bit too American, in that we tend to use more natural ingredients in Switzerland, but one could perhaps use Migros or Coop “Country Potatoes” seasoning and simply skip her American smoke flavouring. In this case, it would be best to leave out the other spices, since this seasoning is in fact a mixture of some of the same spices.
To launch the chasse or hunting season: Wild River Review – Wild Table
Warren Bobrow’s new blog is full of old-fashioned and traditional recipes with a modern edge, as well as tips on how to live the gentleman’s life in general. Try his pumpkin-filled pasta recipe.
For manifestos on the importance of buying local food, as well as traditional recipes and food ideas: The Slow Cook
Ed Bruske is really just a foodie who engages in the concerns of a hungry planet, so you will find a variety of food-related topics, as well as recipes. I particularly like his “I’m an Elitest” post, in which he addresses the “ravings of James McWilliams, the writer who argues that there’s something sinister about the local food movement,” because it gives you both sides of the story: Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry vs. James McWilliams.
For a homely English slant: Yummy Homely Food
Laure Moyle took a 3-month holiday, but has finally returned just in time for chocolate week. She creates original, yet somewhat traditional recipes, using traditional British ingredients. Since she grew up in France, they often have a touch of the French, and use the local ingredients she finds near her home in Sussex. Sometimes it’s nice to have simple, unpretentious, yet good quality, comfort food.
She puts a particular emphasis on getting Kids in the Kitchen.