When it came to shooting the photography for the main body of The Foodie Bugle, we searched endlessly through food blogs to find someone whose work really stood out amongst the rest. It is so difficult to describe how the professionals “stand out” in a crushing, competitive world where, with the click of a mouse, the tweep of a tweet and the flicker of a text you are instantly in contact with at least a hundred people who will do the job for you, at a moment’s notice. How does a food photographer get noticed, amongst all the competitors’ famous names, illustrious roll call of clients and panoramic websites that convey trophy decades of bestseller, award winning cookbooks?
I suppose what makes Keiko Oikawa’s work stand out is the same reason that makes a Vilhelm Hammershoi painting enigmatic, captivating and compelling. Quietness. Keiko’s work is very quiet, hypnotic, contemplative and introspective. And if you were to meet her, you would very quickly realise how she has become the thinking food writer’s secret weapon of choice.
As all her fans will tell you, her website, www.keikooikawa.com, and her food blog, www.nordljus.co.uk, are very beautiful, poetic, colourful and artistically structured. She posts news and recipes infrequently, but when she does there is a sudden rush of traffic, commentary and effusive gushing noises. When she came to stay with us for a few days over the photo shoot for the launch of The Foodie Bugle, I was really surprised at how little equipment she carries. Standing barely five foot and very slim, she is the apogee of Japanese neatness. Despite living in Bury in Suffolk for many years and being married to an Englishman, she has not lost her Japanese manner, accent and outlook and is quiet, unassuming and polite. Her technique seems very simple, but, as with most visual arts, total concentration, attention to detail and long hours of endeavour are required to bring about the seemingly easy, effortless result. The day is punctuated with her almost childlike curiosity for all things artisanal and homemade.
Keiko shoots in natural daylight only, inside and outside, choosing her positions, angles, compositions and accessories with scrupulous diligence. She may spend what seems absolute ages fiddling, turning, replacing and editing her photographs, but the end result is a muted chiaroscuro effect, with light and shadow, simplicity and functionality at its core. It is what she leaves out that creates the intrinsic atmosphere of the photographs. She will not countenance ingredients or props in the frame if they were not used in the recipe and method, and she has a wide range of understanding of cookery from across the world. Her years of experience working for international magazines, publishers, advertising agencies and design companies have ingrained in her a low pain threshold for mediocre quality workmanship, and “instant” celebrity status for those who have not dedicated the requisite years’ apprenticeship to their profession.
She is commissioned to chart the seasons for The Foodie Bugle, starting with the first chilling promise of spring, through to the summer bounty (we hope) of The Edible Community Garden we are creating, autumn’s golden harvest and Christmas’s sparkly cheer.
And so we have created a sliding gallery for the photos on the Homepage, and thumbnails on the “About Us” page. The first of the series. We hope you enjoy it. Thank-you Keiko.