Food Photography from South Australia to Tarragona and Cornwall

Once upon a time I wanted to be a chef. I had just finished High School and was living with my parents in an old renovated church in the middle of some market gardens in South Australia where I grew up, surrounded by Brussel sprouts fields. I got a job as a kitchen porter in a top restaurant and used to walk along the train lines to get to work.

Then I went travelling to Europe with a new camera and a 100 metres of bulk loaded black and white film. When I got back to Australia I lived in a dark room for weeks on end and that was it: my love of photography was born.

I studied for a Diploma of Commercial Photography at the Douglas Mawson Institute of Tafe in South Australia and got a good understanding of the physics and chemistry behind traditional emulsion based photography. Years later I taught myself about digital – at college we only had one lesson a week on the computers back then, scanning film.

A hundred rubbish jobs later, I moved to the UK to live with the lady who is my now wife. The move was impetus enough to go out on a limb and work at becoming a full time photographer.

In the very beginning it was a big learning curve for me – you have to learn about being in business for yourself and do a lot of jobs for very little money. Luckily I like driving – I almost killed our car that first year. Even now I do a bit of work every day of the week – it is really hard to find a balance.

Being invited to exhibit in Tarragona, Spain in 2011 at the International Food Festival alongside leading food photographers from around the world was a pretty significant event for me. I saw so many beautiful photographs and had a chance to meet other photographers. I learned that most were in a similar position of constant marketing and finding that things were continually getting more competitive. Even the most seasoned photographers were always striving to stay at the sharp end of what they do, not getting complacent.

Living in Cornwall I am surrounded by beautiful raw ingredients and the stunning environment in which it is produced. Most of the chefs I work with love using this produce in a simple way, to throw a spotlight on its quality and flavour. I love shooting the whole story of food, from the furrow of a field, through the kitchen, and finally to the plate. I feel an affinity with the creative process of a kitchen, and am always raiding cool rooms looking for produce to shoot in between dishes.

I’m happy to shoot a dozen dishes before lunch time, then shoot the activity of lunch service in the kitchen, and finish in the afternoon with some portraits, interiors or more food. I work quickly and like to use natural light whenever possible, but I always carry at least one set of Elenchrom Quadra lights, a big soft box, a scrim and a reflector.

I enjoy working with all of the talented chefs and producers in the South West who love what they do, and use or grow beautiful produce. London Chefs are an inspiration too – I love catching the train to town. It’s lucky that I am happy on the road – often the family comes along for the ride as the boys are not in school yet. I love the sleeper from London to Cornwall, it’s still the best sleep I get.

My inspiration comes from many places. I was lucky enough to see a retrospective of Pierre and Giles in Paris a few years ago – I have always loved their vibrancy and madness. I love colour.

Last year I built a wood oven in the garden and this year I would like more time to use it. I am looking forward to spending more time with our two boys, taking them camping and eating outside. The vegetable garden is almost back in action too.

We have three chickens (Chooks) called Carrots, Peas and Chips. In the summer our neighbours all swaps produce, we are the only ones with chickens but we end up with some real treats.

In response to all the food blogs that are on the Internet, I created a Blog too at Mobile Phone Food Photography to try and reach out to cooks and chefs who produce the most beautiful food in their kitchens and lose that beauty by taking poor quality photographs of the dishes or ingredients with their mobile phones.

If I had to give advice to any aspiring food-interiors photographers I would say that there is a great deal to learn by assisting an established, professional photographer (which is something which I, sadly, did not do). If you love what you do, you will want to do it all of the time, you will want to make it work and you will want to be good at it. This equates to long hours of hard work and countless setbacks, but I cannot think of a job that I would rather do.

Further Information

David Griffen photography:

Mobile Phone Food Photography Blog:

Follow David on Twitter: @DavidGriffen

Like David on Facebook: GriffenPhotography

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