Photography was always a huge hobby, ever since I was young. I started work as a journalist, first in news, then travel and wine magazines and photography fitted in very well with that. I ended up as editor of a wine magazine. It was only when I took a break for maternity leave that I started thinking about switching to photography full time.
In order to train I joined an institution called the British Institute of Professional Photography, as they offered a mentoring service, as well as a variety of training days. So, I could send in CDs from a job, and my mentor would criticise them. There was rather too much criticism in the beginning! My training was originally in portrait photography, but there are so many similarities in terms of light, shape, form and background.
I was lucky because of my previous career I not only knew what kind of images magazines were looking for but I had also worked alongside many photographers and knew many food and drink PR agents that I could approach. Just like anyone else I had to deliver good photographs so I only approached them once I had done the most enormous amount of practice and training and could be very sure of producing exactly what they required.
My first career break arrived when I was put forward by a food writer I knew, to cover a food and wine event on Necker Island, Richard Branson’s private island, for Telegraph Ultra Travel magazine. The fact the art editor agreed to use me, on the basis of my website, without knowing me, suggested that I was doing something right. Once on Necker I worked very hard to create beautiful photographs and achieved a five page spread in the magazine.
I love doing Michelin-starred restaurant shoots – as the food is just so beautifully presented, an artwork in itself. The chefs are so passionate about what they do, I love listening to them talking about their work, seeing their flavour combinations and become really inspired by their enthusiasm for their food.
It is likely that the trends in food photography will probably remain rustic and relaxed for a while, perhaps as long we are in recession. This sells a kind of pure and simple lifestyle that is very appealing at the moment – home-grown vegetables, rustic paint table tops and so on.
My influences are classic portrait and street photographers such as Cartier Bresson, Richard Avedon & Diane Arbus. I also love the crafted work of Annie Leibovitz and for the ultimate food photography image it has to be Edward Weston’s Pepper No 30 – it is such a masterpiece derived from just a green pepper.
I live with my two children, and my partner. I do find it hard working away from home and as a result I don’t do half as much travel as I would like, or should do – it is all a compromise.
My garden is tiny and made even tinier by endless pots of herbs, tomatoes, green beans, and carrots, so I long for big garden. I really enjoy sourcing good food and cooking it: there are some great places in south west London, with a lively market on the Northcote Road with fish, bread, pastries and cheese. In Tooting there are wonderful Indian markets – so many brightly coloured spices and fruit and vegetables I hardly recognise.
If I had to give career guidance to anyone looking to enter this profession I would say train and practice all the time. Build your knowledge up continuously and keep your senses open to all that is around you and all that you can learn from others. Love food as much as you love photographing it. Work very hard, and follow your own instincts, not those of others.
Cath Lowe Photography: www.cathlowe.com