When I was just 16 years of age, in the summer of 2003, I went to Brazil on my own on an exchange holiday. I had broken my arm and could not go surfing and swimming with all my friends, so instead I picked up a camera and started to shoot pictures of them. Taking in the natural beauty of the surroundings and documenting moments of gigantic waves crashing over the sharp rocks, walking through local markets observing and meeting locals, and seeing the rural side of the area through a lens was a new experience which I became fixated on.
The members of my family are extremely creative and artistic and I found my niche in photography. I have always been intrigued by light and the wonder of things that other people may not always see day-to-day. Finding the beauty in a simple and seemingly normal setting is both challenging and rewarding.
I went to The Hereford College of Art and Design to study photography and I continued this when I went to Brighton University and studied Editorial Photography. I am also a Chef at Jamie’s Italian Restaurant in Brighton so I feel I have a good understanding of how food is produced and what has gone into creating the dish. Much of what I have learned about photography (both creative and technical) has come after formal teaching – the intrigue and desire to expand my knowledge with regard to all aspects of photography has taken me in new, interesting directions.
At the moment I am at the point of possibly breaking into the food photography “scene”. I try to accept as much work as possible, even if I have to fund it myself, with my full-time job as a chef. I think that my job in the restaurant is extremely inspirational for my photography.
I like a rustic, Mediterranean style back-drop to food photography. I believe that it is immediately appealing to the viewer’s eye and for me it is reminiscent of time I’ve spent in Italy, France and Portugal.
There is also something I also really like about the professional kitchen setting – attempting to capture the buzz and passion of a working kitchen is a real challenge. There is an interesting contrast between the cold, steely look of the work place and the liveliness and colour of the people and food being produced that is fascinating to capture.
The feeling of passion in an environment, whether it is the beating heart of an enclosed professional kitchen or the quiet calm of a vast rural setting, is what stirs me and gives me the beginnings of a composition. As an example, in the professional kitchen setting, it is the passionate people that inhabit this backdrop that brings my composition, and the food within it, to life.
I like to keep my images rustic yet simple and balanced. I find that taking photos of homely food in a modern, professional kitchen means I am able to create a contemporary interpretation of a rustic dish. I think my work closely follows the trend in restaurants where food is more about the flavour than the finish, but the restaurants are modern and stylised – the environment refines the food.
When shooting food in these locations I love to get involved; whether this means helping in the preparation and cooking or just tasting and understanding what is central to the dish. This helps me stylise the images that I create. For me, I want people to understand that there are many elements and processes in one dish and while the final product is important, equally important are the individual ingredients that go in to it, such as freshly made pasta and hunks of cured meat ready for slicing.
I would love to work with many different international food producers, top restaurants and talented chefs and the photographer David Loftus. I really enjoy the beauty of his images. His delicate and detailed focus creates an unrivalled clarity and creates the impression of texture and dimension. His technical use of colour in his photographs is subtle but extremely effective. I aspire to have that kind of command within an image. I also enjoy the work of many art photographers such as Axel Hutte, Thomas Struth and Mark Power (who, coincidentally, taught me at university). They take a very different approach to their art compared to Loftus, and while Loftus gives me something to aspire to, these photographers inspire me, not just as a photographer but as a person, with their unique and exceptional view of the wider world beyond the interior.
I am influenced by many editorial shoots I see. I like to keep up-to-date with contemporary work and track the industry’s movements – made all the much easier by the increased dissemination of material in magazines, newspapers and web publications.
Normally I work from home, where I live with my girlfriend, but I also travel on location shoots. I love to cook at home as well as eating out in local Brighton restaurants. I am particularly drawn to Real Patisserie which is quite a dangerous place because once through the door it is hard to leave without lots of bags of wonderful treats.
Brighton is a fantastic place to live if you are a foodie and if you happen to be involved in the culinary and hospitality industry you have the opportunity to learn much more about local specialties and suppliers. For example, there is Garlicwood Farm near Horsham, where they breed rare animals and mature the meat slowly to create superior flavour. I hope to be shooting a series of images there over the coming weeks.
If I had to give career advice to anyone who is interested in becoming a food photographer, I would say the following five points:
1. Get yourself known: create an online portfolio, whether it be a website or a blog.
2. Interact via social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) and don’t be afraid to contact people within the industry.
3. Make use of the equipment you have: a good photographer doesn’t need the very best technology straight away. This will come in time – hopefully with success.
4. Go out and meet people: attend openings of restaurants, coffee shops and galleries. Take some business cards with you to pass around.
5. Never stop educating yourself. There is always something new to learn. Technological advances move quickly, it’s easier if you can keep up.
Jamie Orlando Smith: www.jamieorlandosmith.com
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamieosmith