From The Lights of Santiago

I started thinking about becoming a photographer very early on in my life because my father was a photography enthusiast and he taught me the basics. I decided to become a professional photographer just a few years ago, however.  In reality I never thought that it would be something achievable, so I am really happy that things have turned out so well.

At first I studied graphic design at college, just to make my family happy. It was there that I learned many of the skills I now need in photography, such as composition, colour, image and the communication of ideas. I then enrolled in a technical school for photographers and I took the advertising specialisation. It was in my last year studying photography that I decided I wanted to be a food photographer.

I am always learning, teaching myself new skills and taking courses on both food styling and photography, reading good books, looking at a lot of different magazines and websites.

My career started by my doing one section for free in a food magazine here in Chile, where I live. Just one year later I was doing the whole photography and styling for the same magazine. It was difficult at the beginning, when nobody knew who I was, but people started to believe in me really quickly. After that commission I was never unemployed again, I remained freelance and the work offers just kept coming. Now I am even collaborating with the Italian food magazine called “La Cucina Italiana”, so I do consider myself most fortunate indeed.

A big break in my career happened when I took part in a food photography exhibition in Tarragona. I sent some pictures to the exhibition and they chose me as a finalist. I was one of the top five photographers and it was a great surprise for everyone including me.

Above all, I enjoy doing food reportage. If I did not have bills to pay, I would love to do just that as a full-time career, but it is highly specific work, and it is not viable to do only that type of work.  I love to travel, I think it is the most interesting thing to do in the world, and with a food focus it means that travelling becomes such an enjoyable, interesting and enjoyable activity.

Prochile, a governmental entity I work for in Southern Chile, introduced me to the wonderful Mapuches tribe, who taught me to go back in history and cook according to the seasons. They live in a beautiful, lush, green landscape and use products and ingredients I have never even seen before in my life. It was the food reportage of that region which I showcased at the food photography festival in Tarragona. I am very much led by my emotions, and need to feel visceral pleasure in a shot. If the subject matter does not evoke strong feelings, then I find it difficult to translate that into a really good photograph.

Europe and Australia have a great tradition of producing excellent cookery books, and I would very much like to do more editorial work in the future. For 2012 I am working on a book project with a great friend of mine who is a professional Chef.

There are many sources of inspiration in my life, but the photographer that inspires and informs me the most is Ditte Isager: she has a very elegant methodology and owns her very particular style, whether she does contemporary or homely photos. The work of David Loftus is seminal, he has influenced so many food photographers that have come after him. I was fortunate enough to go on a wine photography workshop with Markus Bassler, and I think he is really talented, a master of his craft.  Phillipe Vaurés Santa Maria’s work is quite exquisite and unusual, I love his style and the atmosphere of his photos isbeautiful. Searching and analysing new portfolios is something I very much enjoy doing.

I live in the capital of Chile, Santiago, where all the work and the contacts are. For now it is the center of business life and this suits me well at this stage in my career. Yet one day, when I am more established in my work, I hope to be able to live outside the city, in the countryside, near open fields. I think I would feel a great deal happier to be connected to nature and a simpler lifestyle, leaving the worries of the big city behind me.

I love and enjoy cooking, it is my way of showing love, and it is also a type of therapy. The act of cooking is almost like meditation for me. I have only a few moments each day to be by myself and not in front of a computer, working or going from one place to another. I love seeing my guests enjoying the food I have prepared for them.

In Santiago, where I live, there aren’t many markets but every time I can, I escape to the south, to Santa Cruz, where Manuel, a wonderful market gardener lives. He grows his own organic products with love and patience.

In Santiago the people only have space for concrete and cars, so every time I go travelling I try to come back home with fresh produce and at least a couple of bottles of good wine. My grandfather always said that spending money on food is money well spent indeed. Since I was a little girl going out to dinner was always an important event, I loved it! Generally I fell asleep making a bed with two chairs half-way through the meal, but despite that, I enjoyed it.

Now that I can afford the luxury of eating out, I try to choose unique places, especially those that serve local, Peruvian and Chilean food. I never eat ready meals or junk food, I always aim for freshness.

Personally I prefer the rustic, relaxed, homely style of photography and I have been styling my work in that genre since the very beginning. I also appreciate and love perfectionist, contemporary commercial photography.  I think they are totally different styles and must coexist, because there are many jobs where the brand demands a more contemporary style and I have learned to do it, and enjoy it as well. It has its own appeal and there are some dishes that definitely require that particular type of photography.

When I am working on a personal project I always opt for the more homely look, however, because for me food has a very strong emotive pull, it’s a demonstration of love, home warmth and intimacy.

With time and experience, I have come to realise that in any career one decides to pursue in life, one needs to do so with passion. Your work needs to provide you with fulfilment and enjoyment. When this is the case, then you will see how easily success follows.

Further Information

Araceli Paz :

Follow Araceli on Twitter: @araceliza

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