When I left university, having studied German and Business, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Whilst working for a theatre company, I did an evening class in photojournalism at LCP (now the London College of Communication). This made me realise I had always taken pictures, as a child and later for the school yearbook, so I decided to give assisting a professional photographer a try and see where it would lead.
I never firmly took the decision to become a photographer, I just liked working in the field and realised that if I kept at it I could turn it into a profession one day. I now realise that it is in fact the perfect career for me as it mixes being creative with running a business, both of which I love and thrive off in equal measure.
After the course at LCP, I started assisting photographers on an off for several years and in between assisting I was an art director and producer at a celebrity portrait library and worked for a photographic lab. I think doing these different jobs in and around photography taught me everything I needed to eventually go out on my own.
I moved back to London from Sydney, where I was living, in the beginning of 2007, having been a second photographer in a studio and was finally (after many years in the industry) ready to go out on my own. I gave myself until September 2007 to see if I could get enough work to pay the rent and sustain myself.
By September I was getting a fair few commissions and did not even need to get a part time job in a health food shop, which was my fall back plan as I love wholefoods.
Eventually I started getting bigger and bigger jobs for increasingly better known clients. Yet despite my successes, I still have many aspirations about where I want to get to in my career and who I want to shoot for. I doubt whether I will ever sit back and say to myself that everything has been accomplished.
Editorial jobs are lovely as I get to work with some great prop stylists and home economists: the shoot is generally more relaxed and creative and I get to shoot from my home studio. The recipes are inventive and I get to taste everything once I have shot it, which is a great perk of the job.
With advertising and commercial work I enjoy the challenge of matching the mock-ups and meeting the brief as well as the process of collaborating with an art director.
Although my goal posts are always shifting, I would love to work for Waitrose Kitchen as their style meets my own aesthetic. I would love to shoot a book project, find a chef to map out their own style with and have a long term collaboration with. This year I am also hoping to get into travel-food photography.
When living in Australia the penny dropped that I wanted to be a food photographer and I think it was mainly to do with the high standard of food photography Down Under. Photographers such as William Meppem, Chris Court and Con Poulos continue to inspire me as well as the relative newcomer Katie Quinn Davies. I am also continually spurred on by the beauty and quality of the images in Donna Hay magazine.
In 2012 I have promised myself to keep my Blog more updated. I think it will be a good way to record all my adventures in the food industry as well as my own creations, and hopefully others will find it interesting too.
I have a home studio and when I am not there I am on location and that brings with it certain limitations and also the uncertainly of not knowing what the props and light will be like on location. I certainly prefer shooting in my own space as I know exactly what to expect here and have lots of props on hand in case I need to add to those brought to a shoot. Having said that, shooting on location can deliver some unexpected good results that I wouldn’t have achieved in studio.
I can be a complete food bore if asked about meals or food I enjoy. I love food markets, sourcing new products, ordering food online, growing my own herbs and veggies (very excited about the wormery I got for Christmas) and putting it all together at home. When I visit a foreign country I can spend hours going around the supermarkets and markets there buying weird and wonderful new foods. Rather than souvenirs my bags tend to be filled with food when I return from holiday.
At home I tend to spend longest in health food shops or Asian supermarkets buying bits and bobs or at food shows where you can find new products or items not yet available in shops. My favourite restaurant is St Johns Bread and Wine in Spitalfields. It also suits my way of eating, grazing at lots of different dishes. Recently I had the best ever custard doughnut there imaginable. You see, once you get my started on food I just can’t stop!
At the moment the trends in food styling are certainly more about rustic and real looking food, and being able to achieve great food at home. Readers want to see classic recipes with a twist and nothing too fancy. I think it will stay like this while we are in a recession. And hopefully the trend for seasonal, local and sustainable food will continue on past the economic low and become our accepted way of eating.
If I had to give advice to anyone wishing to enter this profession, I would say three things: set deadlines and goals so you aren’t drifting in your career; try to develop your own style and shoot what you are passionate about as it will come across to clients and viewers.
Charlotte Tolhurst’s website: www.charlottetolhurst.com
Follow Charlotte on Twitter: @shootseatsleave