I have always had an interest in photography and multimedia and started my career as a photo journalist working in Canada at newspapers and magazines. When I had achieved as much as I could in the limited market in Canada I decided to move to the U.K. where there were more work opportunities available to me.
I managed a photographic agency for a few years in London and worked with some amazing photographers. I learned about managing shoots, running a photographic business and assisted the photographers as much as I could, while also shooting assignments for the agency. The other photographers always urged me to shoot what I felt passionate about, to really find that ‘thing’ that inspired me. And as I sat leafing through my library of cookery books and foodie magazines, it dawned on me – I needed to shoot food!
So while I have a foundation of photography through college, my real learning happened in the field, working with top photographers. I also came to the photographic industry just as digital was being introduced and so I have watched the digital revolution evolve, which was very interesting and still underway. Some photographers concentrate only on the lenses, the technology, the intricate lighting techniques – I shoot from the heart and I can feel when I have captured that image.
When I felt I had grown as much as could within the agency and took that leap of faith in going freelance, it was a very exciting and daunting time. My agency didn’t really focus on food so I hadn’t built much up in the way of clients. My first month as a freelancer was spent making calls, fretting and hoping for work. But slowly the work came in and luckily this is an industry where word of mouth is very powerful. Most of my client base has grown organically. If someone likes working with you and you produce good work for them, they will use you time and time again. And when they move agencies (which many people do in marketing) they take you with them and presto, your client base has grown.
Building your business is a full time job. It isn’t just making beautiful images, you have to be a business person even more so than a photographer. If you let the business part slide, you won’t have clients to shoot for.
I have just recently returned from taking a sabbatical as I felt that, although I love my job, I needed to go out and fill the well of inspiration again, to start feeling passionate about what I am shooting. It is still food that I love but there is more to it than that. Food photography is about the people who produce and prepare it, the places that inspire it and that is what inspires me to photograph it. So while I consider myself a food photographer, I really am more of a food photo journalist creating culinary narratives.
What I love most about my job as a photographer is no two days are the same. I may be out in the field shooting a story, standing in some random field in some random country or I could be working with a talented chef in their restaurant surrounded by beautiful accessories with which to shoot their gorgeous dishes or I could be in a studio with clients, lights and stylists rushing around to fit in the multitude of shots we need to get in a day. It’s always something different and that kind of variety is what keeps me going. There is a lot of travel and kit involved and there is no such thing as regular working hours, but I like that.
I think one of the most influential influences for me has been the work of David Loftus. I did try to work with him as an assistant when I first went freelance and although I had set up several meetings with him, something would always come up and it never happened. He’s a busy man, and one of the best in the industry so I can understand why he’s a hard man to get to see.
Presently I’m really loving the work that Chase Jarvis is doing and while he works mainly in sports, music and portraiture, he’s gone way multi media. He is embracing the technology and really showing us photographers how to make yourself into a brand. It’s a slow learning curve trying to embrace everything that is coming out with new media at the moment, what with tweeting, blogging, Facebook, etc and how to use that towards building your business without getting swamped with wasting lots of time.
For the next couple of years I am working towards growing my business to a new level. I am looking for dream assignments and I would to work on more books. (Who isn’t!) But I also want to embrace the fact that blogging has infused a whole new level of passion for food – it’s no longer some elitist industry and anyone with the gumption can get involved. I won’t bemoan the fact that the market is getting flooded with people with digi cameras who want to shoot food but rather I am working to develop a food photography for food bloggers course. I teach one-on-one introduction to digital photography courses here in London, which I find extremely fulfilling and really want to expand that to help all those bloggers out there make beautiful images to populate their blogs.
One of the beauties of food photography is that it is always evolving and there is always pressure to create something different. There’s some really creative work coming out but I do think the past decade has been all about fresh, natural looking food. Gone are the days of ‘perfect’ over processed images. We rarely put crazy things on food any more, it’s all about shooting it as it really looks – because to be honest, food is generally very beautiful so why tart it up!
As far as travelling, I am a vagabond. I love to be wandering the globe and have spent the last 18 months away from home. The world inspires me and as I don’t have a family, I think that make things easier. I wrote and photographed a book called “A Taste of Peru”, which took me 3 months to research and it was a fantastic opportunity. I was commissioned to do a shoot on the Inca Trail and after doing a bit of research about the country, discovered there was a wealth of culinary inspiration down there. There are lots of cookery schools there and passionate chefs and the history alone has leant itself to a very diverse food style as pretty much every culture has had a go at taking over Peru throughout the ages and left behind a little bit of their flavour. In addition, there is a lot of food there. The sea provides as does the rich soil – they may be a poor nation, but they don’t go hungry there and they take great pride in the foods that come out of their kitchens.
One of my favourite places for food shopping here in London is Borough Market. It is jam-packed with some of the best food producers from around the world. I do a lot of my one-on-one courses here as it’s a great place to shoot and of course you can stock up on your tasty favourites after the shoot is done. There are places around the world that when I visit, I have to go and have my favourite dish, from Pho in Vietnam to Crab Curry in Sri Lanka to goulash and dumplings in Austria. I am a creature of habit and when I find something I love to eat, I go back time and time again.
I started my first long travels when I was 18 years old so I think I got off to a good start. But if I could give 18-year-old Moe some advise, it would have been to take more photos! I was more about the experience at the time and was travelling on a shoestring, so money was always tight and film wasn’t cheap. But I have learned to think “Take that photo now!” because you might never get that chance again.
Moe Kafer’s website: www.moekafer.com
Moe’s Shooting Beautifully Blog: https://shootingbeautifully.wordpress.com/
Moe Kafer’s book “A Taste of Peru” http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/a-taste-of-peru/5348079
E-mail: [email protected]
Follow Moe on Twitter: @moekaferphotos
Moe’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MoeKaferPhotographer