While little has been written on the subject of food photography, a significant documentary was produced in 2006 by the Audio Visual Artists’ Productions, titled Photographing Food as Art. Inside the studio kitchen of Fred Maroon, the chef/photographer team worked on Jean-Louis Palladin’s book Cooking with the Seasons, published in 1989.
This interesting 55-minute film shows how chef and photographer work together and their techniques for creating each photograph. Viewed in retrospect, the film was produced in 2006, but was filmed around 20 years earlier so photographer Fred Maroon shots on 35mm transparency ‘Ektachrome 64’ film, using two rolls of film per food setting. A small aperture captures all the detail of the food compensated by six Diana strobe lights for most shots. The sets are not propped; no utensils, wine, or props in background; the images are only food on reflective acrylic tabletops. Varied lighting and arranged garnishes create interesting compositions for each dish, making images resemble pieces of artwork.
The image above shows symmetry, patterns and rich colour, sharing principles of modernist art pieces. This film shows the first chef/photographer partnership, at least 20 years before its popularity. Interestingly this collaboration is very different to working with a food stylist. Then, most food for photography wasn’t suitable for consumption but in this documentary Fred Maroon eats the food directly off the set. It is in this film that food photography as a genre is taken seriously because each food photograph was considered not only to accompany each recipe but also for its aesthetic quality which was crucial for the book. The book wasn’t rushed either, the team worked for three years ensuring the images were perfect. Not just a cookbook; it’s a beautiful art book as well. (Slade, R. 2006, DVD)