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Gourmet Magazine Photography


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#1 robyn

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 05:39 PM

Mimi Sheraton started this thread on eGullet about the photography in Gourmet Magazine. Not exactly complimentary. And some writers in the thread shared her opinion.

I dabble a little in food photography (for my own use). And I've read a little - like Lou Manna's book Digital Food Photography. Although - according to Manna - there's an older style of food photography (very stylized with lots of props) - and a newer one (which seemingly consists mostly of tighter food shots) - there's no question that all the photographs he shows are really "pretty". His food needs more stylists than the average high fashion model :wink: .

Although I didn't say anything in the eGullet thread - what I see in Gourmet these days looks a lot more like "real food" - food minus the food stylists. The food that I take pictures of. And eat. Not a bowl of glue with cornflakes placed on top with tweezers (this is one of the "tricks" Manna discusses). Doesn't bother me at all. In fact - I rather like it. I find real food - like real people - kind of refreshing. And it's certainly not "ugly" (if someone wants to see ugly - he or she should attend a fair number of contemporary photography exhibits).

Is there a philosophy of - or approach to - food photography at Gourmet? Has it changed since you've become the editor? Is it fixed - or still evolving? In other words - tell us what you think about the photography. Robyn

#2 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 08:06 PM

Mimi Sheraton started this thread on eGullet about the photography in Gourmet Magazine.  Not exactly complimentary.  And some writers in the thread shared her opinion.

I dabble a little in food photography (for my own use).  And I've read a little - like Lou Manna's book Digital Food Photography.  Although - according to Manna - there's an older style of food photography (very stylized with lots of props) - and a newer one (which seemingly consists mostly of tighter food shots) - there's no question that all the photographs he shows are really "pretty".  His food needs more stylists than the average high fashion model  :wink: .

Although I didn't say anything in the eGullet thread - what I see in Gourmet these days looks a lot more like "real food" - food minus the food stylists.  The food that I take pictures of.  And eat.  Not a bowl of glue with cornflakes placed on top with tweezers (this is one of the "tricks" Manna discusses).  Doesn't bother me at all.  In fact - I rather like it.  I find real food - like real people - kind of refreshing.  And it's certainly not "ugly" (if someone wants to see ugly - he or she should attend a fair number of contemporary photography exhibits).

Is there a philosophy of - or approach to - food photography at Gourmet?  Has it changed since you've become the editor?  Is it fixed - or still evolving?  In other words - tell us what you think about the photography.  Robyn

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Our philosophy is to make the food look as good as possible without playing any tricks. it's all real food,, and at the end of the shoot (provided it hasn't taken so long the food is scary), we eat it. A lot of the shoots are done in real time: the people there are actually eating the food as we're shooting.

We spend a lot of time and energy thinking about where to shoot, how to shoot, what mood we're looking for. We think about the locations, the people, the way the food should look.
The food department, the art department and the editors sit down and work out every shoot before it happens. And on every shoot we have prop stylists, the food editor who developed the recipes, a food stylist and a whole range of people from the art department. We spend a lot of time thinking about which photographers to use for which meals as well, and we try to use photographers who are not specialists in food. You get a different look.

This is very different than it was when I got to Gourmet. The whole art department has grown in the past 6 years. The magazine's Creative Director, Richard Ferretti, is, I think, incredibly talented. (Not to mention nice, smart and a complete joy to work with.) He came two years ago, and started pushing the envelope. I can't take a lot of credit for this: It's pretty much Richard and his department who are giving the magazine its look. I trust him, and I think that what he is doing is important for the magazine. My basic philosophy is that pictures are the one thing that magazines can do better than anyone else, and we need to put our resources there. You can get recipes from the internet and books, but only magazines give you these kind of pictures.

You may not like what we're doing, but a lot of people do: We won the ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors) award for photography last year.

Incidentally, we don't use digital. Richard doesn't think the quality is good enough yet.

#3 robyn

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 08:27 PM

<<You may not like what we're doing, but a lot of people do: We won the ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors) award for photography last year.

Incidentally, we don't use digital. Richard doesn't think the quality is good enough yet.>>

Think you read my message too fast. I like what I see (and said so).

As for digital - I'd give it a try. I'm far from a professional photographer (I'm a retired lawyer) - but I talk with a lot of professional photographers every year at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine (sounds funny - but the Alligator Farm is a world class bird rookery and a lot of guys from big deal magazines - even National Geographic - go there to take bird pictures). Most of them have gone digital (although we're talking about very expensive big deal digital cameras - not the kind of Kodak point and shoot job I have). And their subjects - birds outside - are more difficult than food (which tends not to move all that much :smile: ). Can't say it will work for you - but - like I said - I think it's worth a try. Robyn

#4 Ruth Reichl

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:34 AM

Think you read my message too fast.  I like what I see (and said so).

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I know you said that, and I appreciate it. I meant the general you - the society of E Gullet - which seems to have real attitude about Gourmet. Frankly, I don't understand it. There are even a number of writers on this site who continually trash the magazine and then call us up and try to sell us stories. So Robyn, I'm doubly grateful for your support.
As for digital, most magazines have moved to it. It's much less expensive and much easier - no reloading. I'm not an expert on this, but our art department feels that the technology is not yet where it ought to be. I hope they change their minds soon; it will save us a fortune.

#5 robyn

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 06:20 PM

I don't really understand the trashing either. I've subscribed to Gourmet on and off for perhaps 20 years. And it is one of the few magazines I will actually pay money for now (I got lots of others for free). It is true that the magazine has gone in some new directions. But what's bad about that? I am a decent home cook - nothing fantastic - but decent. And I clip recipes and paste them on index cards. Have done that for years. Well - being a pretty busy person - I reckon I now have about 50 years worth of recipes on index cards (and I don't think I'm going to live another 50 years :wink: ). How many do I need? On the other hand - I thought your article about Walmart was fascinating (hope my memory isn't failing me - I think it was Gourmet where I read the Walmart article). Read it to my husband when we were driving somewhere one day.

Now I don't think Gourmet is giving up its "day job" - which is providing some interesting ideas about things to cook. It's just adding things. Like information about restaurants - hotels - travel destinations - political food issues. What's wrong with that? And even though my travel and restaurant preferences - and political opinions - are in many cases more conservative than those usually expressed in Gourmet - I find that the articles are generally well written and informative. They give me new ideas - which I am free to accept or reject.

Perhaps there are some people - including people here - who think they are so "hoity toity" that anything in a mass market magazine like Gourmet can't possibly be of interest to them. I've done a lot - and seen a lot - and there are always areas and things about which I know nothing or next to nothing. Some are crummy things - like having to learn about cancer when a parent is sick. Others are fun things - like exploring the endless universe of food. I'm sure there are some food professionals who won't learn much from a food magazine like Gourmet - but I'm not one of them. And I suspect there are a fair number of people like me - but some people just aren't willing to admit it. They want to act as if they know everything - even if they don't. The day I stop trying to learn is the day I'll have become old - and I'm not in a big hurry to do that. You take care and thanks for coming here. Robyn

#6 moosnsqrl

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 08:06 AM

Think you read my message too fast.  I like what I see (and said so).

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I know you said that, and I appreciate it. I meant the general you - the society of E Gullet - which seems to have real attitude about Gourmet. Frankly, I don't understand it. There are even a number of writers on this site who continually trash the magazine and then call us up and try to sell us stories. So Robyn, I'm doubly grateful for your support.
As for digital, most magazines have moved to it. It's much less expensive and much easier - no reloading. I'm not an expert on this, but our art department feels that the technology is not yet where it ought to be. I hope they change their minds soon; it will save us a fortune.

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"Your magazine sucks, so you should hire me to write for it" -- interesting approach to selling articles. :wink:

I can't believe this thread has gone on this long without any mention of the infamous cupcake cover. I am still stunned by the amount of attention that drew and the passion of those on both sides of the "controversy" (in quotes because who knew, with a war and several other things going on in the world, that there could be a cupcake "controversy"? I am passionate about food, but...).

One more thing about digital -- I have a friend who was a happy practitioner of photography for ~35 years; he did a lot of studio work but also a considerable amount of travel, landscape, famous musicians on stage, etc. He went digital two years ago and now hates his work, is trying to sell his business; in a word, it has turned into a job. I don't know if others have experienced this, but I have been saddened and amazed at what the transition did to him, artistically and professionally.
Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher