Aleksandr Slyadnev – a food-photographer and a member of The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers (UAPF) – is among 10 most interesting photographers of the planet according to authoritative 500px photo community and among 100 best food-photographers of the world according to The British Journal of Photography.
Sasha, when did you understand, that you would shoot only food?
Initially, I was a photographer who shoots everything: fashion, portraits and so on. After I began to specialize in food. Many people think, that it’s a subject thing , but in fact it is a completely different styles: you can’t shoot shoes and food at the same way.
How did you get an idea to create Foon’n’Chef project? In our countries another situation, we don’t like to show who is the Chef, as in Europe or America…
You are right, and that is why there is idea. One day I was sitting with a friend in one of the restaurants in Odessa. We really liked the food, and we wanted to meet with the chef to tell him “thank you.” But administrators said that the establishment of chefs or anyone of the staff can’t be at the hall. And I thought, “I eat a great meal, but do not know who cooked it to me: a man or a woman, what he looks like, that he cares …” (laughs – approx. Ed.). And I wanted to know more about these people and show them to others. So it all started. Originally I planned to make a good collection of Odessa Chef, but then I was invited to other cities and countries. Now in my portfolio about 120 chefs from 13 countries. Issue cooks in the cellar, away from the eyes of the public – it is a problem only in our country. In other countries, go to the chef and that he cooks.
What are the trends in Food-photography?
To answer this question, we need to distinguish things between professional photographers and food bloggers. Blogger is often girls who love to cook and know how to shoot. They are not limited by anything, they do not need to sell anything. The main task is to show that for every home kitchen with its uncomplicated equipment you can cook a nice meal. A professional food photographer is to create not just a fashionable and beautiful image, remove the dish so that he wanted to eat, but also to convey serving dishes, atmosphere institution. Therefore I say about some trends is difficult, more must be done a competent job that will excite and sell.
Is Photoshop an enemy or a friend?
It is believed that food photographers deceive (laughs – approx. Ed.). Usually people think so, which is not associated with food-taking: they believe that what we are shooting, not real – food is poured by engine oil, glue, hairspray … This practice does exist, but in the movies. On the site for shooting video are spotlights that give almost 200 degrees and literally melted food.
There is nothing of that in photography. I shoot food for a long time, and I used such a way only 2 times. It was about 60 panna cottas with different toppings. And not to prepare the 60 original recipes for desserts, we mixed with gelatin and milk products received, after which you arrange. A similar story was with tiramisu, where instead of the correct cream with mascarpone cheese, we used the whipped cream with cookies and coffee In other cases it was the original.
Photoshop is needed to eliminate defects. For example, if there is an ugly crack tomato and there is no other tomato there. I also use cropping, sharpening and color correction. But ideally it is better to do well during the shooting, so you do not create problems for retoucher.
What restaurant was interesting during the last time?
In Hong Kong, where I recently worked, I liked a few restaurants. Firstly, this is a restaurant Sevva (sevva.hk). It is located on the 24th floor of a skyscraper, which has a separate elevator. From there it opens a magical city, and the food there issimply delicious! The first time I went there spontaneously and already well-fed, and therefore asked the waiter to bring me the smallest portion of food. I brought a subtle but huge Indian crunchy cake with minced meat and the five kinds of sauces.
Another restaurant that I liked, is called Wooloomooloo Prime (wooloo-mooloo.com/hk/wooloomooloo-prime-tst.aspx). Restaurant with great views and a terrace is located on the 21st floor of a skyscraper in Kowloon. They offer high French cuisine, and Chef is just gorgeous funny Frenchman, and I became friends with him.
The third restaurant is a restaurant of molecular cuisine Ryu Gin (ryugin.com.hk/about_e.php) on the 101 floor of the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong, where famous Japanese Chef Hideaki Sato creates his masterpieces. When I talked about him with the other chefs, they did not believe that I was fortunate to work with such a professional. There I tried strawberry dessert. Berry blown from caramel as well as the shape of glassmakers blown glass. It is filled with the powder of the present strawberry and served with strawberry jam. By making the dish a little hammer: they want to split the caramel, the contents of the plates is filled with jam – taste is divine! It is only necessary to try! Generally, in Hong Kong, all upscale restaurants usually are high, and the entrance to the elevator rises to a restaurant not so easy to find …
Unfortunately, if location of the restaurant is not on the first floor it automatically makes it less visited …
It is a pity! In the same Sevva first you enjoy your meal, and then take a glass of wine and enjoy at terrace views of night Hong Kong… You need to feel such a moments!
You are a native in Odessa and know a lot about good food. What places do you like in Odessa and other cities of Ukraine?
I like the Italian restaurant Fratelli: there is a great pizza! I like Sushi 360 and network Pomodoro. I used to be a regular guest there, and now these guests are friends of mine. In Kiev, I like Silver and Beef. In Lviv I highly recommend Mons Pius: Beer & Meat of Vardeks Arzumanyan. He recently opened a new facility of interesting format – Shampaneriya. There is a large assortment of champagne and snacks to it.
Did you have an usual shootings?
In Kuala Lumpur I shot branch with oranges, which actually turned out to be sweet pate, like our Odessa Tzimes in the shell, which accurately reproduces the orange branch. All who saw this picture, they asked, why shoot just an orange? (laughs – approx. ed.).
There I shot the Chinese dish that is cooke in Malaysia and Singapore only to the Chinese New Year. It consists of 101 ingredient! On a huge plate of small groups of seafood, noodles, vegetables and more. All this is mixed and poured by special sauce, croutons and put to sleep in the middle of the table, and all the guests take the chopsticks with a common dish. It is a Chinese analogue of our salad.
In Singapore, I tried durian, I found it in some working-class district in a special durian-market. This fruit is forbidden to be in public places (subway, hotels, shops) because of its very bad smell. Fruit itself did not impress me, but the pastries with it simply divine! In Hong Kong, I tried the soup of the ten kinds of hot pepper in the world with beef and sprouts of corn. I put myself this beef into his mouth, and somehow drop of soup that gets me there where it not necessary – my hair instantly became wet, tears came, I was sweating. But I had a good laugh at me, and then took pity and offered a special drink – converter pepper (laughs – approx. Ed.). It took five minutes to stop all the symptoms.
Sasha whether a food photographer need to delve into the history of food and cooking equipment?
Absolutely. Shooting the meat, the photographer should be aware of the degree of roasting and highlight it in the photo, as well as to understand when the meat is weathered to replace it. Each dish has its key product. For example, what key product in a seafood salad? We need to understand it and correctly set accents.
The problem of commercial food photography is to serve so that the audience wanted to eat it. And to do this, you need to take into account the psychology of the consumer, which had an association with a specific product. For example, Olivier is a banal salad. What an association? New Year’s Eve, a glass of vodka in small, bowl-basin … The man does not want to have the dish – he wants to plunge into a pleasant atmosphere. Olivier is unattractive product for shooting, but if you create the right atmosphere, then he will want to eat this dish. I always tell the chef how he sees this or that dish on what you need to accentuate, as the best cook, no one knows about this dish. Sometimes we meet a few days before the shooting and discuss all the details of the dishes that will be removed. Sometimes even have to change the food supply, and its in a modified form will then be used in the facility for the guests. Dish – is not just a set of ingredients, but the combination of colors and the volume of the composition. It is important that a guest came to the restaurant, received the same feed, what he saw in the photo. After all, visitors do not forgive deception (smiles – approx. Ed.).
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