Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I do this. What it is about visual storytelling that is so intriguing and creatively challenging. What I actually want to achieve with my recipes, photographs and writings. Where does this drive and curiosity come from?
Some years ago I studied fine arts at the Art Academy in Gothenburg. During this time I was writing a lot. Short stories, poems or simply phrases that somehow intrigued me. Often very abstract, capturing the mood of a single moment. Or at least, that was my intention.
But I struggled to put my ideas into words. To describe the image I could so clearly see in my mind. I knew exactly how these fractions of my imagination looked, felt, smelled and sounded like, but somehow they didn’t come out that way on paper.
I remember one story particularly. Its most characteristic quality an overpowering, golden glow. Everything in this single moment story was radiating with this very particular light. So I thought – why not recreate that light, instead of trying to translate it into words?
I kept building on that idea, and eventually I had created a physical installation out of the most signifying elements of my story. A powerful, golden spotlight lighting up a seating area made from raw wood, where you could sit down and read my little story. Or the bits and pieces that remained.
A single scene frozen in time, endlessly repeating itself through this site specific installation, speaking indirectly of an old man who finds himself at a pivotal moment in life.
While reading you could hear Crosby, Stills & Nash’s version of Everybody’s Talkin’ in the background, played over and over again from a cassette tape, accompanied by the comforting rocking of a freight train moving slowly (through farmlands, I imagined).
I wanted the viewer to be transported to the specific place and time I imagined. Some great literature does this on its own. But my humble storytelling is so much more visual than literal, and I could never pull off those perfect formulations.
My classmates probably thought of my pieces as sentimental or cliché. Not conceptual enough for Art School. But I didn’t care.
During my one year in Art School before I dropped out (which is a completely different story), I realized that text is not enough for me to express my stories.
From having worked primarily text-based and conceptual (and disappointingly noticed how people barely glanced at my writings during exhibitions), I started exploring more sensory ways of experiencing art. Less smartypants, more alluding to emotions.
I built multi-media installations, capturing frozen moments in time, much like the one I described above. In a way it was scenography I was doing, more than installation art. Arranging still lives that depicted certain situations. Much like I do today in my food styling.
This way of working with storytelling is something I’ve brought with me into the world of food photography.
When I style and edit my photos, I strive towards describing the essence of the situation as it lives in my mind. How I felt when I noticed that unexpected beam of light finding its way through the curtains, pausing for a split second over the food I was just about to photograph, before it moves on.
I belong to those who believe that an unedited photograph doesn’t necessarily depict reality or truth.
Reality is a very subjective matter, and in order to translate what I experience or imagine, I need to render it through the subtle filters of texture, light, color, composition.
A recipe created now might actually tell a story from childhood. The light play in an Italian country house kitchen could manifest decades of cooking that I’ve personally never experienced but nonetheless feel in my heart. To me that is equally real as the matter-of-factual here and now. Albeit curated and staged.
Even if you can’t smell the food, hear the neighboring sounds or feel the warmth of the light in a photograph, you find ways to allude to these sensations through the visual expression. When combined with text, you have one helluva powerful story. This is probably why visual storytelling is so popular in the marketing world. Because powerful stories convert.
When I work with a recipe I have to create the story from start to finish. That is challenging, to say the least. But it’s also the most exciting part about my work. This is where I truly get to challenge my creativity and grow as a photographer and writer. Producing a compelling, visual story is what makes me proud of my work.
Why? Because it changes people. Moves them. Make them feel what I felt when I tasted that food or witnessed that sunrise or met those people.
I’m not saying that everything I produce has that effect on people. Not at all. But I think I can safely say I’ve succeeded about 2 or 3 times throughout the years. If I get to create one story like that each year, that’s enough for me.
To Do, week 12
- Today is office day and general planning/fixing day. Like answering emails, planning recipes and plotting projects etc :-) I’m also going to a lunch yoga class and will probably chitchat away a large part of the afternoon with my office buds, as per usual <3
- On Tuesday I’m gonna try to photograph two recipes. Our house contract is almost up and the move is getting closer and closer. I need to be prepared with material for the blog so that I can focus on packing next week. One of the recipes I’m shooting involves that luscious cashew & sun dried tomato sauce I posted on instagram ;-)
- On Wednesday I’m writing and scheduling blog posts. These days usually require a lot of focus from me, so I like to be up early and eliminate all distractions while I’m writing.
- Thursday is office day again. I’ve dedicated this day to accounting and tax declaration, besides from an exciting afternoon meeting regarding a possible future collaboration.
- On Friday I’m thinking to spend the day at some work friendly café. One of my favorite places to sit and work in the morning is Snickarbacken 7, but Il caffe ranks high on the list as well. Both have proper tables where you can actually sit with a computer, good coffee and plenty of wall sockets ;-) I’m also going to another lunch yoga class this day, or an afternoon restorative yoga, haven’t decided! Work-wise I’m gonna continue scheduling blog posts and wrap up any leftover tasks from earlier in the week.
- During the weekend I’m going to my family’s country house to celebrate my birthday!! :D We’ve had such wonderful spring vibes here lately so I’m really hoping for plenty of sun so that we can be outside a lot.
What are you excited about this week?
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