I just watched “The Kids are All Right” and Annette Bening said it was awful to start a thank you note with an apology. I’m applying that sage advice to my blog. Instead of saying “Sorry!” for ignoring the blog for such a long time, I’ll show you why I’ve been neglectful. As some friends and readers know, I left my job in March, and since then have been tinkering away at a new, though related, trade: food styling. I still develop recipes, but spend much of my time on photo shoots, both professional and personal.
A few weeks ago I got together with photographer Ellen Callaway for a test shoot in Ogunquit, ME. In spite of a stupid seagull who terrorized the set, it was a perfect day for a beach picnic.
Planning the food. Ellen and I talked about a beach picnic. This was no tuna sandwich and Cheeto affair, though…roast chicken, broccoli rabe and orecchiette, rosé, crusty bread. I agonize over personal shoots just as much as over work ones. Lists! Post-Its! More lists!
Planning the props. Dishes, utensils, glasses, bowls, cutting boards—some items I had, others I had to shop for: Each menu item needs special attention. In addition, I wanted to hint that a couple were having a special evening out on the beach. Sequined shoes, scarves, and a sea-blue bowtie did the trick.
Making the food.We planned on a two-stage shoot: In the morning, we would set up breakfast with blueberry scones and jam. (I was hoping to eat the scones, but the seagull swooped in, made off with a scone, and in the process, knocked over the rest. Boooo.) In the evening, dinner would be served. I cooked everything the day before, then carefully packed it up and took it on the road. Yes, as if I was really going on a picnic.
The Set-up. I tricked O into coming. Poor thing served as our sherpa, as Ellen put it. We had to lug props, food, and photo equipment down steep steps to the beach. Then back up. Then back down. And back up. Onlookers and passersby thought something “big” was going on.
The Process. There’s a lot of back-and-forth between photographer and stylist. It’s good to work with someone you like because to an innocent bystander, conversations can sound like an old couple, nagging each other to death.
“Can you move that over a little bit?”
“A little more.”
“OK. Wait, no. I think it was better before.”