“A whimsical, quirky flavor,” is how art agency, GlowArtworks describes my work, which they represent. Their monthly newsletter (above) recently featured me and some of my personal work, in which I assemble sculptures of kitchen implements and other found objects. The sculptures become characters to me—and I take their portraits. GlowArtworks includes these works in their exclusive collection, which they describe as “…a complete source of setting-specific art that engages the eye, imagination and spirit…healing art that encourages the well being of patients, visitors and workers in healthcare and other spaces.”
For this newsletter, GlowArtworks Founder, Thomas Lee interviewed me about my creative process. While they included a short excerpt in their newsletter, I want to share the full interview here, as it gave me a good opportunity to reflect on why and how I do what I love to do…
First, would you please give me a short bio? Where are you from, how did you become a food photographer, what else are you into, what are your passions, etc.?
I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, which can be a really quirky place with a unique cast of characters. I became a food photographer by accident. My first job was shooting a cookbook series for Time Life Books. That was when I realized that shooting food really fits my personality. It is a nice mixture of working alone and working collaboratively with a food stylist, a prop stylist, an art director, etc. Working alone is Zen-like when trying to solve a problem visually. It is a luxury I love. I am interested in food and what it means culturally, how it brings people together. I like being around people who enjoy food and cooking so I can eat well. My favorite pastime is hanging around the table eating and talking. I have a lot of interests, but my passion is my family.
Then take us through your thought process when you are composing a picture. Your pictures in our collection have a unique sense of whimsy that make them extremely fun to look at. How did you come up with some of these concepts? Do you see the image in your mind and then go prepare the ingredients? Do you just start playing around with things and notice a picture forming?
Recently I heard a Maurice Sendak interview by Terry Gross, where he described the creative process so eloquently: “When I thought of it, I was so happy I thought of it. It came to me, which is what the creative act is all about. Things come to you without you necessarily knowing what they mean.” Ideas do just come to me… they might start with a seed, like a newly found wire whisk. Then, a character starts forming in my mind’s eye—a personality, an attitude, a funny look and poof—she is “Bad-Hair-Day Girl.” I add out-of-control thyme from my garden, red habanero for the ruby lips, a pair of earrings and a party dress, and she is ready to go. It is ridiculous, but really, what could be more fun than making photos like this.
This sense of whimsy adds a dimension to your photography that brings it beyond food. It gives the viewer a chance to interpret your work on a personal level that may be different from one individual to the next. Do you think about the viewer when you make these pictures? What do envision them feeling when they see your work?
I am always hoping that the viewer laughs when they see this work. I am using food to create personality and humor. But, no, I am not really thinking of the viewer, it is just a free fall of whatever pops into my mind. I think about the audience all the time for my commercial work, but it never crossed my mind for these pieces.
Many of us have a philosophical outlook on the world at large: things we feel are special, things we feel need to be changed. If you have such views, would you please share them with us? How does your work tie into these ideas?
I do, but I don’t really feel like sharing them—haven’t I blathered on enough?
There’s an obvious mastery of technique evident in your work, yet the pictures are so fun and playful that it’s easy to overlook how difficult they may have been to make. Can you talk about some of the trials and tribulations of some of these compositions?
I think this is true of so many successful photographs—they look as if they just happened. I like to work by building a shot layer by layer with all the parts coming together easily. I am not a big fan of over-thinking a shot. If something is not working, I usually scrap it and start over. The worst thing that has happened is having the whole sculpture collapse before getting the shot. There is a lot of teetering going on.
How do you define art? How does your work fit in with this definition?
I have a pretty broad definition of art—anything that is creative, imaginative or makes you think differently. I guess these pieces fit the definition, although I have been wrestling with the idea of taking them one more step…something…just not sure where that will take me.
Thanks to GlowArtworks for interviewing me and featuring me in the newsletter (excerpt below). I feel like I am in excellent company there with their other distinctive artists, including my old friend, photographer Cameron Davidson, who introduced me to this group. His lyric and technically dazzling aerial photography is a real contrast to my pieces and shows the range of work represented at GlowArtworks. Thanks to you, too, Cameron!