Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lemon curd


    I've been trying so hard to do food styling myself. Things don't turn out as planned. I always make a mess and waste lots of time figuring out the recipe. When food is finally prepared, it's time of sunset, and the beautiful natural light is gone. So I tend to make simple food which doesn't require too much time or too many ingredients. Like this lemon curd. Lemon, butter, sugar, salt, and eggs are all I need. From the advice given by experienced photographers, I've spread out words, looking for a food stylist to work together. So I get the food prepared by professionals, and they get my photograghs.  Win-win right?

    On Monday, I checked out a retiring prop stylist's blowout sale. She has thousands of items crammed into her one bedroom apartment. Besides the bed, I didn't see any space available for a normal life. The cutting board, pink bowl and grey napkin are some of the items I got from her. The sale is still going on till Saturday, and she wants everything out by then. The prices are quite reseaonable compared to renting from a prop store. If you happen to live in NYC, it's something worth checking out! If you are interested, shoot me an email and I can send you the specific address. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

I am back, saying hello from NYC

    After the hectic packing, moving, cleaning, driving, looking for apartments, unpacking, and decorating, I am finally sitting here on my couch, typing my new post from my home in Brooklyn, NY. I took out all my dishes for photograhy, cleared out some space beside the window, checked out some awesome prop shops in downtown, bought a few more things from a retiring prop stylist's sale. I am ready to go back to my routine. I want to keep doing food photography, not just as a hobby, but professionally. New York is the right place for this job. Tons of restaurants, hotels, magazines, newspapers, advertising companies make this city full of opportunities and competitions. There are dozens of prop shops too for the prosperous TV, movie, art and design business. I checked out one called Prop Haus, which was mentioned by a food blogger. Although I had seen some pictures from its website, I was totally blown away the minute I stepped in. Two whole floors dedicated just to food photography and styling. It has everything you can imagine, besides the regular bowls, plates, cups, glassware, cookware, has a considerable collection of vintage tables, surfaces, and anything antique and organic. I've been trying so hard to find a nice wood surface, something with  light-colored paint peeled off and cracks here and there. They have some perfect ones!! Later when I told a food photography studio manager how excited I was when I found this store, she was so calm and said: "oh, there're a dozen prop stores like this." New York is definitely the right place! I like crowds! I feel alive when I follow the flow of crowds on the street. I grew up this way. 

    Well, last week I met a food photographer-Colin Cooke, who's in business for 30 something years. He is so nice and ready to share. He told me how technology had affected this business and what the life would be like as a photography assistant. He even extended his generosity to think of ways for me to build my portfolio. To be a freelancer needs lots of self-discipline. Unlike a nine to five corporate job, you have to figure everything out yourself. You have to push yourself. Sometimes you get lazy unconsciously, and sometimes you just don't know how to run this business. So it would be great to have a mentor when you just get your foot in, to show you around, to familiarize you with the process. That's why I want to start as an assistant. I got several photographers interested in me, but nothing is settled yet. Maybe I will meet more people in this coming week.

    I styled and photographed the roasted cherry tomatos as my return and the first shot of my new life.  I don't usually like the taste of fresh tomatos, sour and boring for me. But this simple recipe of roast tomatos changed my opinion. Just a drizzle of olive oil, fresh thyme and basil, roast in 400C oven for 15 minutes and add salt and pepper after roasting. The sourness is gone! It's so full of flavors and juices. 


Monday, April 4, 2011

Trip to China Part II

    This photo was taken at my friend's home. These stools and chair put together made an intereting combination of shape and color. 

    New Year is all about family. The new year holiday lasts 15 days and I remember we always had very full schedule of visiting families. Eating family meals is the traditional and the only festive way to celebrate it. Quite a few people have to work for a day or two in the kitchen to prepare the new year's eve dinner for 30 something family members in my mom's side. That is an extremely labor intensive work, since we always cook meals from fresh ingredients, there's nothing like throwing a grocery store bought frozen pizza into the oven and getting dinner ready within 30 minutes.

    I took some photos of the home-made dishes at my Aunt's home, and my little nephew eating. 

Spicy chicken salad;shredded carrot salad; ants in the tree (minced pork and cellophane noodles)

An Uyghur man selling lamb kabobs

Street food vendor and customer
 Chengdu's one of the most famous snack food is sweet potato noodles with pig intestine. Weird as it sounds, it tastes really good and I know where to eat the best in the whole city! I made a tour to visit the neigboorhood I grew up and came back to this diner restaurant to reminisce my childhood memory. For 20 years, it hasn't changed at all. Still an open kitchen facing the street, people waiting in the line at the kitchen to get their food, the staff smashing the dough of sweet potato noodles with his sweat rolling down the face, right in front of waiting customers. It's quite a show!

Non-spicy and spicy sweet potato noodles with pig intestine
    No doubt that China is rising up and there's a rapid increase of higher income families, but it's an extremely polarized country with the poor struggling hard to survive. I like to shoot these poor and maybe ignored people who showcase a large portion of the population to remind myself and others that China has a long way to go to become a real good country.

In my parents' neigborhood, this man makes a living by collecting residents' trash and sorting it out. He likes to sit in his shabby chair outdoors on sunny afternoons and drink some cheap booze and maybe take a nap.

     This old lady sells her hand-made stuff on the sidewalk in winter. There's a bus stop right in front of her spot. Although this is a busy business district, few people bother to stop and buy her stuff.

 I am extremely busy packing, contacting moving companies and looking for apartments since I came back to U.S. I will be moving to NYC soon, hopeful in mid April to try my luck to land a job as a food photographer assistant. The one and half years of living in North country NY made me unable to work, but on the other hand, I discovered something I trully love. I am grateful!