Since childhood looking at my grandpa’s Time Life magazines I always wanted to shoot editorial. Something about shooting for a magazine seemed legitimate to me. The work was real because it was printed for all to see I thought.
When I first took up photography as a profession I quickly found out how difficult it can be to break into the editorial/advertising market. Within a few months I was poor, on welfare and strangely enough there were not a lot of food photographers in the Phoenix market so that was one vertical I went after and it worked. My reasoning was since editorial budgets are small, I would style the food for camera and since I would handle the food I could eat it too. The little money I made as a food photographer helped too but it was the food I was after!
Watching the chefs preparing the food inspired me (and made me work fast so I could eat the dish) seeing the chef as an artist with the dish their canvas. I worked hard to do something different and it worked. I began to get more assignments to shoot food, even landing some commercial work for the Phoenix civic center as well.
Eventually I was able to spend some time with a chef while shooting a plate as a trade for credit in a restaurant and showed the portrait to my magazine clients. Since I was a portrait shooter disguised as a food photographer I was able to get some assignments making portraits of chefs and their food for a series called Chef/Dish. The client, the now defunct Desert Living Magazine, loved my playful style with the chefs which was different from the normal arms crossed, super serious portraits of the day.
In reality the work was an extension of getting to know the chefs and they would trust me to do something fun. Once the series was over I since moved onto other portrait subjects but that playful style I developed in the early 2000’s was brought back with my work at The Arrogant Swine.
With my portrait of Memphis I wanted to show his playful side juxtaposed with the serious and show his raw materials of creating an all in one portrait. Positioning him in front of the swine mural and directing Memphis brought the playfulness. When directing, the subject is often a mirror of the director so I made sure to be having fun.
The serious part of the portrait was his attire which was his prep clothing covered in spices and various pork juice of goodness. His attire was real and honest and I felt it was needed to balance out the content of the image. The raw material was the side of pork and if you look closely you’ll see the blood dripping off his hands. Memphis was very patient with me while I worked with his body language and although I would stop and tweak lights throughout the session I made sure to have it all setup before he walked on set. That’s basic professionalism we should all adhere too.
Oh and did I eat some pork product? You’re damn right I did.
To learn more about how Giulio shoots chefs portraits, you should check out our Tutorial Video Package which includes RAW files and BTS scenes.
All images and text by Giulio Sciorio. Used with permission.