Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gourmet Covers Under the Microscope

Thanks to my new e-friend, Lucas, I had a great little read of this article on Slate on the state of food styling and photography of Gourmet magazine. Now, Gourmet is one of my favourite foodie magazines, both for the articles and the recipes. It has not always been the case, in fact there was a period where I refused to buy it - primarily because the food stopped looking nice, the recipes were far too "out there" for me, and frankly I thought that the quality of the magazine was just not up to par.

Times (and styles) change. In the past few months I've taken to reading it again and have become a huge fan of this magazine (but the fact the Ruth Reichl is the Editor-in-chief of Gourmet didn't have any bearing, really, on our selection of her book for the ReadEatCook bookclub) once more. As someone who works in the food/styling/photography/packaging industry, I have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented photographers, stylists and designers and whilst I'm not a designer myself, one cannot help but start to develop a bit of a design sensiblity.

Sara Dickerman, the author of the Slate piece, I think has a pretty good eye for design and a great method for demonstrating the current state of the foodstyling world through the microcosm of the Gourmet cover tablescape. While I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment of the style progression of the covers, I differ from her in that I really quite like the darker, moodier, more somber appeal of the style. I guess I've gotten a bit over the shallow focus, light washed low angle shots of the late 90's and early 00's and I'm ready for something a little more dramatic; something more sophisticated. This isn't to say that it isn't hard to get those shots just right - I guess I'm just looking for something a bit more, well, realistic. Not everyone lives in a lightdrenched house in East Hampton. Some of us live in little apartments and condos and are rapidly wanting to see something that more reflects our lives. Aspirational design is one thing, but realistic portrayals can also move product.

For a more interesting view of what's happening, I'd rather turn to Australian Gourmet Traveller and Sainsbury's Magazine. They're both taking that light drenched look and gussying it up a bit so it looks a little less like Bauhaus food and more like something that we could all really be living with. There's variety and visual interest in each story and sometimes in each shot. This is food the way I make it - sometimes I'm at home, sometimes at a friend's place, often at my parents - and you use what you have. That's the reality of today's entertaining, isn't it?

Anyway, the worst part about this little tale is that the highly acclaimed March 2006 issue featuring Montreal is actually sold out from the Gourmet back issues department (I checked this afternoon). Its selling at over $41 currently on eBay and I don't have a copy. Stilted and overly propped the cover may be, but I still want a copy. :-(


At 8:28 p.m., Blogger C(h)ristine said...

i have a copy of it. and have no need for it...i will send it to you.

At 8:36 p.m., Blogger Eric said...

Thank you SO VERY MUCH!!!
Biggest hugs!!!!!

At 10:40 p.m., Blogger Sam said...

interesting article (yours, I mean, I am heading of too read the Slate one, after I have written this comment).
I know what you mean about real food photography - although I kind of aspire to take picture-perfect well-styled food pics like some of my favourite food bloggers do, in reality I am cooking and eating this stuff, it is real life and so I normally only have time to snap things quickly just about in situ and definitely as quickly as possible. As a result I am happy with my pictures, but they are no where near what they could be. But I guess that is ok with me. They are at least telling part of the story.

At 9:18 a.m., Blogger Eric said...

Hey Sam, hopefully you found the Slate article even more edifying than mine... The thing I've found with some of the photography done by "real" food bloggers is that they attempt too hard to make the food look as though its literally "picture perfect" whereas I try and show not only in situ (love that phrase) but also with a VERY minimum of lighting effects (the number one reason most food photography looks great is due to the various light sources utilized). Tell the story in whatever way you can, Sam, we love reading it all!!!


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