Welcome to Four Eyes Forum, a meeting place to exchange news and views on food, food photography, the word on food, food science, style and architecture. Join me, the blogger who wears glasses, in this world as I throw out engaging stuff that I think you'll find interesting, beautiful and delicious. As Charles Dudley Warner, American editor and writer, said,
"Lettuce, like conversation, requires a good deal
of oil, to avoid friction, and keep the company
smooth....You can put anything, and the more
things the better, into salad, as into a conver-
sation, but everything depends upon the skill of

That's my job.

(All photographs, unless otherwise cited, copyright
Kristin Halgedahl Photography 2014)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Think of the food you are about to serve as a still life. The plate being the canvas and the food on it the picture that is being painted."

This quote from Holly Garrison, 20th-century American writer, sums up how I feel about food photography, and explains why I love it so much. It is an art form, visual art. I recognized this as a child, leafing through pages of my mother's magazines (Vogue, Gourmet) and cookbooks. The legendary Irving Penn broke out onto the scene in the 1950's, adding food photography for Vogue in the tradition of still life painting. He introduced the simplicity of each culinary element in a photograph in an innovative style like the overhead shot...he invented it, not Marcus Nilsson. (sorry)  Penn's images were often elegant and insightful, but could also be raw and gritty.  Hence, he made artistic statements and conversation starters. His photographs were always ART.

from Still Life  Irving Penn, 1947

from Still Life Irving Penn, 1993

Now that the overhead shot has become too much the norm (aren't you a little weary of it?) photographers are looking to refresh food imagery by shooting from the side, for example, as in this shot from Manny Rodriguez, one of my favorite 'now' food photographers.

from Manny Rodriguez's blog

And digital cameras and Photoshop has, of course, changed editorial pictures in every way, notably contrasty, grainy images. That's the 'look' often chosen by art editors these days, as it  seems to mirror a societal shift away from slick to accessible.

From the blog of Manny Rodriguez
Art directors also love close up and macro food photography and SO DO I! Nothing like a loaf of bread that acts as an abstract painting in the dining room. We're talking 51"x51". The notion of getting close, noticing, being more fully aware of the senses, of textures and tastes, is an appealing one; while society programs us to hurry, hurry, hurry, close up photography offers an invitation to slow down.

Image copyright Kristin Halgedahl Photography 2013

In contrast to studio lighting, where much of advertising work is done, shooting in natural light is becoming more and more desirable. I use it almost exclusively if I can. There's just nothing like the giant soft box of a cloud cover that eliminates harsh shadows, or the filter effect created by just-picked tomatoes steaming under cellophane in open shade that produces a calm photograph. There are plenty of people who strive to recreate these conditions artificially in a studio, but why? When you can just go outside? (well, o.k., hardly in a buzzing metropolis--that's for fashion photography) 

Image copyright Kristin Halgedahl Photography 2013

And who are the coming wunderkinds of artistic food photography? Who do we think Irving Penn would've smiled at?
Keiko Oikawa is meteoric right now. As is her Asian Minimal style.

Ditte Isager is a Danish force.
Her photography for the cookbook NOMA
made my heart stop. This image
from her Agency's (Edge) Website. 

Marcus Nilsson is becoming iconic. This example is 
from his website.

And then there's me.

 Miss natural light, often macro, most often Miss Farmers' Market, color riche, food storyteller. In the beginning, middle and end, the story's at the heart of a photograph.That's the real art of it. Whatever means a photographer employs to reach that goal is an individual choice dictated by each process's journey and years and years of experience. And I feel privileged to be shooting at this point in history, where the art of eating is enhanced by those devoted to honoring its beauty with new and different perspectives. Yes, I'm proud to count myself in their company.


Image copyright Kristin Halgedahl Photography 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

From Sea To Inland Sea

Traverse City, Michigan, my new home and food base. Why, you San Franciscans ask? Does this picture answer your question? Memory and economics have driven this move.

Lake Michigan looking south toward Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

If you still don't get it, read Wallace Stegner's essay, "A Sense Of Place."  Once you have found it, never let it go, as the sentiment runs in South Pacific.These are the Great Lakes, America's fresh water, inland seas. Nothing carnivorous swimming out there! So I came.  I cooked my way through the long winter and have come out successfully on the other side. Spring at last, and you and I can now resume our culinary dialogue. From a place that's quite similar, gastronomically, to the Bay Area, actually. This is farm country, and fish country, and foraging country and wine country. And when the land awakens in the spring, it has the rhythm of an earthquake. Mild rocking could already be felt at the farmers' market last Saturday. Although, for the sake of an overview, I'm simply going to offer a gallery that celebrates my nine months here.
Then I'm going to commence introducing you to the extraordinary existent eateries and drinkeries, and the people behind them, I've discovered so far. Fair enough? Hang on, here we go. Enjoy!

"First parents of the human race,
whose gourmandism is historical,
you lost all for an apple."

--Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
French politician and writer
Corn here belied the national drought last summer.
Cabbages shot last September.

Sunflowers, always. CSA Programs abound.

And tomatoes, warm from the Michigan sun.
The best eggs! We're talkin' $3 a dozen.
Love Traverse City prices!
Beans, of course. Thank you; everywhere.
Stuff from the woods!
Even soap-on-a-rope...
Beer soap from
Forever Summer Soaps,
Traverse City.
Who knew? Brew?

The best bread I've ever eaten. Slipper Bread, from Patisserie Amie of Traverse City.

All kinds of vendors sell Lavender products. Wonderful!
I use this salt on EVERYTHING!
And on and on and on we'll go. I would never have moved here if it weren't a foodie destination. (I have the San Francisco Bay Area to thank for that tuition)  It is. I'm staying. 
                                                                       Stay with me.

(images copyright Kristin Halgedahl Photography, 2013)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Good vs. Evil Tour -- Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

Happy New Year 2012, everybody. I can't think of a more joyous occaision to ring it in than being at The Good vs. Evil Tour last night in Santa Rosa, CA. Here's my review of it. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Money may talk, but chocolate sings." - Author Unknown

And nowhere does the chorus swell louder than St. Helena, CA at holiday time. I took a drive the other day, up Hwy. 128, the north-south artery between the towns of Napa and Calistoga, through northern California's Wine Country. Here, the long, straight highway is flanked by vineyards on both sides and, except for the towns of Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga, they flow into each other like pearls on a necklace of grape varietals. My destinations were twofold -- The Culinary Institute of America just outside of St. Helena, and Dean and Deluca, located in town. My intent was window shopping the year's finest chocolate offerings.

The CIA rises from the valley floor like a haunted Gothic castle in a Shirley Jackson novel. But Christmas decorations soften its stark exterior.

And once inside, a quick left puts you in The Spice Islands Marketplace & Campus Store, and several more steps and you're in the Flavor Bar. Here the angels are singing. Here "The Chocolate Experience" is supreme, sublime, beyond imagining. It is so grand the idea of eating any of it, for me, paled in comparison to taking out the camera and shooting it. I did, just for you, dear follower - look!

And on and on. I was surprised you could build your own box for $1.90 per, but there you are. Reasonable, I think, however fleeting the moment.  But to imagine sitting down leisurely, intentionally, with wine and chocolate, to savor each sip, each bite. Of THESE. Wow. A holiday gift supreme.

The only experience that can rival the CIA is driving into St. Helena to visit Dean and Deluca. A second Food Palace experience in one day could almost be considered sensate madness, except that I was intent on and ready for anything.  The Halelulah Chorus swells as the doors open. I turn into Eloise as I zimber past the cases of goodies, one by one. After the usual unusual, 

I spot something glowing in a case, the color so intense I have to shield my eyes. I approach and discover Christopher Elbow, a chocolatier from NEBRASKA, of all places. His chocolates win the 2011 Four Eyes 5-Star GASP Award. Can this be REAL? 
This? Cinnamon Black Tea.


Or this? Passion Fruit --

My god, give me oxygen!
Who IS this newcomer?
This one's called 'Champagne'

Where to go from here? Nowhere but to race home and Google his website. Do you believe this? Well, it is the Christmas season, a time of miracles. And his talent is miraculous, in my view.  I won't be surprised if he appears at the World Chocolate Masters Competition next year. That is, if he's into that kind of thing. And the price? Reasonable! I was amazed. Well, here, I took a screenshot from his website.

Money is just talking here, not screaming, and the chocolates are singing. 
May the holidays find you contributing a verse.
The very best in the new year to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"To the alchemy that turns groceries into meals." (Anonymous)

It's that time of year again. The holidays are upon us and with them, this year's new cookbooks. And what a year! What a selection! There are SO many and they are all AMAZING. I always have to attach the disclaimer that I am neither a professional food critic nor a recipe writer. However, in the words of A.J. Liebling, "The primary requisite for writing about food is a good appetite." And THAT I have. And I know photography. So, I covered four different book venues in three days for variety's sake and the widest scope --  Costco, Barnes & Noble, an independent bookstore and a food website, and found ten standouts in a field of about thirty new holiday books. I'm telling you about them based on a rating scale of interesting categories, novel ideas, and stunning presentation. That's what struck me most, the variety of approaches to different subject matters. I'd be happy to receive any one of them, frankly. Although as a foodie photographer, I'll end my post by revealing my #1 pick. (hint, hint, relatives, this is your cue) 
Here goes. 

How tired are we all of hearing and using the phrase, "in this economy." Well, it's painfully true and the emphasis on family dining, family-at-table, cooking with the family, home cooking, local ingredients, continues to be a love-the-one-you're-with-at-home  kind of theme. The Food Network chefs are all over this one, of course, so let's get them out of the way by way of Mario Batali. The guy seems nice enough and good enough on Iron Chef and The View, but with nine restaurants to his credit, why is he even writing a cookbook? Because once you've gotten to the top you've got to stay there. And yet I think  his passion is genuine. The 'family' thing is the focus of his new book, Molto Batali.

Everything does look wonderful, accessible, doable. It's arranged by seasons, and the layout is like this. (pictured) I  like it. What does all this stuff look like on the table? This book answers that for Virgo hostesses and visual learners like me.

Todd English is a marvelous chef and his new book Cooking In Everyday English has that 'home' thing at its center, also.

Yes, yes, cook at home. Although we know They don't really want us to stay home and cook every day because then we wouldn't eat at their restaurants! Nevertheless, when the economy dictates we do cook in, Todd's book looks very usable, with unusual pairings of things, also -- this salad, for example. (I chose random recipes for this post) The pictures in this book are o.k.  (that matters to me)

Next we have Jean-Georges, my old friend. He just keeps getting better, and now, his son is all grown up and they're doing that celebrity family-chef thing together. Their book is a little thinner than most and I say, thank you! There's quite enough to digest in these pages. Why was I not surprised the book comes in his signature royal blue. It suits.

In CONTRAST, dear follower, we have Jacques Peppin's holiday offering. How many pages...600 plus! It's BIG because it spans his long and revered career. (he is 75, after all) This $50 book is a STEAL at Costco for $20 something. No photographs here -- illustrations. Comes with a CD.

This one I'm buying myself because it calls to my blogging soul to emulate Julie and Julia. How long
would it take me to cook my way through Jacques book?
Anyway, bravo to the Maitre! He looks so very well! A testament to healthy, tempered eating. He's truly a national treasure.

Now things start to get more interesting....

From RADIO food show to BOOK. If you know Lynn Rosetto Kasper's talk show on Saturdays on NPR you're probably pleased that someone has  snagged her for another book deal. And it's done so well. So, here's food with stories. I love that, the interdisciplinary food experience.

Website turned book with Food52. I didn't know their site, but I've looked at Food52 today and it's really beautiful. And comprehensive. Here's their holiday book. This is one big trend in publishing -- give tried and true bloggers a shot at a book.
Obviously, I think it's wonderful. I'd love to collaborate on a project someday...like, tomorrow!

Way to go, home cooks Amanda and Merril. 
And Congrats.

And you, too, Jekka and Nigel. Your books, in style and feel, suggest reading and cooking for the modern hippie, (there's something about her cover art that reminds me of the Moosewood Cookbook) the now generation, the twenty to thirty-year-olds. To be honest, I didn't even look inside either of these because there were scads more to consider and my time was running short.  But, given that so many restaurants have their own gardens now, these both had the feel of organic loveliness and locovore home runs. 

And then, dear follower, with the music of Zarathustra swelling in the background, I give you Eleven Madison Park!

Winner of the 5 "Whoas!" Four Eyes 2011 Award

This book is an art piece. Pure, unadulterated visual luxury. Can you make anything in here, you ask? Who cares, I answer. This is large format photography which raises the bar even higher than NOMA last year, and The French Laundry the year before that. Gigantic white books. What I applaud is that the photographer is a chef/partner and knows his way around a studio to this high degree. The title of this book is the address of the restaurant in NY, and, actually, many of the recipes look approachable to me. We could all do this chocolate or custard thing without being a Japanese food stylist, right? I've got my tweezers! Only criticism -- just when we swore not to buy another 5 lb. book....


There are portrait photographers and then there are inspired, wholly gifted portrait photographers. And the considerable gifts Melanie Dunea possesses rival those of Herb Ritts, Annie Liebowitz, Richard Avedon, you pick.

Here are compelling portraits of 50 chefs which reveal their minds and imagination. The person behind the food, reflected in fifty photographs as diverse as the chefs themselves. I include a couple of examples here. And THEN, the dialogue from each is equally absorbing.
I just can't say enough about how interesting this book is. It's the complete package!  Kudos to the person who formulated the concept. 

I say, give this one a James Beard Award! I say, give this to ME for Christmas!

Happy Holidays to all from Four Eyes Forum. Enjoy your upcoming days with reading and cooking pleasure.