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Q&A with Chris Gurney

Published 12th November, 2018 in Behind the Book
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You were the photographer for Margaret River Press’s upcoming cookbook Fervor. Tell me about the project and what the photography process involved.

The process initially involved joining Paul on a few of his road trips throughout WA and the Northern Territory while documenting the foraging aspect of what he does. Once we had the structure of the book set, I worked on photographing the required ingredients, places and recipes.

What was it like to work with Paul Iskov? What did you learn during your time with Paul?

It was great, Paul and his team are very laid-back and easy to work with. They make you feel welcome and are very respectful of the people they meet on the road. I learned a lot about native foods, foraging, cooking and what it takes to pull off the roaming dining experience that Fervor has created. In short, there are a lot of very passionate people working on something they truly believe in.

What was the overall look and feel of the photos that you were trying to achieve?

The Fervor experience is deeply connected to the natural world. It is also a bridge between traditional, simple methods of foraging and cooking, and high-end modern dining. I wanted to represent this as best as possible, so I focused on Paul interacting with the environment, used natural light and shot the book mostly on medium format film. I think the combination of these things helped to create a consistency between the photographs and the real-life ‘feel’ of Fervor itself. The design of the book is also very important in this regard.

You also take surfing and water shots. How did you have to modify your photographic approach when taking food photos for Fervor?

With surfing and sports photography, I tend to focus on the person and their interaction with the environment as part of their craft. With surfing this is obviously all about the ocean, but with Paul it was about the places he forages in. So, I made that a big part of what I was doing—photographing Paul at work in the beautiful places we travelled to. The book isn’t a biography, but there is a section where Paul discusses his life to date, so I also wanted good portrait images to be used here.

Are there certain golden rules when it comes to food photographs? Certain things to adhere to, or clichés to avoid?

There probably are, but I haven’t studied food photography or worked as a chef or anything like that, so I just try to approach it on a case-by-case basis. For this book, we wanted the food photos to reflect the Fervor experience, so I used a very simple white backdrop, natural light and Paul’s handcrafted plates and bowls. I think shooting the food images on colour negative film helped to give them a subtle textural feel.

Tell us, what is your favourite photo in Fervor, and which photo was the most interesting to shoot?

My favourite might be the image of Paul on the rocks at Conto Beach which is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s one of only a few double-page spreads in the book. I love that beach and we had a great afternoon there.

The honey ant image is the most interesting to me. It was the most intriguing ingredient I got to forage and taste throughout the process. We spent a day near Kalgoorlie, foraging with some of the local ladies Paul knows there. You have to dig for hours to find the ants, but it’s worth it for how good they taste.

Chris Gurney has photographed for leading brands & publications including Nike, Adobe and Victory Journal. Find out more at: www.chrisgurney.com.au.

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