Art Work by Carl Warner
Born in Liverpool England in 1963, Carl now lives in Kent and works from his London based studio near to London Bridge’s colourful food emporium of Borough Market. Having worked as a photographer in the advertising business for 25 years Carl stumbled on the idea of making landscapes out of food just over ten years ago and these ‘Foodscapes’ have now brought him world wide acclaim for his very own unique and individual art form.
This has led not only to many commissions for international clients such as Nestle, Unilever and General Mills, but also to a publishing deal with Abrams books which saw the launch of his first book ‘Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes’ in November 2010. His work has been used in children’s hospitals, childhood obesity clinics, by nutritionalists and many other good causes to promote better eating habits in both children and adults.
Carl is has now completed his second book ‘A World of Food’ which will be for children and will feature poems which are also written by Carl, he is now starting to exhibit his work around the world to audiences both young and old who enjoy the ‘pleasant deception’ of his imagery and the escape to his gastronomic paradise.
Carl Warner Interview Questions
1. Do you cook?
YES I LOVE COOKING AND EXPERIMENTING WITH NEW IDEAS, I AM A BIG FAN OF ITALIAN COOKING, SO FOR ME SIMPLICITY AND FRESH INGREDIENTS ARE THE KEY.
2. Did you know much about food before pursing this type of photography?
I KNEW A REASONABLE AMOUNT, BUT I LACKED THE INSPIRATION AND THE CONFIDENCE I HAVE NOW. What have you learned about it since? I HAVE LEARNED TO BE MORE CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN THE WAY I AM IN THE STUDIO. SOME ASPECTS OF PRESENTATION AND VISUAL COMPATIBILITY CAN INSPIRE ME TO TRY THE CORRESPONDING TASTE COMBINATIONS , IT DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK, BUT SOMETIMES WHAT LOOKS GOOD TOGETHER TASTES GOOD TOGETHER AND THAT MAKES FOR AN UNUSUAL AND INTERESTING APPROACH TO COOKING AND GASTRONOMY IN GENERAL.
3. Do your interests lay more with food than photography (or vice versa)?
I THINK THAT MY INTERESTS DEFINITELY LIE MORE WITH PHOTOGRAPHY AS IF I WAS AS GOOD A COOK AS I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER THEN I WOULD PROBABLY BE A CHEF!
4. What are the easiest or most dependable foods to work with?
ANYTHING WHICH LASTS SEVERAL HOURS ON SET IS GOOD FOR ME. WILTING AND THE PERISHABILITY OF INGREDIENTS ARE MY BIGGEST PROBLEM ESPECIALLY WHERE FRESH HERBS ARE CONCERNED. THINGS LIKE CORIANDER AND FLAT LEAF PARSLEY LAST ONLY FOR A FEW MINUTES, SO THEY GO INTO SHOT RIGHT BEFORE THE END IN ORDER TO CATCH THEM AT THEIR BEST. I TEND TO USE A LOT OF CURLY KALE, AS IT IS A VERY ROBUST INGREDIENT THAT LOOKS GOOD FOR HOURS AND CREATES A LOT OF GROUND COVER.
6. What is the average food budget for each shot and about how long does it take to capture the image, from start to finish?
THE AVERAGE BUDGET IS AROUND A FEW HUNDRED POUNDS (STERLING), BUT THIS CAN VARY DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE SCENE AND HOW EXPENSIVE OR EXOTIC THE INGREDIENTS ARE. FOR EXAMPLE A SCENE USING LOBSTERS IS GOING TO COST A LOT MORE THAN ONE MADE OF CABBAGE. THERE IS ALSO A LOT MORE POLYSTYRENE IN THE SCENES THAN FOOD AND I HAVE LEARNED TO BUILD MORE WITH THAT IN ORDER TO USE LESS FOOD.
7. How large are the sets used for the food landscapes?
AGAIN THEY VARY BASED ON THE SCENE. I HAVE A TRIANGULAR TABLE TOP WHICH IS ABOUT 12 FEET ACROSS THE BACK AND ABOUT 9 FEET DEEP. THE POINT NEAREST THE CAMREA IS CUT OFF SO MY FOREGROUND IS ONLY A COUPLE OF FEET ACROSS. THIS MEANS THAT THE TABLE TOP IS PERFECTLY MARRIED UP TO THE VIEWING ANGLE OF MY WIDE ANGLED LENS.
8. Tell me about your creative process when you aren’t being commissioned for something specific. Do you start with a concept first or does inspiration randomly strike while at the market?
AGAIN THIS VARIES, I HAVE SKETCH BOOKS FULL OF IDEAS AND DRAWINGS OF DETAILS OR WIDER SCENES. INSPIRATION CAN COME FROM VISITING A PLACE OR SEEING IT IN A FILM, ON THE WEB OR IN A MAGAZINE. IT CAN COME FROM WANDERING AROUND THE SUPERMARKET OR FARMERS MARKET OR EVEN IN A RESTAURANT. I DON’T MIND WHERE THEY COME FROM, SO AS LONG AS THE COME!
ONCE INSPIRED, I GENERALLY SEE THE IMAGE IN MY HEAD AND I THEN PIN IT DOWN ON PAPER LIKE PETER PANS SHADOW BEING NAILED DOWN. THE DRAWING THEN BECOMES THE BLUEPRINT FOR THE SHOT WHICH I SHOW TO MY TEAM WHO THEN HELP ME TO CREATE THE SCENE.
9. Do you go shopping for the food yourself; do you have preferences when it comes to where the food is purchased?
I SOMETIMES DO THE SHOPPING MY SELF AND I ALWAYS GO FOR THE BEST QUALITY AND THE FRESHEST INGREDIENTS I CAN GET. ONCE I FIND A GOOD SUPPLIER I TEND TO STICK WITH THEM UNLESS THE STANDARD OR THE QUALITY DROPS IN ANY WAY.
10. What happens to a majority of the food leftover from shoots?
MOST OF IT IS SHARED OUT WITH MY TEAM. IF THERE IS A LOT LEFT THEN WE GIVE IT TO A LOCAL SHELTER FOR THE HOMELESS.
11. Do you use any foods in particular that provide a different look according to how they’re treated? For example, would you ever use raw potatoes, French fries, or roasted potatoes or do you mostly stick with raw foods?
I HAVE USED RAW POTATOES BUT WE DIP THEM INTO A SPECIAL SOLUTION TO STOP THEM TURNING GREY. I MAINLY WORK WITH RAW INGREDIENTS BECAUSE THEY RETAIN THEIR COLOUR ANT TEXTURE BETTER THAN WHEN THEY ARE COOKED. IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE SCENE I AM TRYING TO CREATE OR THE PRODUCT WE ARE TRYING TO SELL WHEN WORKING WITH ADVERTISING CLIENTS.
12. You’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years. How has your work evolved and how much do you think new technology has helped this process?
ALTHOUGH I HAVE BEEN A PHOTOGRAPHER FOR ABOUT 25 YEARS NOW, I HAVE ONLY BEEN CREATING FOODSCAPES FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS. HAVING DONE A LOT OF STILL LIFE WORK I KNOW A LOT ABOUT STUDIO LIGHTING, AND HAVING A LOVE OF LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY BRINGS A STRONG SENSE OF COMPOSITION AND NATURAL LIGHTING. THESE TWO GENRES OF PHOTOGRAPHY PLUS A LOVE OF FOOD HAS LED MY WORK TO EVOLVE INTO THE CURRENT BODY OF WORK.
13. How much of each image would you say is lighting and other affects and how much is just getting creative with how the food is presented?
I WOULD SAY IT IS FIFITY FIFTY, THE LIGHTING CREATES THE MOODS AND ATMOSPHERES I AM WANTING TO ACHIEVE AND IT SHOWS THE FOOD IN THE BEST LIGHT, BUT IT IS THE COMPOSITION, ARRANGEMENT AND PRESENTATION OF THE SCENE THAT COMBINES WITH THE LIGHTING TO CREATE A SENSE OF PLACE.
14. What is your favourite image in your new book and why?
MY FAVOURITE IMAGE IS THE FISHSCAPE, ALTHOUGH I PREFER THE PORTRAIT VERSION ON THE WEBSITE RATHER THAN THE LANDSCAPE CROP IN THE BOOK. IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT SCENES TO BUILD AND BY FAR THE SMELLIEST! BUT FOR ME THE COLD LIGHTING AND THE COMPOSITION MAKE THE ILLUSION OF A REAL PLACE VERY CONVINCING. I STILL NEVER TIRE OF LOOKING AT IT, AND AS WE LATER ANIMATED THE SCENE AND BROUGHT IT TO LIFE I HAVE A FONDNESS FOR IT ABOVE MOST OF THE OTHER IMAGES.
15. Which was the most difficult image to produce and why?
AGAIN IT WAS THIS FISHSCAPE SCENE, AS WE HAD TO GET IT ALL DONE IN ONE DAY BECAUSE OF THE SMELL AND THE FRESHNESS OF THE FISH. WE WERE ALSO BEING FILMED AND THAT WAS TAKING UP A LOT OF MY TIME, ESPECIALLY WHEN CERTAIN THINGS I THOUGHT WOULD WORK JUST DIDIN’T. FOR EXAMPLE THE WAKE OF THE FISHING BOATS I THOUGHT WOULD WORK FROM JUST USING SMALL FISH LIKE SPRATS, BUT WHEN WE ARRANGED THEM THEY JUST LOOKED BUSY AND CLUTTERED AND NOT LIKE A WAKE AT ALL. IT WAS PTEA MY FOOD STYLIST
WHO SAVED THE DAY BY CUTTING SIDES OF SALMON AND OVERLAYING THEM ON TO THE HERRING THAT WERE FORMING THE WAVE PATTERNS. IT’S THIS KIND OF COLLABORATION AND TEAM EFFORT WITH MY FOOD STYLIST AND MODEL MAKER THAT OFTEN PUSHES THE WORK TO A LEVEL THAT I HADN’T EXPECTED, AND THIS CAN BE VERY EXCITING AND REWARDING.
16. How has your work changed the way you look at food; is a meal just a meal anymore or do you see mountain ranges in meat and fields in salad?
NO I CAN PUT MY WORKING HAT ON AND OFF AS I PLEASE AND I NEVER PLAY WITH MY FOOD IF IAM GOING TO EAT IT AS FOR ME THE VISUAL PLEASURE OF FOOD IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM THE EATING AND TASTING PLEASURE.
17. Do you have any rules for each photo? For example does a certain percentage have to be vegetables or fruit, etc?
NOT REALLY. I LIKE TO CREATE SCENES OF PARTICULAR PLACES OR PARTS OF THE WORLD USING THE INGREDIENTS FROM THAT AREA, AND I LIKE TO SHOOT AS MUCH IN CAMERA AS POSSIBLE SO THAT THE SCALE OF INGREDIENTS IS KEPT THE SAME WHERE EVER POSSIBLE. BUT I WILL USE WHAT EVER PERCENTAGE OF FRUIT VEGETABLES, FISH, MEAT, NUTS, PULSES NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE THE BEST LOOK AND COMPOSITION OF EACH PIECE.
18. Can you tell me a bit about how your photographs are currently being translated into moving images?
I HAVE HAD SEVERAL COMMISSIONS TO DIRECT TV COMMERCIALS WHERE WE HAVE TRAVELLED A MOTION CONTROL CAMERA THROUGH THE FOODSCAPES USING A PERISCOPE OR SNORKEL LENS. BRINGING THE SCENES TO LIFE IN THIS WAY IS A WONDERFUL DEVELOPMENT OF THE IDEA OF A WORLD MADE OF FOOD AND I AM NOW TALKING TO VARIOUS PEOPLE ABOUT THE IDEA OF MAKING AN ANIMATED FILM OR SERIES WHICH WILL HOPEFULLY FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JAMIE OLIVER TO TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT WHERE FOOD COMES FROM, HOW GOOD IT IS FOR YOU AND HOW EATING HEALTHILY CAN IMPROVE YOUR OUTLOOK ON LIFE BY LOOKING AFTER BOTH MIND AND BODY. THE SERIES WOULD BE SET IN THE FOOD WORLDS I CREATE AND CHILDREN (AND ADULTS) WILL BE TAKEN THROUGH THESE WORLDS TO DISCOVER DIFFERENT INGREDIENTS AND LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT TYPES OF FOOD. MY HOPE IS THAT THIS TV SERIES OR FILM WILL ENTERTAIN AND EDUCATE IT’S AUDIENCE AND BRING ABOUT A GREATER AWARENESS OF HOW OUR DIET AND NUTRITIONAL INTAKE AFFECTS NOT ONLY OUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL LIVES, BUT BY ESTABLISHING A BETTER FOOD CULTURE, WE WILL TACKLE SOME OF THE GREATER SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES OF OUR TIME.
19. Do you ever see yourself moving away from this type of food photography?
WELL I ALREADY HAVE BEEN MAKING IMAGES USING THINGS OTHER THAN FOOD AS PEOPLE WILL SEE ON MY WEBSITE. THERE ARE SCENES MADE FROM CLOTHES AND CITIES MADE FROM NUTS AND BOLTS OR OFFICE EQUIPMENT. I THINK THAT IF I EVER GET TIRED OF DOING IT OR I RUN OUT OF IDEAS AND START REPEATING MYSELF, THEN IT WILL BE TIME TO MOVE ON, BUT I STILL HAVE PLENTY OF DRAWINGS IN MY SKETCH BOOKS THAT ARE WAITING TO BE BROUGHT TO LIFE.