Photography News Issue 41

Photography News | Issue 41 |

46 Interview

Taste of success Pro focus

Words by Terry Hope Pictures Paul Johnston/Coppermango

Food specialist Paul Johnston received a dream commission to illustrate celebrity chef Mark Greenaway’s new book. It turned into a labour of love...

Mark Greenaway is considered one of the top chefs of his generation and his eponymous restaurant in Edinburgh holds three coveted AA Rosettes. His food not only tastes exquisite; it also looks amazing. Given that kind of background it was no surprise that there was plenty of interest in a book featuring Mark’s outstanding recipes; but the man himself was determined that if he was going to do something it would have to have a personality that matched that of his restaurant. The local suppliers, an essential part of his ethos, would need to feature, while the food had to look as it does at the table – utterly divine, a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. This was the idea behind Perceptions , whichwonMark the chef category in the World Gourmand Book Awards. Local photographer Paul Johnston, a food specialist who runs Coppermango, was the man tasked with doing justice to Mark’s culinary creations. And it was a dream assignment in every way. “I started working with Mark after one newspaper sent a sports photographer to shoot his food for a feature,” he says. “He realised that he needed to be working with someone more specialised, and he obtained my details from a PR company that had worked with me.

“I started doing the photography for one of his columns and we built a good working relationship. Mark kept mentioning that he was considering putting a book together but I didn’t knowthe timescale. Then inmid2015hegotme in for ameeting and told me he wanted me to do the photography.” What makes Mark’s restaurant stand out from the crowd is his determination to be utterly original, and he approached his book in the same way. Consequently, this is no bland series of recipes; rather it’s an introduction to the whole philosophy behind the Greenaway brand, exploring his values and sharing his culinary ideas. The dishes included are all one-offs, painstakingly conceived and presented in the way an artist might unveil a work of art, and those following the instructions are given carte blanche to come up with their own twists and interpretations. Paul’s task was to interpret every dish so it came across as well on the printed page as it did on the table. He needed to be able to work fast and coordinate everything with Mark and his team. The need to be close to where the preparation was taking place meant he set up his studio, close to the kitchen.

Images It was important that the images were accurate representations of the beauty of Mark’s dishes on the plate. To help he set up a mini studio each day of the shoot in the basement of the restaurant. Paul also travelled all around the UK to photograph Mark’s suppliers.

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“Due to the complexity of a lot of the dishes it made sense to do it this way,” says Paul, “so that Mark had his full range of ingredients to hand along with the equipment he needed to prepare the various elements. I would turn up once a week and set up a mini studio, ready for the day’s shoot. Mark was involved in the whole cooking and presentation

process. For dishes he knew well he had a very clear vision of what it needed to look like, while for the newer ones he produced sketches to showwhere the various components would go before plating up. You can read more in the latest issue of Professional Photo .

This article first appeared in issue 129 of Professional Photo , on sale now. It’s packed with inspiring images and tips for aspiring pros and those already making a living.

You’ll findmore insight in the latest Professional Photo – the UK’s best magazine for full-time and aspiring pro photographers

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