Merry Christmas…with a Cake!

Last month, I was tasked with shooting a Bouche de Noel for Melissa Clark’s  Good Appetite column. I had never made or shot one before and I knew that this particular recipe, inspired by the great Dorie Greenspan, had to be aces. I also knew that when Melissa made her’s she had a ringer in the kitchen….Dorie herself. The pressure was on…but I have my own superstar on the bench to call on when in need of a big pinch hit…none other than my great friend, pastry maestro, Pichet Ong.

I have also formed a creative partnership with my former assistant Devon Knight and his editing partner Jason Lee to begin to shoot and direct food videos. We decided that this was a good chance to give our new collaboration a whirl…interesting, seasonal subject matter, a brand name talent on board and a recipe by a legend.

Here is the result…plus some snappy music to rock to while you roll. Merry Christmas!!!

Directed by: Andrew Scrivani

DP: Devon Knight

Editor: Jason Lee

Starring: The Hands of Pichet Ong



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Filed under Devon, Food Styling, Food Tips, video

Adventures in Cabinet Hunting…


So, I was searching for new kitchen cabinets while spending a usual weekend trolling around in Red Hook, Brooklyn for hipster food and annoyingly disassembled Swedish furniture, when I found something truly unusual. I saw a sign and a large trailer across from the Fairway parking lot that said “Affordable German Kitchens”. I was dubious…but went into the warehouse nonetheless to satisfy my curiosity since I was just told that the cabinets I liked at IKEA would arrive in 127 boxes and needed assembly before installation.

I walked in to see a very fit man in a track suit standing in the bottom drawer of a very modern, European style kitchen cabinet. Standing in the drawer!!! He was demonstrating for another couple just how durable the cabinets were. My interest was piqued. The whole concept of German Kitchen Design is based on the incredibly simple idea that functionality…like a drawer to keep your pots and pans in instead of reaching to the back of a huge cabinet on your hands and knees…is primary. Just realizing how this changes your quality of life, when you cook all the time, is incredible. Truly one of those moments when you see just how easy things can be if just a bit of thought goes into it. Design, functionality and you can stand up in them as a parlor trick….I’m in…if the price is right.

We looked through the showroom and were enamored with the sleek designs and and were convinced it was out of our price range, for sure. The man in the track suit, Glenn, who has energy like a hurricane on caffeine and a voice like he has been gargling with broken glass, assured us that what he was showing us was indeed “affordable” and walked us through the process.  We were still skeptical, but we really liked him and agreed to have him come and measure our kitchen and give us a price on the design we liked.

In the business we are in, our kitchen has to be the centerpiece of our home and it was important for it to represent how important food is in our lives. Glenn completely understood this and designed something that was not only what we wanted but also allowed me to keep my lungs…liver and kidneys.

I include Glenn’s business here for a few reasons…first,  because I am really, really happy with his service…and of course because I can. Second, to spread the word. The company he represents is a fixture in Germany but is just starting to get recognition here in the US. Nobilia not only has been a standard in global kitchen design for decades in Europe but began their US business outreach by helping Hurricane Sandy victims rebuild their homes. My Staten Island roots make me even more sensitive to this issue than most and their love for my hometown makes me want to see them succeed here. They are not just in Brooklyn but in Manhattan and expanding to many cities across the US, so even if you are reading this in other places you should still check them out. I am a big fan…especially since price wise they proved to be competitive with the DIY IKEA stuff with quality and design that are far superior. You can certainly see where IKEA get their design ideas from. 127 boxes!!! I’m sorry…but who has time for that.

I will follow up with a post once my kitchen is installed and show you exactly what I mean…but in the meantime…check out their site and this preliminary design that they drew up for free.


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New Online Food Photography Workshop…

photoSo what’s a Craftsy? I had to ask myself that question too when I was contacted by the representatives from Craftsy to teach a beginners online course in Food Photography, Food Styling and Propping. What I came to learn is that Craftsy is a tremendous resource to learn all sorts of creative endeavors from their bread and butter knitting and quilting classes to cooking and now food photography.  Even my Recipes for Health partner Martha Rose Shulman has a great class there too.

The class is really affordable (59.99), it is chock full of really good explanations, with a football style tele-strator (that thing where you diagram plays over the screen) and you get to spend hours listening to me struggle to suppress my NY accent. It’s a win all around.

Join me there..check out all of the other great offerings and keep feeding your brain all sorts of great stuff. Enjoy.

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Filed under Craftsy, Food Photography Workshops, Food Styling, Photography, Propping

Photographers Unite…

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I wanted to reach out to photographers both professional and aspiring to be so…and everyone in between. I have been contacted recently, by more than a few entities regarding “participation” in social media campaigns for products, services and branding efforts. These requests have taken many forms but there is one particular type of request that really got me thinking.

I know we all have very complex relationships with social media and for many of us it is a way to not only interact with friends and colleagues but to also use as an online platform for our work. For photographers, the use of social media, Instagram & Twitter in particular, are in a some areas, replacing our portfolios. This makes for an even more careful approach to how our work is perceived in these spaces.

One of the other balancing acts photographers face, is the idea that as your following grows so does the marketability of your feed. This is what I believe I am experiencing as marketers look to access the people who follow me. This gets tricky as you need to weigh the benefits of monetizing your feeds or keeping them pure to your vision as an artist. I have chosen the latter. I truly see my feeds as extensions of my work and as an extension of my own “brand”. Truthfully, this terminology turns my stomach but it is part of the reality of our business these days.

So, this latest, most disturbing turn involves a PR company calling me to ask if I would do a “takeover” of their Instagram feed for an event that they are promoting. They reference “terms & conditions” when making the request but it seemed pretty clear to me that these did not include any fees. When I requested clarification of what these “terms” were I got radio silence. I think people in many businesses that need visuals are finding that appealing to an artist’s vanity is an effective way to get free professionally made content. The use of the word “takeover” is a not so veiled reference to when TV music channels and radio stations have Lady Gaga “take over” the channel and play her music and a few of her favorite songs for a few hours….this is NOT the same thing.

I have been on record as saying that money is not the only compensation that artist can take in trade for their work. Exposure is clearly a good form of payment but I feel like the publicity monster really needs to be left a little hungry. Many entities…even ones without the platform to offer artists real publicity are acting as if this is an appropriate trade for services. Case in point…this Instagram “takeover”…the company in question phrased to me as an “opportunity” had 1/3 of the followers I have on Instagram. So…let me get this straight…you want me to come to your event…photograph it for free…and…post it on your social media accounts…What do I get out of this, exactly?

Here is an except of the response I sent this PR company:

It sounds interesting but unless “terms & conditions” means there is a day rate attached to this, then it still seems to me to be a photo assignment. It is an interesting model if it is and I’d be willing to discuss but if there is no compensation involved I’m afraid that as a professional photographer I’d have to decline. Please let me know because looking at social media as a platform for professional photo assignments seems very smart to me…assuming it’s not an end around on what we do to make a living. Thanks.

To this I got no response. I think that social media is a very legitimate way for photographers to earn money with their talents. It is ever more important that a company’s connection to their audience has a social media component. Good imagery and video can be essential to how successful that effort can be. We, as photographers, need to be mindful that our skills are very valuable in this marketplace and not to be sold cheaply. Flattery is not adequate payment. If you want professional imagery on your Facebook Page…then pay for it. If we as the professionals in this industry start giving away our wares for free, then nobody in the future will expect to have to pay for it.

If someone…anyone…wants you, professional or not to provide content….for a newspaper, magazine, website, publishing house or Instagram account…there is only one answer you must give….SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!


Filed under Food Photography Workshops, Photography

Burger Madness…

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I was asked to take this photo for last week’s Dining section for a story about how to cook a great burger…indoors or out. What ensued was a totally incredible social media response with so many Twitter notifications that I needed to turn my phone off. It always amazes me when something really resonates with a broad audience. It seems like such a simple equation after the fact…a classic food item…made accessible…with a cool twist…and an evocative picture. The perfect recipe for viral food.

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July 1, 2014 · 4:53 pm

Talk the Talk…


One of the clips from my most recent stint on on Table Top Photography. Check it out here.

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Filed under creativeLIVE, Food Photography Workshops, Seattle, video

My 12th Man…

photoI left Seattle on Saturday night amidst the rabid fervor of a city whose excitement for their team’s opportunity to play for a Super Bowl berth here in my part of the world was bordering on mass hysteria. Flags and jerseys were on everything from grandmas to children to Chihuahuas…Seattle itself was emblazoned in blue and green.  The football fan in me was getting stoked but the Giants fan in me was green with envy.

I was back in Seattle to broadcast another 18 hours of live photography instruction on the education website, I have done 2 other stints here in Seattle over the past 8 months and this time it was to teach a 3-Day class in Table Top Photography Fundamentals. The first couple of times around I was fully in my wheelhouse teaching Food Photography and Styling, talking about Narrative Storytelling and building and using a Light Table. In preparing for these first classes my notes and anecdotes came very naturally, like the natural light in my studio. The experiences I was recounting were from a place where I have had my greatest successes and felt confident and sure of my ability to deliver.

These next instructional hours came from a very different place. It was pretty evident to my producer, Meg Gayman, that I was not initially thrilled with straying from my original intent to teach more Advanced Techniques in Food Photography. I wanted to stay in my comfort zone and that did not fit the plan that she and Head of Content Craig Swanson had for me. It was going to be Table Top, aimed at a very different audience and I was going to have to dig deep to make it work. My notes and anecdotes did not flow so freely this time. Carving and crafting this material to fit into 18 hours of walking the wire without a net felt much scarier this time around. If last time was a labor of love…this time I felt uneasy, like I did in my early years in education, teaching sex-ed to a room full of smirking teenagers. Thankfully, when it was over, I was exhausted but no longer scared and felt even more rewarded than the first time around. Meg and Craig pushed me further than I have been pushed professionally in quite a while and I am better for the experience. I think our content hit the mark and will stay with our audience for a long while.

Meg, of course, was not alone in ushering me to this place…which leads me back to football in Seattle. Those maniacal fans have a nickname that has gone viral lately and will be on full display these weeks leading to that coveted Super Bowl appearance that the ‘Hawks earned last night with a thrilling victory over their arch-rival 49ers. They are called the 12th Man. For you football novices, the game is played with 11 per side and the fans in Seattle…because of their noise and wild support have adopted the 12th Man moniker. This reflects how their super fandom has led their team to the best home record in the NFL over the past 2 seasons. The team fully acknowledges that they have indeed been inspired and sometimes even aided by the crowd noise. It played out again in last night’s game. The Seattle creativeLIVE Crew was most definitely my personal 12th Man during this past week.

I was still pretty unsteady about this workshop until I walked into the office on Tuesday and then something profound happened. I relaxed. I saw the familiar faces of those I have worked with and some I just know from the casual interactions at the studio. That pressure I felt to carry the show went away with the knowledge that my 12th Man had my back. Everywhere I turned there was someone there to insure the success of these 3 days. From production to camera to sound to catering everyone was on my page. Again, my thanks come directly from the heart. I truly love working with such amazing professionals who are as easy to like, as they are to work with.

With affection and gratitude:

Thanks of course to Arlene, George, Amanda and Celeste for having such confidence in me to keep bringing me back to Seattle.

Meg- Thank you for being a force under that little voice and sweet smile. It didn’t fool me for one second. You are a hurricane and I’m glad you are on our team.

Craig- Thanks for pushing me. One can only know what we are capable of once we get to the edge.

Lindsay- I felt reassured every time I looked over at you off set. Our conversations always made me feel like just being myself on camera would never betray me.

John- I cannot express fully what your presence there meant to me. You were kind of the deal breaker…I’m not sure I would have ever had been as comfortable with this material without you.

Darcy- The set only happens to look like a place familiar and comfortable for me to work in because of your vision and sensitivity. Thank you so much for taking the time and putting in the careful effort to give me my tools. Your input was invaluable.

Kate- sourcing and wrangling all of that gear was by no means a small endeavor. We navigated every issue seamlessly and that was in big part to how hard you worked to get us prepared.

Dan’Yelle- your instincts for styling and propping were only matched by your efficiency. You kept me moving, hydrated and happy on set. You were the glue (or the gaffers tape)

Jim & Cathy- you both are so much fun to work with. Striking that balance between education and entertainment is never easy but it comes so naturally to you both. You guys were my screen pass…I could always go to it when I was in trouble.

Will, Willy, Sam, Tracy, Noah, Boone and Riley- thanks for making it look dynamic and as beautiful as humanly possible with a middle-aged bald man for a subject. You guys really do operate in Beast Mode.

Kellen- in spite of your epic miscalculation of playing One Direction in Studio A when the father of a teenage girl is trying to get in a good head space…you still make me smile and I love how you work. The sound was terrific in spite of me smacking the mic constantly.

Caitlin- whenever anyone sneaks up on me from now on I will expect one of you to be behind me with a LAV, some tape and about 3 seconds to get it done.

Thanks also to go Tyler in the booth. The sound when we had 6 people on set talking could not have been an easy navigation.

Thanks to Nikoma for making me significantly less shiny. I sat next to Snooki on the plane ride home and wondered how we were on the opposite spectrum of what people in your field have to deal with.

Carolyn- having specific needs, especially my food needs met when working is so important… thanks for putting up with yet another pain in the neck eater.

Thanks to our students: Paola, Katherine, Natalia, Robert, Mike, Leah and Danielle. It is always so refreshing to have smart, energetic people in front of me when I am teaching. I know it cannot be easy to sit there, on camera for that long and look interested, engaged and excited. I am honored to have had you all in this class. You were all wonderful and your work on Day 3 was outstanding.

And to everyone else at cL that I see and speak to and joke and bond with, thanks. You make Seattle feel like home.

You are all certainly my personal 12th Man.


Filed under creativeLIVE, Photography, Seattle, Travel