The address said “The Summer house studio , Jaynagar ” The sign on the building announced “The good folk company”. We had arrived! After weeks of planning and re-organising schedules, I was all set and looking forward to my first food photography workshop.
This wasn’t just any food styling workshop you see. I had signed up for it especially because I found an emotional connect with my fellow blogger Madhuri Agarwal. Her food pictures did not just make you hungry , they offered little insights into her life. The photographs spoke of family , togetherness , sharing , warmth , zest for life , youth and an impossible to ignore appreciation for food.
I rarely look at other blogs unless I know the blogger personally. But, ‘MAD About Kitchen’ was a blog that I stumbled upon accidentally and has had me hooked for the past 6 months.
Just when I had decided that I somehow had to meet the woman behind the camera, an advertisement for a food styling workshop by her popped up in my facebook newsfeed.Lo and behold it turned out to be the perfect weekend to get creative !
.Madhuri stood at the entrance waiting to greet us. The friendly eyes , petite frame and shy smile put me at ease straight away. The fact that I lacked a tripod for my camera just didn’t matter from that moment on !
We were a group of 15 individuals from diverse backgrounds.I was both surprised and delighted to have two Coimbatoreans share in this experience with me.
As we introduced ourselves the room resonated with laughter and wit. Radhika , a home baker from Singapore,was in Bengaluru for her mother’s 80th birthday. She decided to bring her along for the workshop just so she could spend the day with her while doing something she loved. Many loud birthday wishes followed and that set the mood for the rest of the day!
A slideshow of Madhuri’s favourite food shots were projected on a screen. She went on to describe the difference in each of those shots by way of layout and style
I knew I was in the right place when she said that she isn’t highly technical . She never uses artificial lighting of any sort ,no filters and absolutely no fake food whatsoever. That was exactly what I was looking for. I always felt that I owed the readers the real thing. It was never my intention to use sprays or wax to make food look beautiful. And Madhuri’s work was the perfect example of that.
We were shown how the same ingredients could be showcased in both a pale as well as in a dark setting without altering it’s inherent deliciousness.
The huge table was loaded with a variety of fresh produce , milk , eggs , breads , spices and lots more.This line up of ingredients left us spoilt for choice.
The “props”as we like to call it are mostly pieces of cutlery and crockery lovingly collected over the years. They jostled for space on the table alongside some brass utensils from a different era,which were obviously inherited.
Then came the boards ! Regular packing boxes, plywood , driftwood from a hill station holiday , marble and stone in assorted colours and textures ,each,hand painted by Madhuri, offered a fantastic base on which the food could be displayed.
While we were settling on our individual choices Madhuri added the most important detail. The photography skills could be taught but the styling had to come from the heart.”Do what makes you happy” she said !
Hot cups of strong coffee were downed and it was time to put theory to practice.
The playground was turned over to us and what a time we had !Madhuri’s friend Ashwini added to the exhuberant vibes by cheering us on. Her infectious smile was impossible to ignore and made us all feel very welcome ! We stood , crouched , bent over , squinted and lay down in our efforts to get the perfect shot ! Not a thought was given to our crumpled clothes or hungry stomachs as we worked well past the designated lunch hour.
Rekha, the organiser at the studio finally got us to put down our equipment and have a bite. Between mouthfulls of delicious corn-and-lettuce sandwiches and a mouthwatering chickpea salsa , we plied Madhuri with a barrage of questions!
What warmed me to her even more was the fact that she gave all the participants the same amount of attention irrespective of the fact whether they used a DSLR or a phone camera.
That sort of took away the intimidation of not being technically sound in the matters of the lens. Amateurs like me shared the space with a few professionals who were equally in awe of what was taught. That allowed us to relax into our own shoot and not feel the need to compete with our neighbour.It also led to forming a bond with each other without any awkwardness about the age or gender.
Once the raw ingredients were done being shot , we had to use our new skills on cooked food. With the lot of us being passionate foodies at heart , I don’t need to tell you what a task that was. It was a good thing that we had already tucked into a yummy lunch. The green pesto begged to be licked off the spoon . After having tossed the sphagetti ,I had to will myself to wash the bits of white feta off my fingers .The ripe juicy cherry tomatoes and pine nuts begged to be popped into the mouth and just don’t get me started on the plump red strawberries !
It was more than just an amazing and fun learning experience. I can honestly say that this food styling workshop fed my hungry soul.