California, New Cuisine of the American Riviera
All photographers love book projects!
I know that’s a rather sweeping statement, but I have never heard of any pro turning down a book assignment. It’s the opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject, to really cover an area or topic and not just skim the surface. And there is no denying that receiving your advanced copies and holding that book in your hands after sometimes years of work is a real rush. The satisfaction is immense.
I was recently fortunate to feel that sensation upon receiving my copies of “California, New Cuisine of the American Riviera”, written by Anne Lenze and published by Kosmos in Germany. The photography in this book is only half mine. I was hired to shoot the extensive location material while a food studio in Stuttgart shot the actual preparation of the recipes.
Each subject, whether avocados, abalone, grapes or walnuts, turned into a complete photo essay of its own. I like to work this way and the photo essay approach worked well with the diverse subjects that needed to be covered for this project. The Santa Barbara area produces an amazing variety of crops, wines and seafood all year long and local chefs take full advantage of this abundance. The ethnic diversity of the area also impacts local cuisine, resulting in such amazing dishes as chef Budi Kazali’s Asian-infused paella.
My shoot list leaned heavily towards the sources of organic ingredients used by local chefs. Farms, vineyards, shops, winemakers, bakers, fishermen and chefs were all part of the mix, along with festivals and local scenes. The diversity of the subjects was immense, making the project constantly fascinating. With such a long shoot list, efficiency became critical. Much of the assignment was spent contacting individuals and arranging photo shoots. My assistant, Renée Giles, spent many days tracking down our subjects and dealing with the inevitable changes in appointments. The logistics turned out to be quite complicated.
The really unique aspect of this assignment was the emphasis put on location. This is a new trend for cookbooks, adding another dimension to both the text and photography. In addition, the design team at Kosmos was exceptional, applying very high production values to the book, including a sand texture on all parts of the cover that depicted a sandy beach and printing full-color panoramics across the inside of the dust jacket and cover. The layout was beautifully done and I had never seen either of these novel techniques used in a book.
Two very talented photography students from Brooks Institute, Tony Mac and Austin Sosa, were kind enough to assist with the cover shoot, as was Santa Barbara’s premier stylist, Claire Stancer. And I cannot forget the unflagging support of my lovely wife Gerry. Just like my last book, this project would have been much more challenging if not for Renée and Gerry.
It was a great pleasure meeting so many people involved in creating our local cuisine. Many chefs graciously sent me home with whatever I had photographed. I essentially grazed my way through the assignment. Now if I could only read German.