One of my last jobs before jumping the food ship and delving into photography full time, was for a soup company in New York City. They had 30 stores, and over 200 kinds of soup. This was just around the time that Paul and I started shooting professionally for a magazine in Philly and knew that was the direction we wanted to take our lives. I used to stand below the massive promotional photos in amazement that a large company with those kinds of resources would have such bad photos. Every photo was flooded with light. Blown out highlights gave the food a blinding presence, obscuring the details that give ingredients their texture. Ingredients were enhanced to the point of perfection, like a bowl of waxed fruit, too perfect to be real. A giant raw chicken loomed above the soup line and I wondered in what universe uncooked poultry would make someone’s mouth water for soup. I knew I could do better.
So when Mary Kate Carpenter, the sister of one of our favorite brides (insert shameless plug for awesome wedding here), contacted us about a shoot for her new line of soups, Ladles Out, I could barely contain my excitement. With her slogan of “Not Your Mamma’s Soup”, we felt challenged. How would we make soup young, sexy and interesting? Like we tend to do in most of our art, we decided to go dark, both literally and metaphorically. We started by staining some wood planks in 3 different stains: white, walnut and oak, to use as backgrounds. We assembled ingredients, piles of dried beans, rosemary branches from our front yard, kosher salt, peppercorns. After braving some harsh weather, we arrived at Double Decker Pizza, one of the two locations where Mary Kate’s Soups were born and are currently being served.
Their spacious second floor dining room was awash with natural light, nicely diffused by the overcast day and previous snow fall. We set up by a window, used a reflector for some fill and resisted every urge to flood with flash. Kissing with light and painting with shadows, Paul manned the tripod and while I straddled the ladder as we played with geometry, spilled colorful herbs and surrounded cups of beautiful soup with natural, imperfect, unsaturated ingredients. It was truly one of the most relaxing, zen like photo shoots that we’ve been involved in. So to that big, corporate soup company that made me wear a hair net and stare at raw chicken all day? It’s taken me two years, but we’ve definitely got you beat!