Paris-born Jean Cazals is a London based food photographer and winner of The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2012 award.
Without question a dominant player in the industry, how did Cazals become a photographer? “It’s like a lot of arts, you actually feel it, I don’t think you become one just by accident, making (a) living of it” he informs us.
And what does he suggest is the reason for specialising in food photography?
In an interview with ProductionParadise.com, he points out: “If you don’t like to love to eat then there’s no point being a food photographer” – applies to all forms of photography.
Barthes suggests that photographs are irrefutable evidence of the subject having existed: “In photography, I can never deny the thing has been there” (Barthes, 1993, p. 76).
Fontcuberta, however, reminds us that images can be false: “My mission is to warn people about the possibility that photography can be doctored…” (Fontcuberta in Bainbridge, 2014).
He goes on to state: “I use photography in the sense of it being an authoritarian tool. When we see a picture, we believe it is a picture of a fact, but this is just a convention” (Ibid.).
Credibility is something Cazals feels strongly is a key element in terms of being a successful photographer: “I’d say integrity, I think it’s integrity in everything you do”. He explains accordingly:
“You’ve got to follow the brief but you’ve got to follow the brief with your integrity. So, I think integrity and believe and love what you do is the main thing. Otherwise you become just a number doing something”.
Photographs in themselves do not narrate. Photographs preserve instant appearance” (Berger, 2013, p. 52).
In terms of appearance, the importance of unique personal style is something that Cazals is very clearly aware of, and utilises in establishing and maintain his niche: “don’t fall into the trap of trying to satisfy someone, you have to satisfy your client but you can satisfy with something that you like and you believe in. Because if this client comes to you, it’s because he likes what you do.”
Cazals is in great demand, with work being used in advertising campaigns, consumer magazines, food industry journals, and recipe books. Be in no doubt that this is quality work. But is it truly differentiated from the work of other contemporary food photographers?
Yes, I think it is. I say this because Cazals does indeed have a unique approach to food photography owing to his ability to demonstrate an “under-the-skin” understanding of his subjects. Understanding a subject on this level is one thing, conveying the characteristics of a real-world experience using two-dimensional medium is another. This Cazals achieves through the use of unique materials to bring in a range of colours and textures which, by comparing or contrasting with the subject, place the viewer in the frame. Consequently, images appeal as much to the senses of touch and smell as they appeal visually.
Jean Cazals, 2013. Cosmopolitan
Observing that “websites are the key of everything nowadays”, Cazals points to the internet being a significant factor in his promotional armoury, allowing him to reach a global audience. More specifically, he refers to the successful marriage between ProductionParadise.com and his own website: “because you show some example of your image then it goes forward to your own personal website”.
ProductionParadise.com is an online promotional tool for artists working in visual media. It may very well be the case that Cazals interview has been rehearsed as a promotional video, however, Cazals answers are consistent with sentiments he expresses in other forums and therefore have some credibility, which we have is important to Cazals.
At this juncture, as I prepare to write my critical review of practice, and in terms of my practice in general, Cazals interview underlines the need to identify and evaluate contexts for consumption.
Furthermore, it reinforces the importance of staying true to a personal vision, understanding that this is something which develops organically over a period of time. Undergoing constant evolution, being refined by personal experience, and informed by continuing critical contextualisation, but never redefined to meet the requirements of any one commercial brief – your style needs to remain exactly that, you own unique and personal style.
Bainbridge, Simon. (2014) ‘Spanish Lies’ in British Journal of Photography, 20 July 2014 [Online]. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2014/07/joan-fontcuberta-interview-photography-exhibition-london-bradford/ Accessed: 03 March 2017)
Barthes, Roland. (1993). Camera Lucida London: Vintage
Berger, John. (2013) Understanding a Photograph London: Penguin