Singapore

You Forget It All Starts Outside

When it comes to cooking, dining and just enjoying food, we sometimes forget that it all starts outside. Great produce is what makes a great dish and it’s something that I keep being reminded of.

There are two things that I love and its food and being outside. The connection between the two is often forgotten or overlooked but when you remember, your appreciation for what you eat is so much more.

To me, there is nothing as great as stepping outside into the sunshine, fresh air and wide open spaces. As a photographer I look at the light but I also make it a point to step outside every day for pure joy. It helps me to feel more grounded and remember the simple things in life. My friends joke about it because my delight on a sunny day has me even jollier than normal. We call it a ‘Suasti Kind of Day’.

There have been so many times that I have gone to eat in a great restaurant to be amazed at the food but the moment that I think about how long it took to actually grow a certain tomato, raise a piece of kobe or mature a beautiful cheese my appreciation sky rockets. It takes so long! The people who create these products for restaurants to use and put on our plates, go through so much trouble to nurture and take care of their produce. In a world which is about fast consumption, the slow and time honoured way that these producers work makes me think twice about how it ALL starts outside – in nature.

In doing this photoshoot for Odette, we decided to take Chef Julien Royer, outside, to where it all starts with food. We are so used to seeing chefs in the kitchen that we thought the often unspoken symmetry between nature and the kitchen would be a good way to remember exactly where a great dish starts.

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Julien Royer 

With Chef Julien growing up in the country in France we had to shoot this series outside in Singapore, for his restaurant, Odette, named for his grandmother who first taught him to cook. I imagine growing up in France, he spent countless hours outside on the farm, growing vegetables and harvesting them from season to season and perhaps even sitting under a tree and day dreaming about being a great chef one day.

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Julien Royer 

 

Chef Julien Royer | JAAN | Swissotel | Gluten Free |

It has been months and months since my last blog post and there is so much to catch up on. Something came full circle recently and I just felt the need to put it out there and write about it. Especially if anyone else out there had been struggling the way I had.

August of last year saw me feeling very tired and run down. True, I had been busy but there was no reason for me to feel as dismal as I did. After going to the doctors many times and having lots of tests done we realized that I had become highly sensitive to gluten. I didn’t realize that this naturally occurring protein was prevalent in so many foods and so I went on an elimination diet. This was hard but I was able to do it. Within two weeks I saw a huge change in my levels of energy, just feeling ‘clearer’ and being able to focus better. Incredible after so long.

On one hand I  was delighted to feel better but on the other hand I was devastated about my change in diet. I cried. Literally. I was a girl who loved food. Grocery lists, markets and recipe books were a great way to spend a weekend for me. In Sydney I would spend hours at all the different markets we had nearby and in New York there was so much to look at and discover. I would come home from work and bake bread from scratch, kneading the dough into submission and filling the house with the aroma of fresh bread. Nothing pleased me more than getting a bunch of friends together and cooking for them. It’s always the simple things that make me happiest and food was one of them. Things were definitely not going to be the same. My mental adjustment to this was one of the hardest things I have had to face and I am still dealing with it.

At the same time as I was learning about my food intolerance – work went on as usual. I was requested to go into the kitchen of JAAN to do a profile piece on Chef de Cuisine Julien Royer and his team. The Honeycombers were running an article and needed me.

I remember clearly getting a short slot during their busy lunch period to do my shoot. JAAN is located on the 70th floor of the Swissotel and I had no idea what to expect from the kitchen side of things. I was warmly greeted by the staff though and I got to see first hand what goes on inside the kitchen of a fine dining establishment. Chef Julien Royer and his team were very accommodating and I got images that I didn’t expect to get. The article went live and I was contacted by the marketing team at Swissotel for me to come in again and shoot the team. When you take as much care as I do with other peoples businesses and images it is always so nice to be asked back, its something I value a lot.

JAAN - Julien Royer | Kirk Westaway

On my second visit to the JAAN kitchen I had more time to observe as they allowed me to stay in the kitchen for hours. While I was there I was able to really see and experience what went on. Watching for some time allows me to be able to translate the ‘feel’ of things into imagery. Sometimes just one shot has to tell a whole story.

Julien Royer From an observers perspective, everything that happens in the kitchen at JAAN just flows. There is a rhythm and pace with the team that speaks volumes for Julian Royer and the way he helms the kitchen, a true gentleman. The service was busy as it usually is however the order and deliberateness of everything was a joy to watch. In a busy kitchen there was a sense of peace that I had not observed before. Each person knew their role and it was like an orchestra of musicians that were playing their part for it to all come together beautifully. Even when the pace picked up during the busiest time there was no tension. It was such a pleasing experience to be watching a kitchen run at such a high level of precision, delivering beautiful dishes with fluidity and a sense of fun.

JAAN Team - Krik Westaway, Julien Royer Fast forward to 2014 and I finally go back into JAAN for lunch. Since discovering my gluten intolerance, eating out had not been fun for me to say the least. I was always apprehensive but had been assured that JAAN would be able to cater for me.

I was joined for lunch by Andrea Lui of Frolik and Maria Kuvshinova and Andries de Vos of Clubvivre. All three of my lunch partners were food connoisseurs to say the least and I was in great company.

As I sat, took in the view and enjoyed the amazing courses put before me I felt I really had come full circle from a year ago. My appreciation was heightened even more as I had been in the kitchen and seen first hand what was happening behind the scenes. And I was still blown away.

Chef Julien RoyerThe joy I felt was probably more intense as each of my beautiful dishes was completely gluten free and delicious. As a photographer, the plating was artistic and so visually balanced that I had to pause in mid conversation to let my eyes happily rest on what was in front of me.   As a lover of food, the freshness of ingredients and the execution of each dish had a finesse that I wanted to applaud. Julien Royer had surpassed my expectations. I was surprised, happy and appreciative.

Chef Julian Royer

Chef Julien Royer and his team do an incredible job and the care that they take for people with food intolerances is notable. For many people with gluten sensitivity I am sure you see it as I do – that this level of care has sense of kindness about it. I, for one, was very grateful.

Chef Julien Royer

 

The whole experience starting a year ago has now put me back on track and I am revisiting my love of food. I am sure my friends and I will be back sooner rather than later.

So in sharing this with you, I will close with images my friend Andrea took of the meal. Enjoy.

 

JAAN Egg beetroot photo Granita Hen Hen2 Scallop UniHoneycomb

JAAN Dessert Truffle Ice Cream JAAN

 

 

 

Are You Camera Shy? Five Reasons Not to Be

Being involved with the Dove Camera Confidence campaign recently has helped me overcome my own camera shyness. People always thought it was strange that I was so camera shy  – I would always be the photographer to avoid actually being in pictures. Each time a group photo was to be taken I would stiffen up, freeze and manage to scrounge up the worst expression possible thinking that it would resemble something of a nonchalant smile – sound familiar?

According to the dove campaign 77% of women world-wide face the same issues I did. That’s a lot of us ladies!  My camera shy tendencies stemmed from female friends over the years commenting on how unattractive I looked in photos or how un-photogenic I was. Not many friends said this – but a couple definitely did – and it’s always those comments that stick with you for some reason – right?

I had one girlfriend take a photo of me – look at the back of the screen and make a disdainful face solely about me. I have had comments about how big my head seemed ( when in fact it was that my co-subjects head was extra small!!) and a girlfriend who constantly drew attention to how lean she looked in pictures as opposed to me. The list goes on – and it all resulted in varying degrees of camera shyness.

Here I am trying to get comfortable.

Here I am trying to get comfortable.

When people come to get their photos taken by me, I know what you have gone through – I understand that you may feel camera shy and I am there to help. Sessions with me are very relaxed as I have walked a mile in your shoes.

Well, now its about two miles. My camera anxieties all came to ahead when I had to be in the Dove Camera Confidence Video. Yes, actually in it (panic). Can you feel how I started to perspire? I even asked if we could have stick figures giving pointers and I would be the voice over person!

Can you see my jugular popping out?

Can you see my jugular popping out?

I had to get over my camera anxiety pretty quickly. First of all I wanted to help lots of people out there like me and secondly I was excited to get such a wonderful opportunity.

Our day in studio was a long one – twelve hours to be exact. I put on my game face and went into hair and make up before the shoot started. All glammed up with various outfits tried on we were ready to hit the camera. Celes and I had various lines each but boy was I nervous sometimes. When the camera was on me and I was delivering my lines – my heart was pounding so fast I was worried that the director could see my jugular vein popping out!  After twelve hours of filming my camera anxieties had flown out the door. My body ached from sitting on the couch but my camera confidence had finally been found!

We spent a lot of time on that couch!

We spent a lot of time on that couch!

You can see the results of the video here:

Goofing around with my camera.

Goofing around with my camera.

I had to photograph myself for this campaign - quite a challenge!

I had to photograph myself for this campaign – quite a challenge!

The whole crew who made the video happen. What a great bunch from the Dove Team to the director Julius Landau and the crew.

The whole crew who made the video happen. What a great bunch from the Dove Team to the director Julius Landau and the crew.

The final celebratory group shot!

The final celebratory group shot!

With this post I urge you to find your own camera confidence. Five reasons to have pictures of yourself :

  1. Fantastic moments will pass and you will not have a momento of it. The picture will not capture everything about a great experience but it will jog your memory so you can re-live the joy of it in years to come.
  2. You are who you are and there is no one else like you. Learn to love yourself. The angles of your face, the nose you inherited from your grandmother, the cheeks you got from your father and the colour of your eyes that are your mothers. You are  the result of a fantastic genetic mix of your history and there is no one else who looks just like you. That’s pretty cool.
  3.   You may think you are getting older and not want to take pictures of yourself but remember that each day everyone gets a little bit older and women grow into their looks. A face that has character and definition is one who has lived a little! Got laugh lines around your eyes – great! It shows that you have laughed and enjoyed yourself.  Mature faces are beautiful to look at.
  4. Worried about your body shape and a little tummy you may have – own it! You probably delivered a few beautiful children into this world and that soft spot is where they came from. It’s just a part of who you are and it’s OK.
  5. Most people in this world are looking for what is great about you. If you smile with joy and happiness your photos will be attractive and radiate energy from them because you are comfortable. It’s all about being confident.  Naysayers are usually people who are insecure themselves and they are few and far between – forget them. 98% of people out there are looking for what is great about you – show them!

    Here I am smiling like no one is looking for a change. Thank you Dove for helping me find my own camera confidence.

    Here I am smiling like no one is looking for a change. Thank you Dove for helping me find my own camera confidence.

Don’t shy away from the camera any more – as time passes it is our photo collection that will mark great moments in our lives and enable you to re-live wonderful occasions. Like I have said before – I’m looking for all the many things that are beautiful about you when I shoot. By the time I am finished hopefully you will be able to see them too!

A Yummy Plain Vanilla Housewarming

This past weekend I was delighted to attend the Housewarming of Plain Vanilla Bakery in Tiong Bahru. The event was cosy, warm and laid back just like Vanessa Kenchington herself who owns this charming bakery.

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Going back in time, many of you know that I photographed Vanessa for a Hello Honey shoot and this is how I met her. She is one busy lady so we only had a small window of time in which to do the shoot. I admit that I do feel nervous at times turning up to a complete stranger’s home to photograph them. Who wouldn’t be right? There are so many things at play when I shoot. I have to consider the light, the location, small details and most importantly the subject.

So there I was climbing the stairs to Vanessa’s home (noisily hoisting up my camera bag behind me) wondering about my subject. Was she in the mood to be photographed, how had her day been going, and so on and so forth. Well, my fears were happily flung out the window (or the second floor balcony) when she opened the door and this complete stranger greeted me so warmly.

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Vanessa showed me around her beautiful apartment and we got talking – really talking about life, love, work and doing something you are passionate about. Vanessa is a trained lawyer and left a career in law behind to pursue her dreams of offering people the simple things in life by way of Plain Vanilla Bakery.  It was such a refreshing and open conversation and she spoke from the heart.

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I photographed her while we chatted and time flew! Before I knew it my hour was up as the hard working Vanessa had to make an emergency cupcake delivery.

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I saw her again this past weekend at the official housewarming of Plain Vanilla. It was aptly named a housewarming as there were children running around, homemade lemonade, big communal tables and a true feeling of community.

Each person was made to feel welcome and I could see how Vanessa’s hard work had translated into this beautiful space. The cupcakes on offer at the bakery are delicious and homely with a price that lets you enjoy the simple things in life without a care – the way it should be!

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I know how hard this amazing lady has worked and as you can see from my photos she has done it all while still being true to herself  and keeping a beautiful smile on her face. Hard work pays off and Vanessa’s laid back personality and friendliness comes across in Plain Vanilla Bakery as a whole. I had a blast.

Why Are You Camera Shy Woman? Stop It.

I just came across the latest Dove advertisement and it focuses on women and how camera shy they can be.  The focus of the ad campaign is ” when did you stop thinking you were beautiful?” Towards the end of the clip you get to see some beautiful little girls preening happily in front of the mirror. When did it change?  If all the camera shy women in the world could see themselves through the eyes of their children, husband or loved one, the world would be a better place. They would feel gorgeous, sexy, happy and full of warmth.

I get to see how beautiful women are when I photograph them as their beauty shines when they are the least self conscious. During a shoot, when a mum leans in and has a whisper to her six year old and then throws her head back laughing, her beauty shines. When resting with a little one on her shoulder, relaxed and nurturing, again, her beauty shines.

A woman’s beauty is a combination of how she moves, the curve of her cheek, the joy she shows and the warmth she radiates. It is so much more than a straight photograph. Sometimes its the quiet moment in which she can gaze straight at the camera while relaxed, that is the moment in which even I can be startled as I see her confidence and her strength. The completeness of this woman hits home.

The images that capture your inner beauty, at the same time as making your outside looks shine, are the images I want to take.

Look up lady, look at the camera, you are beautiful.

Camera Shy? Look Up Beautiful

Grateful

I had a beautiful family shoot this afternoon. And I was grateful. Not only do I love photography but I am deeply touched that people choose me to photograph them on special occasions. My shoot this afternoon was to capture some memories for a two year old as her cousins were permanently migrating overseas.

Families often come to me to capture their last few months in Singapore and to me this is a special request.They want to capture the fun they have had here, the births of one or more children and the extraordinary experience they have had. The photos I take commemorate the life they had here and are memories that will be ‘looked at’ when the move home.

After my shoot finished today, I took a moment to sit in the botanical gardens, look at the golden light and feel truly thankful to all the people who have chosen me to photograph them. If any of you are reading this – thank you – I am so blessed to be able to meet and photograph many of you and treasure the friendships that have evolved over time.

What I try and do for you in a photo shoot means the world to me and I hope to always get better and deliver images that will delight you now and in years to come.

The sky is missing!

The unexpected haze in Singapore due to the burning of land in Sumatra has caused the sky to go missing! I can’t see very much at the moment so it has put a damper on all the outdoor  photography that was planned.

I’m keeping a watery eye on the haze outside but will be re-scheduling some shoots for health reasons.  Health warnings suggest that all people should stay inside because of the air quality.

Thinking of everyone and hoping for some rain! I miss blue skies.

Eat, Pray, Love’s Ketut and Bali.

My most recent photography adventure has been to Ubud in Bali. Set in lush greenery, Ubud is so very peaceful and serene. Steeped in religious practice and tradition, it is miles away from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak and Kuta.

After arriving at Denpasar our main goal was to get to the beautiful hotel “Uma by Como”. We pleasantly chatted away to our driver Rocky who was transporting us to the hotel. Completely taken by the scenic views from our van, I was thoroughly engrossed in general chit chat and rice paddies. As the van slowed down I was expecting to pull into the hotel, however we found our self at someone else’s actual home.

Whose home you may wonder? If you have read the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert or seen the movie starring Julia Roberts, you may remember a good portion of the book being set in Bali. As we pulled up I asked Rocky  “Is this the hotel Rocky?”

“No, no. This is Ketut Liyer’s house. The medicine man!” replies smiley Rocky.

“Whaatttt? Oh my gosh!” I screeched. What in the world was I doing here? We had asked Rocky (just generally) if Ketut Liyer from the book Eat, Love, Pray was a real person you could visit and then lo and behold he actually brought us to see him! Surprised didn’t quite describe it. We scrambled out of the van to see what lay beyond the beautiful stone wall.

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A welcome from Ketut Liyer.

It was a bit surreal to see a character from a book right in front of your eyes. He looked pretty good for his age considering he is meant to be about 110 at this point. Sitting cross-legged on the verandah of his compound he was happily telling the fortunes of the tourists before us.

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Eat, Pray, Love’s Ketut Liyer. Still smiley at the age of 110 it seems!

He was delighted to have his picture taken and to see what he looked like. We were number 24 for the day and one of the last people he saw. While I don’t place too much faith in his fortune telling skills, it was a treat to see him in real life.

Take a number to see Ketut.

I spent some time looking into his eyes as he spoke and was greeted with a warm spirited person.  All the best to you Ketut Liyer, thank you for being so pleased to pose for me.

Ketut is thrilled to see a picture of himself on my camera.

Ketut is thrilled to see a picture of himself on my camera.

Show Us Your Personality Please

The Honeycombers in Singapore is an online destination that tells you what is happening all around the island. They cover openings of new restaurants to fabulous new brands arriving and even quirky little stores you didn’t know existed. It is also an online directory so whenever you are in a bind you can simply look things up on the site. You can discover everything great in Singapore at http://www.thehoneycombers.com after you check out the fab team below.

After moving to Singapore from Manhattan I was at a loss as to where to find things on my new little island. I longed for something like The Honeycombers and BAM, one day, everything just collided perfectly. I found them and they found me! It was a match.  The photography gods were listening and I now have a team I love working with in conjunction with my own brand.

The Honeycombers have just launched a newly renovated site and with that came new team photos. We shot it against a nice grey wall at Chris’, the founder and owner’s house. I really love this grey wall. It has such character. But I digress, I wanted to show the team’s character – not just the wall’s!

The aim was to showcase everyone’s personality and that it was a fun team. Doing ‘work’ on this team involves a lot of laughter and it is part of what makes The Honeycombers the way it is. I wanted to capture the spirit of each team member, the semi-formal and the goofy sides of their personalities.

The shoot was fast as we are comfortable with each other and, here, you get to see the final product. Team Honeycombers, show us your personalities please.

Chris - our fun, fearless, fabulous leader

Chris – our fun, fearless, fabulous leader

Mel - our marvelous senior editor who is the bomb diggity of writers

Mel – our marvelous senior editor who is the bomb diggity of writers

Tina - our awesome relationship manager

Tina – our awesome relationship manager

Rachel - our super talented graphics guru

Rachel – our super talented graphics guru

Cosmopolitan’s Fearless Men

These are some of the fearless men who I shot for Cosmopolitan Magazine Singapore. They were featured in September 2012’s issue. This is my personal black and white edit which I only just got around to doing, months later! I say better late than never.

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I have shot Bobby Tonelli and George Young before so it was a very easy shoot and these guys are great at what the do. They all have such ease in front of the camera. They can relax into different moods and be sexy and laugh on cue – that is what I call talent.

I am using this post to draw some light to how a commercial shoot goes. You can see here that I have edited these images to look sultry and sexy and a little bit dark, just like the fearless men themselves. However, on the set of the shoot it was anything but dark and sultry – we were all having a laugh and teasing each other, getting the shot, checking make-up and just rolling along. Very different to what the end result actually looks like.

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George Young posing perfectly.

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Oli Pettigrew is also featured and although he looks very sombre here – between shots he managed to try and eat his shoe!

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Commercial shoots are planned and organized well beforehand. The tone of the images can be edited and what goes on during the shoot is definitely not what you end up seeing. I enjoy seeing how shoots are made and what goes on behind the scenes so I thought I would share a little insight with you. The cheeky posing of George and Bobby and the shoe eating Oli are not necessarily going to make it to print but it is definitely fun to see and know about.