design fashion film music art photography global notes life
Issue 10: Photographer Julie Craig
Julie Craig is a 24-year-old girl wandering her way though life, merging her love for photography and baking. Though studied to be a photographer, she now works as a pastry chef in St. Helena. Never staying in one place too long, Julie can always find home in the kitchen, behind the lens
Q&A with Julie craig
The photography work of Julie Craig, September 2012 Vhcle Magazine Issue 10, Photography
     terms & conditions                 about us                 contact us                 search archive                 write for us    
life design music photography home us film art fashion global notes archive links
How long have you been doing photography?
Well, I've always done it. Even as a kid I had one of those silly little cameras - you know, the instant film ones. But more seriously when I went to Solano Community College after high school and took their photo class with Ron Zack, who is the best photo teacher ever. He makes you want to be a better photographer. If you're not, he'll make you want to die. He's so intense, but he's amazing and makes everyone better.
How long have you been doing food photography?
Just since I got out of college. About a year and a half.
Explain what type of photography you used to be into
I used to think I wanted to do fashion. I didn't think about food photography at all and honestly thought it was stupid. "Oh you're going to take a photo of a box of cereal… I don't care." I didn't think there was any art in it. In school I did a lot of work with film and expired film and did very nonsexual nude photos of people running through fields, the beach and forests. When I got out of school, I was really bored, didn't have a job and didn't have anything to do really. I moved back home and it was kind of horrible. So I was looking at all of these blogs one day and somehow stumbled upon food blogs where it wasn't about the food so much, but about the photos. The photos were so beautiful that it inspired me because I had always been into baking; not really cooking so much because I don't eat meat, even though I love when people do neat photos of a whole fish or whole pig that they are going to carve up, because it is intense. So I just mainly focus on baking.

How was the transition from shooting people to food photography?
At first it wasn't easy because I never did studio work. I always just went out into nature and found something. With food photography, you have to place everything and find the props. I try not to overthink it too much. I try to think of as more of a portrait. The portrait is of the bread.
Did you start food photography with film or digital?
I did just film. I would use some of my expired film that I had, but with food photography you don't want all of the funny colors expired film will give. You want something that will be more consistent, so digital seemed like what I had to do.
You studied photography in Sacramento at Sac State, then moved back to your hometown of Benicia to where you live now in St. Helena. Has the transition from Sacramento to St. Helena have an impact on you in anyway?
I wouldn't really say so because I find food photography… not lonely, but you're there by yourself. It's kind of hard for me to meet people anyways. I don't know why but I've often got that I'm intimidating because I'm not really paying attention to other people. I'm always on my own so it didn't really affect me.
In terms of access to food, is it more accessible in St. Helena?
Well, everything I photograph I make, but yes, it's more convenient. Here, there are a lot better quality stuff. You can get amazing cheeses, etc. I can walk down the block and go to a great cheese shop.
What inspires a shoot?
I'll look online at recipe sites or I'm really hungry and I'm like, "wow I really want some scones!" So I'll make scones and have to find a way to photograph them. If I make it and just eat it, I honestly feel bad. I feel like I miss an opportunity. It's often based on hunger, looking at sites or even going to a farmer's market. I found pink pearl apples one time at the San Francisco market when my co-worker told me. The apple's flesh is pink. You can only get them a few weeks in the summer and then you can't find them anymore. So I bought those and had to do a photo shoot with them.
So what is your process and setup for a shoot?
I used to do more process shots of mixing, but then I got a different work schedule where I make stuff the night before I photograph them, so then the process stops more. The way I choose my props is completely at random. I don't think it out whatsoever because if I think it out, it will get too matchy. Even when I was doing portraits I would try not to over think it. I overthink things way too much. So I try to go for that gut reaction.
I consider your work as going against the grain from the normal food photography I've seen. That's what really draws people in. There is a nostalgia that I feel looking at your photos. They're very moody, playing with darkness and light. Is this something you think about and try to achieve in your photos?
Most of the time I don't think about it because I don't think highly of my photos. With the dark and the light, some of it is more appropriate for certain foods if it's in season. If it's summer, I might shoot a loaf of bread and would like that to be darker. Just because the loaf is kind of dark and I would like that to fade into a dark background. So you have to search for it. You have to search throughout the image to find what is important. I like the darker images a lot more, but the lighter images are easier. To find that dark light that has everything you want in it is difficult, and you have to find that exact hour of the day when it's perfect.
Is food photography something you want to do in the long run?
I would love to shoot people more. I'll look back at some of the photos I took of my friend Megan for the nude project I was doing for school, and I'll feel like I have to grab that camera and start doing people again. It's such a different experience because it is just more spontaneous. With food photography, I try to make it spontaneous but it has to be more thought out. I really like shooting people, but it was always hard for me to find people to photograph. And this, I just love it. It's a bit easier. You just make it and don't have to make a friend.
What kind of cameras do you shoot with?
For digital I use a Canon 5D MK II. I have the 50mm f1.4 and the 28-70mm f2.8 lenses. For film, I don't really shoot 35mm anymore because I broke my camera. It was an old Canon AE-1 that was my grandpa's. It was his old camera that he got from his work at the government base when they closed down. I loved it. It was amazing and it was 50 years old or more and was working perfectly. Then one day when I was in New Mexico and wasn't paying attention, I dropped it, and it never worked the same since then. I kept shooting rolls of film and they were all blank. I got really upset and threw it in the trash but I saved the lens. I also have the Mamiya 645 AFD that I just got. I have a  6x6 square which I use for portraits and not really for food.
What is your favorite drink?
Alcohol: gin and tonic
Regular: Snapple Diet Peach Tea
What is it about analog/film photography that just does it for you?
For me, digital is not a tangible thing. It's just a file. You can delete it and it's like it was never there and then no one will ever know you took it. That always made me not care about it. With film you have a negative. It could get scratched up but that sometimes makes it better. When I was visiting my family in Chicago we went to my great-great grandpa's house and they had old film in metal little canisters. I had the film and you could see it and it was a moment in my life. I don't think people will ever have the same reaction to finding old digital files as they would finding that negative; being able to put the film in your pocket and it's yours.
Do you print your work?
With digital I don't ever print. I don't like to have anything on my walls. I just put some old family photos up. I take the negatives and just scan them to put on my blog.