Gourmet Covers Under the Lens

Thanks to my new e-friend, Lucas, I had a great little read of this article on Slate on the state of food styling and photography of Gourmet magazine. Now, Gourmet is one of my favourite foodie magazines, both for the articles and the recipes. It has not always been the case, in fact there was a period where I refused to buy it – primarily because the food stopped looking nice, the recipes were far too “out there” for me, and frankly I thought that the quality of the magazine was just not up to par.

Times (and styles) change. In the past few months I’ve taken to reading it again and have become a huge fan of this magazine (but the fact the Ruth Reichl is the Editor-in-chief of Gourmet didn’t have any bearing, really, on our selection of her book for the ReadEatCook bookclub) once more. As someone who works in the food/styling/photography/packaging industry, I have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented photographers, stylists and designers and whilst I’m not a designer myself, one cannot help but start to develop a bit of a design sensiblity.

Sara Dickerman, the author of the Slate piece, I think has a pretty good eye for design and a great method for demonstrating the current state of the foodstyling world through the microcosm of the Gourmet cover tablescape. While I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment of the style progression of the covers, I differ from her in that I really quite like the darker, moodier, more somber appeal of the style. I guess I’ve gotten a bit over the shallow focus, light washed low angle shots of the late 90’s and early 00’s and I’m ready for something a little more dramatic; something more sophisticated. This isn’t to say that it isn’t hard to get those shots just right – I guess I’m just looking for something a bit more, well, realistic. Not everyone lives in a lightdrenched house in East Hampton. Some of us live in little apartments and condos and are rapidly wanting to see something that more reflects our lives. Aspirational design is one thing, but realistic portrayals can also move product.

For a more interesting view of what’s happening, I’d rather turn to Australian Gourmet Traveller and Sainsbury’s Magazine. They’re both taking that light drenched look and gussying it up a bit so it looks a little less like Bauhaus food and more like something that we could all really be living with. There’s variety and visual interest in each story and sometimes in each shot. This is food the way I make it – sometimes I’m at home, sometimes at a friend’s place, often at my parents – and you use what you have. That’s the reality of today’s entertaining, isn’t it?

Anyway, the worst part about this little tale is that the highly acclaimed March 2006 issue featuring Montreal is actually sold out from the Gourmet back issues department (I checked this afternoon). Its selling at over $41 currently on eBay and I don’t have a copy. Stilted and overly propped the cover may be, but I still want a copy. 😦

3 responses to “Gourmet Covers Under the Lens

  1. ood post and good link at Slate–As I was going through my archives to pull the Montreal issue for you…I came across both April and August 2006 issues.

    Wow–how similar can you get? April is a low angle shot of lasagna against a white background.

    August is a low angle shot of some peach cake against a white background.

    At a distance (or even close up), they are remarkably similar in lighting, composition, and color palette.

  2. cmxThanks Christine! Can’t wait to read that issue! I’ve not got my issue for August yet, but from what I understand the same photographer has been doing the covers for a while now (don’t forget the May issue that had ribs on it, I believe – very similar again). To me, its not so much the photographer or stylist at fault – its the creative director or art director who is clearly preferring one vision over many others.

    Interestingly, I had this discussion with one of our designers here at the studio (one of the best food designers in Toronto, in my opinion) and she’s thinking that we really are on the verge of doing something new with food – and she thinks its going to be about fun. Punchy colours, casual lighting schemes and mismatched serving pieces. More casual, dynamic and organic preparations – letting the FOOD show itself off, not necessarily the styling.

  3. I’m very excited about the new trend in food photography. I’ve always found that more appealing.

    I also have an affinity for the photography in Martha Stewart Living. I know, that means I should also be wearing J. Crew 24/7.

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