Dominic Davies spends more time looking at food rather than eating it!
From his album covers for The Prodigy to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck cookbook, Dominic Davies has always approached photography as a natural extension of his spontaneous eye compositions. His professional involvement with the dining table arrived unexpectedly, but his visionary approach is very popular.
When not in the studio working on one of his quirky personal projects with food partner Andrew Stellitano, Davies dedicates his time to his commissioned works for A-list customers that span from Cadbury’s and Absolut Vodka to Lanvin.
Curious to know what’s his opinion about the great food that he shoots, we catched up with him to learn more.
How did you start working with food?
I had worked with the publisher Bloomsbury on some book jackets and the art director Will Webb asked me if I would go and show some work to Heston Blumenthal. They where looking for a photographer to work with Hestons team to produce the Big Fat Duck Cookbook.
While not an obvious choice, I think Will had made a link because of the way I approached my work, I knew nothing about food photography or honestly much about the Fat Duck. It wasn't on my radar but I thought both Heston and Ashley Palmer Watts, his head chef, were great and I liked the idea of doing something I had never done before and doing it really well.
I liked the idea of working within the tight constants of a genre like food photography and attempting to do something really new. Its up to other people to say if we achieved that!
What are you working on at the moment?
I have recently been in Stockholm working on images for an Absolut Vodka campaign and last week I was in Cape Town where I was showing some of my work to the 'Eat out conference' and also a short film I made with Andrew Stellitano about James Wannerton. James is a synesthete, which means in his case, he tastes words.
What is the role of taste in your food projects?
That’s an interesting question! I realized recently that I had spent the early part of my career making images for music, so making pictures that related to sound in some way and now I am often asked to make images that relate to taste…
My latest project with Andrew Stellitano I attempted to visualize the taste sensations of the synesthete James Wannerton. Simply put, James tastes words, spoken or read.
We first worked together for an event at The Victoria and Albert Museum last summer where we reacted to James's Taste associations of London , for instance the area called Bank gave him the taste of Minstrel sweets and the underground was Rhubarb.
We where asked by the Eat Out Conference in South Africa if we could apply this to a map of Cape Town. James travelled around Cape Town on Google earth and recorded his taste reactions to the different streets. I then went and shot these places ,
When these images where viewed the audience was given a parcel containing the flavors and they could get some insight into how he experiences the world, as I remember Table mountain tasted of Pear drops, its a fascinating subject and we have only just scratched the surface of it .
Which was the first food still life that you have ever made?
The first food still life I did was my first day on the Fat Duck project! I had asked to spend a service watching the chefs work in the kitchen, just watch. It was real privilege actually to see a top kitchen working hard and the level of detail that was required.
I watched and watched and saw part of a Radish Ravioli dish being made. It was so delicate, I knew instinctively how I would like to approach it, We had agreed before hand to have a few test days trying things out and I asked to shoot that first, I wanted to show what I was capable of and also I wanted to show them what photography was capable of.
Are you a good cook?
I am a happy amateur.
Which is the most recent great dinner that you’ve had?
While in Cape Town I went to Luke Dale Roberts's restaurant: 'The Test Kitchen' and had the tasting menu. The food was fantastic; it was a really great place, very relaxed. Whenever I am somewhere good I start thinking ' how would I shoot this dish?' or 'how would I get the idea of this dish across' , it was my first proper trip to Africa and I was amazed by the light there, it was really inspiring for a photographer, if you could incorporate that into a food shoot that would be amazing .
What would you be, if not a photographer? A gardener I think, something with plants.