With her 150k followers on Instagram and an extensive portfolio of collaborations, Nicole Franzen is one of New York’s most followed young food and lifestyle photographers. Having recently taken the pictures for two incredibly pretty cookbooks – The Fat Radish and Twenty Dinners she mixes seamlessly her culinary background with some of the most bright and earthy food photography of the moment.
FineDiningLovers asked her about cooking, travelling, phone cameras and how the social media are influencing her career.
You started taking pictures in early age, mostly as a hobby. When did images become part of your job and what was your first important commission?
True, I started taking photos at a young age. In high school I would take portraits and lifestyle on disposable cameras. I always loved capturing special moments in time. Not until I started traveling a lot did I start taking it more seriously. A camera has been attached to me for the last ten years. I come from a food background working in fine dining restaurants for nearly 12 years. I decided that I wanted to shift gears and started teaching myself to take photos of food and started a blog back when they were hip. I started channeling all my loves into my photos; travel, food, portraits and interior design. I like to think of myself as a visual storyteller. The first gig I really consider a big step was shooting seasonal food and decor at Gramercy Tavern. I was super lucky that one of the best restaurants in the world was keen on me. Its been ever evolving since then.
The most inspiring trip that you’ve documented so far?
That's a tough one, each trip I feel inspired and evolve. I really enjoyed shooting Paris, Italy, Antwerp and Amsterdam. I just got back from Uruguay, Argentina and the desert in Joshua Tree. Loving all of those for different reasons. I know that doesn’t answer your question ha! I just love them all.
Do you enjoy cooking / do you cook often?
I love to cook, I have been cooking since I was a kid! I'm an only child with a single mother. That means I spent a lot of time alone while my mom was busy at work. I was one of those strange kids that would watch the food network for hours. I would experiment in the kitchen and got into restaurants as early as I could and worked my way up. Now I cook for leisure with friends and for myself. It's a huge part of my life and always will be. I don't eat to live, I live to eat.
Your Instagram account is so popular. What is the role that your smartphone plays in your work?
As I mentioned before, blogging used to be the place where one could share and interact with the rest of the world online. My blog acted as that platform for a couple years. I quickly jumped on the Instagram band wagon right at the beginning: I love that damn app! It has led to so many amazing opportunities, it's a very powerful tool that works seamlessly with my career. My iPhone is seriously one of my favorite cameras, if I could shoot everything on there I would be fine with it.
You recently shot the pics for The Fat Radish and also Grizzly Bear’s Twenty Dinners, to be launched this Spring. How was the experience and how did those collaborations come up?
I was approached by both around the same time actually. I think both of them found me through images they found on the web and based on referrals and friends mentioning me. It was such a great opportunity to get those two books as some of my first cookbooks. I learned so much and loved working with the guys. Super excited for Twenty Dinners to come out in April. Ithai one of the authors and I are dear friends, I gained so much from doing those and have beautiful bodies of work to show from it.
How do the most interesting commissions happen?
Every so often I get one of those emails asking me to do something fabulous and I get super excited. I always wonder, what's the catch? For instance when I got asked to go to Antwerp Belgium by the tourism board to spend a week with 12 other creatives from around the world to explore an off the beaten path view of the city. Or when I got asked to go shoot olive harvest for an olive oil company in Tuscany. Or that time I was sent to Alaska to shoot peony farms. And I could go on!
What are your favorite three cooking ingredients?
Whatever beautiful produce that is in season, high quality olive oil, maldon sea salt and lemon. That's four but yeah, with that I am happy.