Sergio Coimbra is one of the world's leading food photographers, known for turning the dishes of Alex Atala, Massimo Bottura, Heston Blumenthal, Tsuyoshi Murakami, Yoshihiro Narisawa and Nuno Mendes, and others into works of art. He studied photography in New York and Brazil before opening up his studio, Studio SC, in São Paulo. He has published several books with renowned chefs including Alex Atala's award-winning D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients and has won competitions and awards around the world, including the “Grand Prix de la Photographie du Tourisme Gastronomique” at the Festival International de la Photographie in Paris in 2011, and the 2010 Grand Prix du Public. His studio in São Paulo is a unique studio space dedicated to chefs, food experts, and food photography it is also a gallery and a gastronomic research center.
More than 10 years ago, Coimbra was shooting publicity photos, food catalogs and food campaigns. Now with his custom designed 1000ft² studio he is able to shoot in a space built to shoot exactly how he wants. He buys hundreds of pieces of unique dishwear on his international travels, from delicate Chinese ceramic cups to modern plates by nordic designers and keeps each piece catalogued in warehouses, many of them still never used and with so many pieces, may never be used at all.
More than 10 people work daily from the studio and up to 25 when there are shoots, including a full team of carpenters that builds special backgrounds and frames for his photos, often creating external landscapes inside. His state-of-the-art kitchen challenges even the most outfitted Michelin-starred kitchen, built with every convenience in mind so that chefs can feel free to prepare their dishes while he photographs.
Coimbra sees chefs as artists and notes that from the first painted still life pictures of food we have learned to see it’s artistic value, and that modern day chefs have tried to elevate this, always innovating on presentation and experience. During shoots he gives the chefs total freedom, interfering as little as possible so that he can concentrate on what draws him into the dish.
He doesn’t believe that his the creator of the final product but rather that he’s created the conditions for him to be ready with camera in hand to document what the chef has done.
Looking for beauty in color and textures, often focuses on something the chef doesn’t even think about but just does naturally every day. The work he says, is co-creation.
Always in the studio Coimbra challenged himself to leave the kitchen and go into nature, leaving behind the structure of his organized studio and the equipment he usually brings. He describes the experiment as a new experience that called for a more organic, documentary style approach. Closer to nature itself, he was able to trace the origin of ingredients and the story behind them.
When visiting Japan on occasion, he was deterred by the modernised country, imploring him to go deeper and explore the traditional and rural Japan. The travels exceeded his wildest imagination and eventually inspired the exhibit, Satoyama, about the cuisine of Japanese chef Yoshihiro Narisawa to in Sao Paulo’s Japan House . He and Narisawa traveled by land, air and sea, in search of suppliers every season, documenting the unique ingredients they found.
Often partnering with acclaimed chefs on literary projects, he hosted the Culinary Art exhibition at the Basque Culinary Center, the most advanced institute in the world for culinary arts and science, based in San Sebastian, Spain, where he presented the work of six well-known Basque, Catalan and Spanish chefs. He is also co-author with Pierre Hermé of the book, Chocolate, (Flammarion); Fluidità and 178 ore in Brasile by Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo, D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala (Phaidon Press), Brazilian Cuisine of the Vanguard by Felipe Bronze (Sextante), and Satoyama by Yoshihiro Narisawa.
His work has been exhibited at Alimentário, Milan Expo 2015, Alimentário, São Paulo, Brazil OCA (2015), Alimentário, Rio de Janeiro MAM (2014), Collections Chefs, Guildhall, London, 50 Best (2014), Fluiditá, Library, Venice Biennale (2013), Encuentros, Basque Culinary Center, San Sebastian (2012), Marmitas, Dupont Gallery, Paris (2011).