Just before I took this photo, I stopped for just a second – what a gorgeous photo this would be! A radiant bride, framed by the wrought iron gate, surrounded by tumbling flowers, bathed in shining light. Then she threw her head back and laughed.
My god… what a photo! It was already lovely – but then that laugh! It just brought the photo to the next level.
When the groom saw the photo later, he couldn’t stop laughing.
“I was behind you, pretending to pinch your bum,” he said. “That’s why she was laughing!”
Right in the middle of the 2020 COVID pandemic, author Monique Polak and I were commissioned to create a cookbook called The Secret is in the Sauce for Blue Metropolis Foundation.
Monique and I (or the “two Monique, as we call ourselves”) have worked on many projects for Blue Met- but this one was special for us.
First it was about food – who doesn’t love food? Second, it was about stories. and we both love a good tale. And third – most importantly – we did it during the COVID pandemic, which was an utterly trippy experience.
When we started the project in September 2020, COVID numbers were low, so we went into people’s houses to do the photos and interviews.
Monique P chatted up the cooks while they cooked, and I photographed the person in action, documented the dish, then did a nice portrait at the end.
Then, COVID numbers spiked in November 2020, and we were all trapped in our homes again.
It wasn’t a huge transition for Monique P to do the interviews by phone, but for me, I suddenly had to cook each dish and then photograph it in my home studio.
I’m a portrait and event photographer. The last time I did studio photography was in photo school, with less than spectacular results.
I quickly learned that food photography is a lot harder than it looks.
First, I had how to learn how to light the food so that it looks sparkly and alive, not flat and dead.
Then I had to collect all the backgrounds, dishes and accessories.
Then I had to learn how to style the shots to get that that effortless “look” that food photos have.
The artfully draped napkin in the corner of the shot. (Note the lack of napkins in my photos. I never did get the hang of that).
Steaming hot, fresh looking food. (This means that you have 30 seconds to photograph the food before it looks dead and you have to cook the dish again).
Casually strewn bread crumbs (There is nothing casual about food photography. Anything “casual” looking is done with a pair of tweezers and a steady hand).
Adding to the pressure was my husband and two teenaged boys who were sitting upstairs, banging their forks on the dinner table, yelling “ARE YOU DONE YET??? WE’RE STARVING!!!”Anyway, making this cookbook it was great fun – I learned a ton, and it was a welcome distraction during COVID.
The recipes are great, too. We asked people for their simplest, most homey recipes from their home country – that traditional, go-to meal that represents their heritage. So, all the recipes are easy and delicious.
And best of all, if you want a copy of the book. it’s completely FREE!
Our project was funded by Canadian Heritage’s Official Languages Program to recognize Anglophone culture among first-generation immigrants and First Nations communities. As it was a grant, the copies are free to the public.
A few days ago, I shot some portraits for Air Canada.
Driving to the job, I realized that Air Canada was my last commercial job pre-pandemic (March 2020) – and my first commercial job, post pandemic (October 2021).
My photography business went up in flames in March 2020. A year’s worth of photo contracts – tens of thousands of dollars – all gone in the blink of an eye.
So for the next 18 months – this is what I did:
Watched the Walton’s on TV every day with my mom, who lives upstairs
Gained 5 pounds
Enjoyed spending time with my husband and kids
Learned food photography and published a cookbook
Gained 5 more pounds
Closed the photo studio and started working from home
Shot a few weddings and portraits
Worked as a gardener
Lost 10 pounds
In that 18 months, we also lost a close relative to COVID. Gone forever. A family shattered.
Then we watched as Lebanese friends and family lose everything – a lifetime of saving and hard work – due to the country’s economic collapse.
This collapse has been happening for awhile, but the devastation peaked when the port of Beirut blew up on August 4, 2020 – right in the middle of the COVID pandemic – levelling this already battered city and killing 218 people.
I didn’t notice it at first, but all of this changed me fundamentally.
Before, I worried endlessly about the future. Security. Debt.
Now? I don’t worry about anything. So many have lost so much in the last 18 months. Now I appreciate my family. My friends. My good health – and my clients, who – thankfully – are slowly starting to call again.
March 5, 2020. It was last time I photographed an Air Canada flight attendant graduation.
Of course, I didn’t know it then – that night, just days before the COVID crisis, I was packed in the Windsor Ballroom with 200 other people, partying it up.
Lots of people hate Air Canada. I am not one of them. I love A/C. They are so good to their staff – me included, an outside contractor.
Twice a year, Air Canada throws their flight attendants a big party at a fancy hotel in Montreal. The big bosses stand on a stage and welcome them into the giant worldwide family with heartfelt enthusiasm.
They also hammer home – one last time from the grad podium – the importance of being kind, considerate and accommodating to travellers – that A/C staff represents the best of Canada, and that they are the face of Canada.
And what faces they are! Air Canada flight attendants are every age, every nationality – all impeccably dressed, well coifed, well mannered and nice.
Sad to think that all those excited flight attendants were immediately laid off two weeks later, and have not worked since.