Yuko Someya is a printmaker and artist living in Tokyo.
“I move my pencil as if I was spelling a word,” Someya says of her works, intricately drawing and coloring motifs such as flowers, birds, plants, and animals.
Charles Burchfield, Bleeding Hearts, 1929
There is art you can hang on the wall, and then there is art that is the wall. Such was the case with American painter Charles Burchfield (1893 – 1967) who, in the early 1920s, took his visionary artistic skills to the wall. To better support his family, he worked as a designer for a wallpaper company in Buffalo, NY. Known for his elemental watercolors of landscapes, Burchfield’s wallpapers portrayed sunflowers, robins, crocuses, and palms. Working with wallpaper, though a financial necessity, gave greater life to his natural visions through this grander medium. Can you imagine if wallpaper as beautiful as this lined a room in your house? Read more about the prolific artist here.
Whitney Ott is a food and still life photographer based out of Atlanta, GA. Growing up in the woods in rustic Georgia, she developed an appreciation for hidden details and natural lighting. Turning passion into profession, through photography, Whitney captures the subtle beauty of images.
Wilder Quarterly first discovered Whitney through her gorgeous Instagram feed, which features her food and botanical photography. In typical social media fashion, Whitney and Wilder became fast friends. We were eager to learn how she captured such luscious shots of food and, more importantly, does it taste as good as it looks? Wilder also can’t get enough of her take on flower arranging. Whitney was kind enough to chat with us about her process, even offering some insider tips on how to achieve greatness behind the camera.
Wilder Quarterly: At Wilder, we love food, flowers and photography. Your profession combines all three. Can you talk a bit about your creative process and how it came to be? Also, what kind of a camera do you use?
Whitney Ott: I feel like my creative process began when I was a 13 year old kid clumsily fooling around with my first 35mm film camera. My family home is located in the woods, so most of my time was spent exploring the great outdoors through the lens. Because I grew up surrounded by nature, I developed a keen sense and appreciation for natural light and learned to focus on the intricate details that it has to offer. All of this knowledge I have carried with me into the professional world of photography–and I’ve upgrade to a 5D Mark II. My preference is to use natural light, as much as possible–for me, it just looks the best. When I prepare for a shoot–whether it be of food, flowers, or yarn– my first thought is always about color and how I want it to read in the image. Lately, I’ve been shooting and exploring colorful pieces on dark surfaces. I get inspired by a lot of different things and there’s almost a constant stream of ideas in my head, so you never know what I may shoot next!
WQ: Your photographs are breathtaking, and it appears you are not afraid of what I refer to as “the beautiful mess” or “a wild perfection.” Is this something you chase as a photographer?
WO: I love the idea of them both. It sounds cliched to say this, but I truly believe that there is beauty in everything. Whether it is a decaying flower, a finished meal with morsels left over on the plate, a smashed piece of fruit–there’s something fascinating and attractive about it all. In a way, I try to stay “true” to the nature and form of whatever it is I am photographing.
WQ: You must be surrounded by delicious food and gorgeous flora all day long. Who makes the food and who provides the flowers?
WO: I try to keep flowers in my loft as much as possible–they are so uplifting! Sadly, my refrigerator is a different story. The flowers that I buy usually come from The Dekalb Farmer’s Market–they always have a great variety and at very good prices. A lot of the food I buy comes from the same market, but there are also a lot of great bakeries in town that I like to go to as well. Everything on my site has been styled by me and most of the food on my site has been made and baked by me–a friend of mine happens to be a wonderful baker and she has been kind enough to bake me some pies and other tasty treats to photograph.
WQ: Can you talk a bit about staging your photographs? In terms of spontaneity, is a photograph ever an afterthought to a very hungry moment?
WO: In the past, my photography came to life in one of two ways: exhaustive planning and spur of the moment. I still do a lot of shoots that are planned out, but ever since I started using Instagram it has become another way in which I think about and stage my photos. When I’ve planned a concept ahead of time, I’ve already hunted down the right background, props, and food that I want to use and I stick to it. When there is no plan, it’s because I’ve gone to the farmer’s market and picked up things that piqued my interest. When I get home, I take my time and explore the object from all angles.
WQ: Your Instagram feed is one of my favorites! What role does it play in your process?
WO: Instagram is almost like my personal mood board–or the place where my “first draft” images live. Every image on my feed is spontaneous and there are plenty of after thought images to meals on there. Lately, I’ve been going through my feed and taking notes on what I shot with my phone and what about it is interesting. Then I try to re-create similar images with my actual camera. I am also trying to force myself to bring out my real camera to start shooting when I find that I am spending more than 5 minutes on an image I’m taking with my phone.
WQ: Food photography requires those magic ingredients: lighting, angle and drool-worthy content. I imagine the perfect combination of these three qualities leads to the genre one might call “food porn.” Is there a fourth element?
WO: Composition. Everything about creating an image is deliberate even if it seems like a happy accident. You want your composition to be powerful enough that it evokes a feeling from the viewer.
WQ: These days it seems as though everyone takes photos with their phone of what they’re eating or perfectly arranged flowers. At a point, everything begins to look the same. In what ways do you attempt to distinguish yourself from everyone else?
WO: I try to stay true to myself and my creative vision. The phrase, “write the book you want to read,” carries over for me–I photograph the images I want to see. My end goal is to photograph things in interesting ways that will give someone else a new found appreciation for whatever is in the photograph. A quote that inspires me to be creative is said very plainly by Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
All images by Whitney Ott.
Roses on Valentines Day. This is nothing new. Classic, romantic, fool proof. Traditionally, they come in a dozen. Preferably red. It’s a smooth, safe move to show your beloved how much you care. Want to up the ante this go around? I’m sure Saint Valentine would approve.
Nothing says love (or slam-dunk creativity in the kitchen) like candied rose petals. They’re easy to make but (cue high stakes holiday) no one needs to know that!
If you don’t have your own edible flowers in the garden, seek them out at any florist or place where flowers are sold. Naturally, chose colors that are most beautiful to you. Ideally, you’ll want organic roses that have not been sprayed with any toxic chemicals. Once your roses have been procured, pluck the petals (make sure they are dry) and lay them a baker’s rack. Beat one egg white together with one teaspoon of water (take caution when using raw eggs). With a delicate pastry brush, softly paint both sides of each petal with the egg white mixture. Swiftly sprinkle both sides with organic sugar. Leave out to dry for 2 -3 hours or overnight.
Candied rose petals don’t come in a bouquet but they are an edible, homemade alternative to the age-old tradition of giving flowers on the big day. Use them as garnish on your decadent chocolate dessert or add as a candy topping to your gelato. You will love it.
Photography by Eric Wolfinger
I’ve been looking for great planters and pots. They’re hard to find. Most have a ho-hum disposition. And while I love a great terra cotta pot, indoors especially, it’s good to have various shapes, colors and sizes to suit the room, as well as the plant. If you’ve got any suggestions, send them my way at info at wilderquarterly dot com.
In the mean time, I’ve found this pleasantly unusual vase from a French duo:
“Cécile Daladier is a ceramicist and botanist based in Paris and Drôme, France. With architect Nicolas Soulier, she is one-half of atelier Assaï, a design studio that focuses on urban environments and nature.”
I love it. See more here.