manon houston

Food Photographer

Assisting on set in Bali

Manon HoustonComment

In December 2018 I went to Bali to assist photographer Martin Westlake on a two day photoshoot for Potato Head Beach Club and their luxury boutique hotel Katamama, each designed by Indonesian architect Andra Matin. I had been to Bali once before so the purpose of going back this time was to assist Martin, I only stayed for three nights before continuing my trip to Sumatra. I arrived late the day before the shoot, the days started at 5am and ran until 6pm so it was my time there was very work focused. I’m always looking for opportunities to expand my skills and learn from other professionals. The creative director for Potato Head, Dan Mitchell was on set. There was such a buzz of creativity which was incredible to experience being in such a beautiful, tropical location. I got around on scooter taxis and when I wasn’t smug and full from all the food on set, I enjoyed perfect Nasi Goreng from roadside stalls.

The first day was all about shooting the food for the in-house restaurant Ijen, the food was stunning. Massaged octopus in delicious glazes, watermelon and strawberry salads, deep fried fish skin with banana-leaf cooked fish, baby squid. I enjoyed trying everything we shot throughout the day (one of the best bits about food photography).

The second day was interiors for the hotel. It was interesting seeing the different rooms, many glass fronted bathrooms looking out onto private jungle gardens, rooftop baths overlooking the sea. Each room had its own bar with locally produced liqueurs, freezers for ice, fresh herbs and fruits and cocktail recipe books.

I learnt so much by spending time with Martin, we chatted throughout the day, he answered all my questions. I think it’s the best way to develop a skill is to put time and effort into learn from others. It was great to ask his opinions and views on all aspects of working as a photographer and running your own business. It’s very valuable spending time with an accomplished photographer to see how they have worked their way up and built their career, it gives me confidence to see the steps necessary to take. I came away with new knowledge and ideas that I can put into practice with my own work immediately.

As a thank you for my time Martin gave me a copy of the Will Goldfarb’s cook book which he had photographed, ‘Room For Dessert’. Will recently had a Neflix’s Chef’s Table documentary made about him. Thanks Martin!

On set with Dragon Wales

Manon HoustonComment

Copa Cymru, a Welsh production company were commissioned to film a new TV advert for Dragon Cheese. I worked alongside them on set to capture stills for use in conjunction with the TV ad. I loved being on location up in North Wales, spending time in the fields with the cows on a beautiful August day. It was also interesting to learn about Welsh dairy farming and the processes involved in creating the cheese products which are stocked all around the country in food shops such as Tesco. It was also great to be part of a big team, as it’s usually just me and the food, but on this job there were actors, a set designer, a lighting and sound team, runners, camera men and cows.

www.copacymru.com

www.dragonwales.co.uk

Heartwood Saunas

Manon HoustonComment

I photographed for Heartwood Saunas, which are handmade in Wales using wood from the forest which surround owner and company founder Olly Davey’s workshop. The design and craftsmanship are incredible, the huge glass front makes it a really special experience using the sauna at night, at an incredible location or in Welsh, rainy, stormy weather.

The saunas are portable so that they can be rented and taken to different locations. We took one up a forestry in Machynlleth, Mid North Wales, for a lifestyle shoot. The rainy weather made for great photographs, showing how cosy and steamy the sauna can be in the cold. Though I was just photographing, I could imagine what an experience it would be to sit in the heat looking out of the glass front at the dramatic scene of the forest while the rain poured down.

We did a second shoot with the sauna when it was rented out by one Michelin star restaurant, Ynys Hir. The sauna looked beautiful on the grounds of the hall, surrounded by trees and rhododendrons.

www.heartwoodsaunas.com

Mulberries in Istanbul

Manon HoustonComment

In May 2018 I went to Istanbul for 17 days to spend time at a food photography studio for personal development. I had been following the studio on Instagram for nearly two years, then contacted them because I wanted to try going abroad with work more. I found a place to stay with three girls I’d never met before, who became good friends to me. I felt so nervous the day I left with everything being so unknown, but I fitted in well and found the culture of Turkey so new and exciting. The eclectic mix of cultures, East meeting West, the incredible architecture, travelling by boat between each side of the city and the buzz of nightfall with it being ramadan. I commuted to the studio by bus, metro train and bus again every morning. The studio had an in-house chef who prepared us food for breakfast and lunch. I felt so lucky to be eating such delicious, traditional Turkish food every day. The studio photographs for a wide range of clients, many Turkish, but also international companies such as Caribou Coffee and KFC. I learnt loads being in the environment of the studio, and assisting Mehmet (the director) on shoots outside of the studio for Swissotel and on a trip to the city of Izmir for a Turkish restaurant shoot. The studio had an incredibly diverse and rich props room, with many hand finished background sets and handmade ceramic plates and bowls Mehmet had commissioned. I did some of my own shoots whilst at the studio using their props. It was a dream going to the market, picking out ingredients to photograph and dressing sets. I also photographed the mulberry, which grows around Istanbul. I went out and picked some branches and the most beautiful berries I could find. I found them evocative of how I felt being there. I think they’re a wonderful shape. They will always remind me of my time in the city.

Cooking Sambal in Jakarta

Manon HoustonComment

I loved being in Jakarta with my camera photographing food. I’m usually capturing food in a styled and set up way, but I enjoyed doing some documentary shots of food being prepared. Sambals are served with most Indonesian meals, they vary widely but are often very hot. They appear simple but usually have many processes behind them and are made up of many different ingredients to enhance and add to sweet, spicy, salty, umami flavours in a meal.

Krakatoa

Manon HoustonComment

I spent two nights in November camping on the volcanic island Krakatoa. I accompanied photographer Martin Westlake who has been running his own photo project on the volcanoes of Indonesia for over ten years. The volcano Krakatoa blew in 1883 and was one of the largest seismic events in history. It caused a year of darkness across the world. We camped on the now dormant, black sandy beach of Krakatoa which looks out towards Anak Krakatau (‘Child of Krakatoa’ Indonesian translation) across the water, about 4km away. The volcano erupted on average every 10 minutes. Huge plumes of smoke billowed from the crater, when we went closer by boat huge rocks could be seen being shot out into the air. As night fell the crater glowed and the lava became more visible. Fountains spitting out and down the face of the volcano made for excellent long exposure shots (annoyingly I didn’t quite crack these and they’re out of focus). The eruptions caused sonic booms which woke me up a few times through the night. I could see the volcano from my tent, I loved sitting up in bed watching the lava shows when I heard a sonic boom. Our guide made us beautiful food, whole fish and squid cooked over an open fire, fried fish, rice, tofu and vegetables, I enjoyed photographing these too. One of my favourite hobbies is snorkelling, and there were excellent reefs to be seen around the edge of the active volcano. On the last morning activity ceased, and perhaps insensibly, I went snorkelling on the edges of Anak Krakatau. The black sandy floor of the sea made the vibrant colours of corals and fish stand out. The underwater landscape was immense too with deep canyons suddenly turning shallow and drop offs into deep blue water to swim over and look down into. The water became hot in some places, like bath water, and air bubbles streamed out from the sand. When we returned to the mainland we went to the volcanology centre where we could see the charts of activity over the time we’d been there.

Update:

On December 22nd Anak Krakatau had a huge eruption which caused the volcano to collapse into the sea triggering a tsunami which affected coastlines around the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. A three mile exclusion zone around the volcano was put into place. Satellite imaging now shows how the landscape of the volcano has changed. My photographs were taken a month prior to the day the disaster happened.

“What was once a crater at the summit of a 340m-high edifice has been completely broken open to form a small bay. Indonesia's disaster agency says more than two-thirds of Anak Krakatau's volume (150-170 million cubic metres) is missing. Much of it is assumed to have slipped into the sea in the colossal landslide that produced the tsunami.” Jonathan Amos, BBC Science