Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Close Up Interview With Food Editor And Photographer Kristina Gill

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am an American expat living in Rome, Italy.  I came here almost 13 years ago for work.  Over the course of the three years, I found that I didn’t find my job very stimulating.  I resigned, and began to pursue creative endeavours, however never completely leaving the realm of my other job.  Today I am a development adviser (food assistance) for half of my time, and I am an online food editor and do food photography the other half.

Kristina & Crash

Who (or what) inspires you to do what you love in your own creative business?
I am quite inspired by intellect and kindness because these two traits I think help people to push forward without losing sight of others. In the abstract I’m inspired by people who set goals and then construct the path to achieve them.  Also by people who are determined and overcome obstacles to achieve.  Specifically, I am inspired by Shelley Simpson and James Kirton of mud australia for the creative and business acumen-- food also just looks better on a mud dish; by photographers Christopher Terry and Alan Benson for their skill in photography and their kindness in sharing their knowledge and just being available to help, mayor of Newark New Jersey Corey Booker who is on 24/7, he cares, and he makes a difference.  He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and take care of things himself to help out another person.  Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson, photographer and stylist, are also amazing.  I think there is no limit to their achievements and each day is one more wow after another.  I am generally inspired by the people I am in contact with in some capacity or another.  I need that electricity to live!

Where do you get your inspiration from when you write and photograph?
This is something that I struggle with daily, now more than ever, as there are many requests for my writing and accompanying photography.  There are so many meals in the day, not all of which are story worthy or photo worthy.  Or maybe that’s my problem!  Maybe they should be!  So my inspiration comes from my environment and within, but I do look a lot at Australian food publications and also at Jamie Magazine.  If I can call that inspiration... The images get my brain moving on other ideas.

What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?
This is hard, because I think the five words I would LIKE for them to use probably aren’t the ones they would use...  HAHA.  OK let’s see...  Smart, Creative, Kind, Generous, Hyperactive

Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?
My very first job was in the US diplomatic corps.  I was part of a very small team which worked on conventional arms control treaty re-adaptation and negotiation.  The path I have taken since then has been in the multilateral sphere (dealing with many governments and organisations, not merely focused on a bilateral relationship) and communications (speechwriting/writing/editing).  Then of course I’ve added the photography aspect which came about as a need to support the work I did in food.

Describe a typical day in your studio?
I work by myself so when I am shooting it’s crazy.  I have to prepare the food, select the props, and then shoot.  It is frantic, my studio is perennially disorganised.  Depending on the time of year, my window of natural light changes.  I could start shooting as early as 10am-12pm, or I could, as in summer, start as late as noon and go to 2pm.  I usually have two perfect hours, and an hour on either side in which I’m struggling to figure out.  I am still learning how to master the use of light!  I get up early, prepare the food.  Depending on what type of food it is, there is some problem solving and research-- the best way to present a slice of lasagne that won’t seem like a train wreck.  And then there are the color palettes/props.  I’m not very good at the styling/food prep parts, so sometimes it’s a bit depressing!

As a Photographer and writer, what is your biggest frustration?
My biggest frustration isn’t really a frustration as much as an acknowledgment that you NEVER stop learning.  The more you do the more you realise how much there is that you don’t know.  It is rewarding because you move forward in plateaux and can notice the growth.  It is however quite hard to look at the image someone else has taken and then realise that it wasn’t just a click of the shutter, but it was an elaborate (but imperceptible) process that takes time to develop.

Tell us about how you prioritise your work.
Very deadline driven.  I should tackle the hard stuff first, but I have two to three deadlines per week, and when I have a good weekend, I can frontload several items so it gives me breathing room for the following weeks.  This is all balanced by work that I do in the office, the rhythm of which is not set by me, and can be quite unpredictable at times.

Tell us about how do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?
Being the editor of the In the Kitchen With column at designsponge.com brings me in contact with a million people:  editors, authors, photographers, designers, regular internet users with no particular label, bloggers, producers, chefs, publicists, you name it, I’m in touch.  Everyone loves food, most people these days love to share their idea of good food with others, so it’s quite natural and easy to reach out.  Quite a few people contact me, but I am not afraid to contact others.  I think that email/social media is the front line for communications, so I always contact via email.

What advice can you offer other creative people who are just starting out and following their passions?
Follow the passion.  Do what makes you feel alive.  Develop your own style, don’t follow the crowd.

What dreams do you still want to achieve or fulfil in your life?
The lottery is the biggest one.  The second biggest one, everyone knows who knows me/follows me on Twitter, is to buy a Hastens bed.  The others are to build a home and a photography studio and work in photography full time.

What is your proudest moment so far?
I’m so hard on myself...I think I’m still waiting for that moment to happen!

Who do you most want to meet and why?
Growing up, my father always taught me to not be afraid to speak to anyone because “famous” people are people too, like me and you.  This took a lot of the wow factor out of “famous” people for me, and in fact, I’m not star struck.  I would have loved to meet Michael Jackson, just because he was Michael Jackson.  But really what matters to me isn’t the superficial moment of meeting a person, but forging a relationship.  I’d really hate to meet an “idol” only to find out that they are rude or something!

What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?
Health is wealth.

What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.  Chick lit!  You caught me!  Since I am submersed in the world of food, I’ll go to cookbooks and recommend Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson.  It is so beautiful and so well written, I can’t put it down!  She just won a James Beard Award for her book, which is one of the highest accolades a cookbook/food-related book can receive in the US.  I could also recommend any book shot by Alan Benson.  A few favourites are Bourke Street Bakery, and Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans.

Where do we find you and your products? (list stores & links, websites )

I have a portfolio online at http://kristinagill.com and am represented by 2DM Management in Milan (http://www.2dm.it ). 

I do a weekly food recipe column every Friday at http://www.DesignSponge.com and for the time being I also do cocktail column there.  On Tuesdays, I have a bit at http://www.2DMblogazine.it

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