This past weekend my family and I took a trip to Yosemite, where there was much less snow than we were expecting. We had perfect weather on Saturday and did about 6 miles of hiking, and then it was raining all day on Sunday, which is when we went to Hetch Hetchy and got soaked. I love shooting in dreary weather, and I think seeing wisps of fog lingering in the crevices of canyon walls is one of the most beautiful sights.
Today we hear from Ariella Yendler – cook, dancer, and architect extraordinaire. I could proceed with a generic introduction, but I'd like to tell you that this is the girl whom I texted at 4:30 on a cold, rainy afternoon asking if she'd run into the ocean in a dress at 7:00pm "for art" and she agreed without (audible) hesitation. She later told me she's not even very good at swimming.
Now that you have a sense of her devotion as a friend (or as she would phrase it, "Nope, just an attention whore and a fan of your work") and her passion for the creative process, read on:
1. Tell me about yourself.
I'm a student at University of California, Santa Barbara at the moment, and looking to be a grad student in architecture or urban design. I really, really enjoy cooking; I try to have a brunch roughly once a month for my friends called "Dobre Dom" where I structure a menu around a theme. In addition to cooking, I love to read when I have time, and I have a fondness for food in books. I think the best thing to eat when reading is apples like Jo March. As much as I like cooking, I don't see myself becoming a professional chef in the future. The work is too repetitious and not very creative unless you're the head chef, and I thrive off of intensity and pressure. I love architecture for the same reasons I hate it: there are no right answers, and it is a bunch of high-pressure deadlines. Oh! I also dance a style called "blues-fusion." I started out in ballroom dancing but quit after two years. Now I'm the facilities manager for a social dance group at UCSB and DJ for them.
2. Where did you grow up? Would you say your work (cooking, dance, architecture, etc.) is influenced by that area?
I grew up in Bay Area which I remember someone once said, "You shouldn't stay there too long or you'll become soft." Yes, that is absolutely true. I grew up absolutely spoiled when it came to education and culture. A lot of that is because of the area – while the state of California has one of the lowest rankings in public education, the Bay Area has one of the highest in the country – but it's also because of my parents. They're from the former Soviet Union, and they brought me up to be "an intellectual aristocrat," which is to say having an appreciation for ballet, classical literature, art, philosophy, and gourmet food. They taught me to live as high quality as I could, and that indulgence can happen without spending money. All in all, a very European upbringing.
This definitely has made me a snob. I kind of expect to always shoot for the finer things in life, and that what most people consider 'bourgeoisie' to be normal. Things like doing my shopping at the farmer's market for fresh vegetables, trying to buy "pieces" of art. I really think refinement and graces are something that can always be applicable, which makes me willing to be a little more...luxurious? in my work. But the goal is never to be pretentious about it. I'm just a giant hedonist and I really advocate for indulging yourself.
3. What does food (its creation, presentation, etc.) mean to you?
Since I grew up in a household where the second sentence to a guest is, "Are you hungry?" food means a lot to me in an emotional sense. Food has a very – maybe primarily – emotional component for me. It's how my family shows hospitality and love and care. We eat dinner together every night, my mother makes me scones and meat and bread to take with me to college. Making something well, choosing it for quality and taste, that is about showing care in multiple ways: you want your eater to have a good experience, you want to take pride in your work, you want to show proper appreciation for the quality of the ingredients that you have.
I am notorious (and you had to deal with this, too) for neglecting or dismissing aesthetic when it comes to food. This isn't because I don't think it matters but because I'm reacting to the current trend of Pinterest/visual food culture that focuses almost solely on how the food looks. There are, first off, loads of dishes that look terrible but are delicious, like curries and borscht and cutlets. Secondly, that Pinterest/food blog aesthetic completely and willfully ignores the mess and violence of food. Pinterest styling and so on chooses to ignore how food is a very complicated relationship to blood and shit and hunger. You can't cook without it and it's disingenuous to do so or pretend you can. I visit slaughter houses and I will not turn up my nose at dealing with offal or blood or compost. That stuff is part of cooking. The food blogging usually cuts it out or ignores it because it's not pretty, and that is a deceptive way to approach food. You don't have to kill your meat yourself but you should never forget that your chicken leg comes from an animal with liver and kidneys that are just as good to eat even if it's uglier.
I focus a LOT on quality. I want the best ingredients, I want it to be prepared well, I want my guests and I to sink into an appreciation of the food and what we're tasting. I also think ingredients should speak for themselves. One of my favorite desserts is fruit tart because the ingredients are the decoration. Sliced peaches are beautiful in and of themselves. They are their own advertisement – you can see if they are ripe or not by the color, the visual texture. There's an appeal to being able to identify what you're eating by sight that has to do with familiarity and that extends into comfort. But then that also provides an opportunity for surprise, because you can subvert the expectations of what it will taste like – like glazing that peach tart with a pepper jam, for example.
4. What's your favorite dish to cook? To eat?
Believe it or not, my favorite dish to make is salad. It's a specific format that I copy from my mother and I love it because it can turn out so many different ways even if you follow the rules, which are: 1) green leaves of some kind, 2) sliced fruit, 3)cheese, 4)nuts, & 5) vinaigrette with any kind of vinegar. That's it, and you can always skip parts or whatever. But it is so simple and always turns out great. I love it.
My favorite to eat is probably – and this is where I remind you how big of a snob I am – super fresh foie gras with bread. It's heavenly. Though, to be honest: I love eating bread. I think bread is probably my favorite food ever.
5. Where do you look for inspiration?
For me, food is an exercise in postmodernism and semiotics. A dish is the collection of my memories and tastes and associations combined for something new. It's a game of references, either cultural or personal, added together to create something new.
6. What's your favorite band?
I don't know if I have one! I guess it would be Florence + the Machine if I had to pick. (I liked her before she was famous, blah blah blah)
7. Top spot on your travel list?
South America. I've gone around most of the US and Europe but never further south than the Caribbean. I want to live in the Amazon for, like, two months and have an Indiana Jones adventure.
8. If you were a building, what would you look like?
I'd probably be a house or a pavilion of some kind because I'm definitely a nester and I'm also obsessed with the "programming" of residence. I wouldn't be a house with a living room and kitchen and bedroom, but instead mixed up and multi-purpose. I'd like to be posh and tell you that I'm all clean lines and modernist, but I love decoration. I love taking modernist decoration and acting like a Baroque person and crowding every inch of the walls. There'd also be a lot of indoor/outdoor playing in the building-as-me, like a tree and an open air skylight in the living room and a vertical herb garden in the kitchen. I like to start with the familiar and quietly pull the rug out from underneath.
In this session, Ariella cooked blini and a chocolate orange tarte - both of which were delicious.
Sometimes my personal work gets buried beneath everything else that piles up on my list of things to do. I'll get home really excited about the photos, edit and post a few, and then forget about them as I work on other items. I don't think every shoot is meant to be well-planned with intentions of sharing with the world; it's okay if it sinks into my external hard drive to be discovered years later. This shoot is an example of something that was almost forgotten, but luckily I pulled it out of the depths of my filing system and brought it to life. Here it is, five months later: Padraic + me + the ginkgo tree.
Bay Area Photographer | Mt. Tamalpais Photoshoot
Kelsey and I found each other on Instagram and knew we had to shoot! We decided to go to Mt. Tamalpais and stopped along the way by these Acacia trees. We then drove up the mountain along the winding road past waterfalls & redwoods until a scene of rolling green hills opened up before us. I can definitely understand why they film car commercials here! The mood of the shoot fluctuates between warm and bright to dark and moody, which, although a bit disjointed, is how I like things to be.
I made this quick, one-photo editing tutorial video to demonstrate how I intentionally use harsh light for visual interest and how I handle that in post-production. This shoot took place in the Presidio of San Francisco on a Sunday afternoon around 3:30pm. Once again, if you have any questions that you'd like me to answer in a Q&A video, leave them in the comments! More photos from this series here.
Vintage Senior Portraits | Western Railway Museum, Suisun City, California
Had a great time hanging out with this girl - a senior in high school with awesome vintage style! Also, I highly recommend going to this museum. All the volunteers are very knowledgeable and kind, and it's a really cool atmosphere. You can take a train ride out 5 miles through windmills and open land - not the kind of thing you see everyday!
This was one of those shoots where I pretty much forgot about the fact that I was holding a camera taking photos. Pam, my former boss, and her daughter Casey are the kinds of people that cause me to throw away descriptive words over and over because they can't really be put into words. Vibrant, hilarious, bad-ass, smile-inducing...that just scrapes the surface. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
When Sara of Barnaby Jack Vintage contacted me about doing a lookbook shoot, I was so excited. The style of all her pieces was so in line with my own aesthetic taste, and we quickly learned that we had similar ideas for the entire vibe of the shoot. It came together quickly and flawlessly. Andie, our model for the first part of the shoot, did a wonderful job. (For part II of the shoot, click here.) You can see the photos up on her site! www.shopbarnabyjack.com
Sometimes you get the urge to head out to your local monastery and take self-portraits. (Really, I had heard about this place and wanted to check it out for myself before bringing clients there.) It exceeded my expectations, and I'll definitely be going back.
Hannah and I have known each other since we were two. Our backyards are connected by a wooden gate. We grew up making (embarrassing) short films together and eating terrible homegrown oranges under a miniature Japanese maple. When we weren't pretending we were cats, we would fight over her cat Pumpkin, whom I desperately wanted to cat-nap as my own. Some Saturdays we'd sit on top of a hill by the water treatment plant eating Indian food and honey sticks from the farmers' market. She taught me most of the swear words I know, and has been in front of my camera from the very beginning. Given this background, you can see why it's a pretty special thing to shoot someone like this. Add in a thrifted wedding dress and some amazing locations - it doesn't get better!
Tucked away in the Santa Cruz mountains is a magical fish pond that sits in a quiet pocket of redwood forest. I hope that, in looking at these photos, you can feel the cool trickle of the stream that fills the spring box, smell the forest floor & crumpled bay leaves, and hear nothing but the gentle flow of water.
Vintage Slip: Pretty Penny Clothing
Gold Feather Clips: Willow & Quinn
Hair & make-up by me ;)
A fun fashion shoot with a dear friend...enjoy!
Berkeley Photographer | Mother-daughter headshots | San Francisco Bay Area
Yesterday, Padraic and I checked out a spot I've been meaning to explore for a while: the Spring Box Trail in Santa Cruz. It runs adjacent to the UCSC campus and rambles in and out of redwood forest and open trails surrounded by oak trees. I don't know what the history is behind these spring boxes, but rumor is that locals set koi and goldfish free in these concrete boxes, and the fish some how manage to avoid getting eaten by raccoons. There are also lime kilns from the 1850s nearby! Needless to say, I left with inspiration for another photoshoot. :)
Palo Alto, California photographer | Arastradero Preserve | September 13, 2015
Sometimes I'm disappointed when the sun doesn't show its face for a shoot, but in this case, the cloud/smoke cover diffused the light beautifully, making shooting at any angle possible. Kimberly and Minta worked so hard to make this shoot come together - thanks, ladies!
Model: Minta Hsu // HMUA: Kimberly MacPhee // Flowers: Simply Stunning Events
Oakland Fashion Photographer | Field Day Wearables
"field day is a small indie clothing label born in 2005 out of Oakland, California. Trinity, the creator of field day, designs flattering, versatile, long-lasting, and completely conscious ready-to-wear line inspired by classic silhouettes that flatter the figure. field day utilizes the most sustainable materials available such as reclaimed vintage bed sheets that have been dyed in small batches to organic cotton grown and milled in California." I excerpted this bit from her website because I wanted to make sure you all knew how wonderful the story behind these designs is!
I had the opportunity to work with Trinity in getting some photos for a lookbook of her fall collection. It was so fun working with all these ladies - enjoy the photos, and be sure to go buy yourself something! (I know I will.) :)
Big thanks to models Mali, Nea, Emily, & Jaclyn!
Santa Barbara Photographer | Ocean People Project
These two. This day was one of the coldest in Santa Barbara, but I am lucky enough to have friends that indulge my somewhat insane impulses. The Ocean People Project is something I've been working on for a while now. It's simple: people run into the ocean with their clothes on (the more formal or outlandish, the better). This is the first one I've published on my site because I'm trying to come up with a more complete collection before posting. More to come...
Campbell, California Photographer | Portraits of a Parakeet
Meet Sue, the androgynously named plum-headed parakeet who is male and whose real name is Sunshine. A long time ago, he flew into a window at my uncle's office, and my uncle brought him home to us. He's as old as I am and is expected to live past 30, much to my parents' dismay. (Sorry, Sue.) He only says two things – "Hi, Sweetie, whatcha doin'?" and "Want a treat" – but he occasionally imitates sounds on TV. He flirts with food-offerers with a slow two-step and a click of the tongue, his pupils spiraling in and out like a hypnotist's disk. He thrives on seedcakes, pellets, and the occasional carrot, and sleeps one-footed on a mini swing.
This shoot was challenging for many reasons. Bird models are harder to work with than you'd think. I didn't even intend to be in these photos, but he wouldn't perch on anything I wanted him to sit on, so naturally the best alternative was my head. Self-portraits are hard enough to begin with! I've worked with wind, harsh light, and tricky people, but Sue was by far the most difficult model I've run into. (I haven't had anyone fly away from me before.)
Campbell, California Photographer | Sunflower Mini-Sessions | Summer 2015