NOTE: This is a repost of a recent entry to my blog that accompanies The Documentary Photographer podcast. It is here to help raise awareness of an initiative to raise money for Médecins sans Frontieres work in Syria.
Earlier this year, Christian Payne, a good and conscientious man, went to Syria to tell the stories of people like you and me – except they weren’t quite like you and me. Their lives had been destroyed by the civil war. Christian’s tale is a moving one. You can listen to it in episode 14 of The Documentary Photographer podcast, or experience it on his blog (the post titled Towards Syria is a good place to start).
Following our conversation, I approached a number of the photographers who had been interviewed on the podcast about contributing prints to a sale to raise money for some form of aid in Syria. Gina Glover and David Creedon readily agreed.
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As storytellers (for ourselves, for our businesses) we face many challenges. Not least of which is that nobody is waiting for us to tell them just how smashing we are. “We’re dynamite, don’t you agree?” is a pretty thin storyline. Nevertheless, it’s one that many businesses peddle. After a while, the world merely shrugs its shoulders and moves on to more interesting things.
One way to overcome this is to shine the spotlight on someone else.
Take a look at the video here. Watch it all the way through because there is a relevant question coming up.
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Note: This is a repeat of a post that originally appeared on the now defunct Cork Foodie blog. It seemed a shame to let it vanish, so I’ve given it a new home here. Some people were kind enough to comment on the post at the time, and I’ve added their thoughts at the end here.
Tony and Dan Linehan © Roger Overall 2012
Do you know what children want from their boiled sweets today?
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The Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, is one of Ireland’s best fish smokers. Good enough to for its salmon to be served to the President of Ireland and the Queen of England any way.
I’d worked with Birgitta, who runs the smokehouse, before – producing a series of documentary photographs. At the time, I thought it was hard work. Getting up at 3AM to photograph master smoker Peadar Reilly working his magic on the fish: filletting, salting and prepping the smoker with oak shavings. I mean, 3AM. It’s ungodly. No wonder it’s known as the Devil’s Hour. Continue reading →
Chef Barry McLaughlin cooks some pretty special stuff. I once ate close to his entire Poacher’s Inn menu during a photo shoot. (Photography may be not be as well paid as it once was, but there are still perks – though I should stop wondering why my waistline won’t shift).
Barry speaks beautifully about his food and the thinking behind it. Watching him work is mesmerising. He moves fluidly and quickly, producing sumptuousness in minutes.
On Wednesday, we spent some time together and came up with this:
Brill with Truffled Savoy Cabbage and Crispy Bacon from Roger Overall on Vimeo.
Mark Cribbins of Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms © 2012 Roger Overall
There was a time when nearly everyone could pluck food directly from nature. For our ancestors, a woodland was a larder. For most of us today, it’s a collection of trees. It’s evidence of the increasingly remote connection between nature and the food we eat.
Not everyone is so ignorant, though. Some Westerners are still able to gather food from the countryside.
Mark Cribbins, who owns Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms with his wife Lucy, is such a person. He is also a source of eye-opening anecdotes about fungi.
Want to hear about the connection between Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and drinking mind-altering urine? Or that the largest living organism ever discovered wasn’t measured in feet or metres, but in MILES?
Hit the play button below.
Food from nature © 2012 Roger Overall
Baker kneading dough © 2012 Roger Overall
Making food requires skill. Watching a butcher make sausages or a baker knead dough is mesmerising – to me, at least. Their hands move faster than it seems possible for their brain to control. And when they are done, they have crafted something that I can’t. They’ve also produced something that I really want.
It’s a shame, then, that proper butchering and baking skills seem to be dying out. A high-end butcher friend of mine laments the demise of his craft. He is keeping the flame burning, but worries about the next generation. He once told me of a prediction made at a meat conference in the US: “Soon the only two cuts of meat available will be steak and mince.”
Partly that’s because it’s what the consumer wants. And what the consumer wants, the consumer gets. They barely know any different, because the number of skilled butchers who can show them different is declining. So they stick to what is familiar. It’s a vicious circle.
Some say it’s too late for the tide to turn. Society has progressed too far down the track away from artisan food production, they counsel.
So we should enjoy watching skilled food producers at work while we still can.
Maybe in doing so we can contribute to the slowing, if perhaps not the halt, of society’s dash towards the embrace of ever more industrialised food production.