Interview: Carl Warner - Ingenious And Delightful Foodscapes
Still life and advertising photographer Carl Warner creates enchanting landscapes made of food. He sees limitless possibilities with food as his artistic medium. He imagines breads as mountains, vegetables as trees, lemons as balloons, potatoes as rocks, and toasted almonds as haystacks.
It all started when Carl was walking around in a food market looking for some inspiration for his business. H e found some portabello mushrooms which he thought looked like trees from an alien world. He photographed the mushrooms together with other ingredients and named it “The Mushroom Savanna”.
Carl Warner: I am a photographic artist who makes landscapes out of food, although I do create scenes out of other materials as well. I work mainly in advertising as my work lends itself to that industry and I am also directing TV commercials using my techniques as well as developing a children animation project which will help educate kids into eating more healthily.
You are already a very successful advertising photographer, when and how did you first become interested in foodscapes?
Carl Warner: I began creating the first image ‘Mushroom Savanna’ back in 1999 and I had no idea it would become such a long term project as it seemed to be just a one off image.
I have a great love of food and I enjoy eating like most people. But food is a great source of inspiration to me because it is an organic material that has a similarity to the larger aspects of the natural world. Also, people can relate to food easily and so they recognize the cleverness of what I do and appreciate them and the craft involved in order to create this kind of imagery.
Do you have a typical working process? What would it be?
Carl Warner: It begins with an idea, either from a client or from something I have seen as a landscape or as ingredients that give me ideas. I imagine the scene in my head and then I draw the scene as a sketch. From here I decide what ingredients will be used to make the scene, and I work with my food stylist and my model maker to build the scene on a large table top in my studio. This can take several days depending on the complexity of the scene and it is sometimes shot in layers in order to work quickly with the fresh produce.
Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
Carl Warner: My favourite image is the fishscape, although I prefer the portrait version on the website rather than the landscape crop in the book. It was one of the most difficult scenes to build and by far the smelliest! But for me the cold lighting and the composition make the illusion of a real place very convincing. I still never tire of looking at it, and as we later animated the scene and brought it to life I have a fondness for it above most of the other images.
Carl Warner: People often compare my work to Giuseppe Archimbaldo, and I have created a few portraits that have been influenced by him, but most of my inspiration for the Food Landscapes comes from classical landscape paintings using the golden thirds and pathways that lead you into the deep perspectives.
Carl Warner: I love this job as I get to play with food and then eat it afterwards! It also gives me great satisfaction to see people look at my pictures and smile as they realise what they actually are.
Share with us your memorable experience in your career so far?
Carl Warner: The most memorable experience was when I made a seascape out of fish. It took all day long and into the evening working with fish which were obviously very smelly, but because it took all day, we grew used to the smell, so when we went home we did not know how bad we smelt! So when my son picked me up from the station that evening he said I smelt so bad that he drove all the way home with his head out of the car window. So all the people I sat next to on the train must have suffered this fishy smelling man in silence!