14th September 2019
Part of the Oxford Cultural Collective’s ‘Perspectives on Food in Photography’ initiative.
Del Senddon (aka @WeeRascal) has a growing band of followers on instagram who admire his distinctive and enticing photographs of home-cooked food. His entry to the 2019 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Award achieved ‘highly commended’ status and he recently collaborated with Chef Romy Gill on the publication of her first cookbook, Zaika.
You create beautiful images in which food appears both appetising and comforting. How would you characterise your photographs of food and what impact do you hope they have?
The low key style of my ‘FridayFeast’ photography is accidental. I began snapping and posting my suppers about 12 years ago – cooking was, and still is, a hobby. Back then, I had no lighting gear and every image was captured on a Nokia mobile phone, typically around dusk. Of course this inevitably resulted in dark and moody photos, but a few friends began to say how much they liked the cosy and comforting ambience. When I eventually took the plunge and bought a proper camera and a rudimentary light box, I decided to maintain the look.
I’m a cook, not a chef, so everything I make, shoot and eat is naturally a little disorderly. And I’m not a fan of meticulously placed julienned carrots: I leave ‘tweezer’ food to Michelin starred chefs. About half of my cooking and photography is drawn from cookbook recipes: I buy at least 3 every week and I guess my ambition is to share food from the best of them – hopefully it inspires others to try making it themselves. We are blessed to be in a era with so many brilliant food writers; Diana Henry, Gill Meller, Olia Hercules, Nigella and John Whaite to name a few.
Whilst your photographs have a natural style, it seems composition is very important to you. How would you describe your approach to composition?
Orderly chaos. I spent 25 years on the other side of the lens as an Art Director, so yes, I suppose composition comes naturally. But shooting my food is quite different to a commercial project: these images are also my dinner, which I’d rather not eat cold. I have to work fast, so I regularly throw in ingredients or utensils I’ve used during the making of a dish to give it sense of realness and immediacy.
You have recently worked with Romy Gill, taking the photographs for her first book, Zaika. Was the process of collaborations challenging – maintaining your own style, whilst also fulfilling Romy’s ambitions for her book?
Romy and I first met about 3 years ago when I attended an event at her restaurant in Bristol. Her dynamism and tenacity really impressed and I nearly broached the idea of offering to shoot the food for her restaurant. We met again at a charity dinner in Borough Market a year or so later and I think it was there, while we packed the boot of her car with boxes of her precious spices and utensils, she told me about her ambition to write a cookbook and her wish to commission me to do the photography.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met with Orion – Romy’s publisher in London, but I was somewhat relieved to discover they’re a gregarious and enthusiastic bunch. They presented ‘tear sheets’; a few pages with images mustered from the internet to convey their anticipated output — bright, sunny tearoom-style photography. Not my vibe at all. Clearly a few compromises were necessary, and given this would become my first professional photography commission, I agreed to dial down the drama (slightly). We met in the middle somewhere and I think Orion are happy with the results. I know Romy is and I am too.
You present images on instagram that seem to be a true representation of what you eat at home. Is this the case, and if so is our jealousy justified?
My Instagram posts are treats, always on a Friday and occasionally midweek. I enjoy mince and tatties, instant noodles and frozen fish fingers like everyone else, but they’re hardly an achievement, probably not meaningful and definitely not photogenic.
Whilst you have a background as a designer, you are increasingly gaining attention as a food photographer (not least through being highly commended in this year’s Pink Lady Food Photographer of the year competition). What do you hope to achieve in the future as a food photographer?
Right now, I have to focus on our packaging design business. We are now recognised as an industry leader and it is my sole income provider. I have a notion to do a book one day, but in the meantime, I’m open for business and I hope Romy’s Zaika cookbook is the first of many.