My main passion is cooking: the magic of bringing together ingredients and transforming them into something different, something good. My passion for photography came later and has always followed the same approach that I take when amidst my pots and pans.
I am not a photographer with years of experience and a load of technical know-how consisting of times and intervals, exposures and lenses. I like to eat; I love food, I love fresh ingredients that take centre stage even over the conversation. For the same reason, my food photography is extremely instinctive, guided by the eye of one who cooks more than one who knows about composition and apertures.
I look at a dish with the same hunger and appetite both from behind the camera and when the dish is right in front of me to be photographed, and then eaten.
I take this same approach with my photographs of markets.
A few months ago, I started visiting the markets in Florence, in particular the Sant’Ambrogio Market.
The Sant’Ambrogio Market has everything that an Italian, or better, Tuscan, market should contain.
Compared to the San Lorenzo Market, which was recently renovated, is more central and visited mostly by tourists, Sant’Ambrogio Market is a lively place in which you find mainly local people.
There are areas of clothing, household items, plants and flowers, through which I pass quickly to get to the main focus of my attention, the fruit and vegetable area.
First of all, I let myself be guided by the colours, like you do in the creation of a dish. Those colours that stand out, that capture my attention, are the ones I go to first. In this strange period between winter and spring, you can still find the orange of citrus fruits, if you are lucky, together with the deep red of strawberries.
I like to get down low enough to look the vegetables in the eye and see them from close up, breathing in their mixed smell of earth and greenness. At the moment, there are turnips and radishes on the market stalls. I use a very wide aperture to get a shallow depth of field, so that I can better focus the attention on their roots, now exposed to the air, that were before firmly anchored in the ground.
As well as by colours, I am also affected by textures. I get up very close, as if I were going to sniff the food, as if I were going to dive right into the large bowl of pickled vegetables. I take the picture from above, as if it were an abstract painting. Here, what interests me is the gleam of the oil, the multicoloured maze of all the vegetables that form a pattern of colours and shapes. I keep everything out of the frame and leave only the vegetables and the glimpse of a ladle to place the photo in a moment, in a precise space.
All of your senses are alert when you wander around a market. Your sense of smell follows the trail of ripe strawberries, of roast pork kept warm on the grill for sandwiches, of mature cheeses that release their ripe and pungent smell into the air. A pile of flatbread captures my attention. They stand out in the sea of fruit and vegetables, with their structure and visible air holes. Here, the light falls softly, highlighting the golden crust.
And then there are the hands of those working at the market. Among all the sellers at Sant’Ambrogio, there is one who is also a farmer, whose hands tell of long hours working the fields. His hands are large and strong, but also ready to point out the best radishes, to hand you your shopping, to shake your hand in a kind greeting.
My photographic trip around the market ended with a memory card full of photos, a head full of ideas, eyes full of colour and shopping bags full of fresh produce, which will soon become new stories and new recipes.
Giulia Scarpaleggia, teacher of Tuscan cookery courses for tourists, Tuscan food blogger, writer and photographer, 33 years old, from Colle Val d’Elsa (Siena).
I started my blog in February 2009. In January 2012, I began working full-time as a food blogger and teacher of cookery courses.
In December 2012, my first book ‘I Love Toscana’ was published by Food Editore in Italian and English.
In September 2013, I won the Macchianera Food Award for best Italian food blogger.
In September 2014, my second book, ‘Cucina da Chef con ingredienti low cost’ (Chef Cooking with Low Cost Ingredients) was published by BUR.
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