Great Food Photos: Valery Rizzo

Valery Rizzo is a Brooklyn based photographer that shoots in both digital and film and is also a fellow contributor on Nona Brooklyn. I was totally amazed at her photos when I found out that she shot all of the photos in her 1st assignment for Nona Brooklyn with a plastic toy camera. I own a Holga myself and know that even though it's a plastic toy camera, it's still produces some serious looking images. But in the hands of Valery Rizzo, the images are just beautiful. Currently she's working on a photo book with images of Brooklyn she has taken with toy cameras. I can't wait for it to come out.

Q. Can you tell me what you’re trying to capture when you take your food photos? A. I am always trying to tell a story. A story about a recipe, a person, a place, an event or culture and it's connection to the food. I love to add a human element when I can and I am intrigued by the role food plays in our everyday lives as well as how food is grown and the art of creating with food.

Q. Have you always been interested in photography? A. I guess you could say yes and no… I've been interested in art since I was a child. I belong to a whole family of artists and my mother was a photographer, so I used my parent's cameras growing up and took my 1st photography class was when I was in my young teens. My grandfather actually gave me a Diana clone (toy camera) when I was fourteen from his box of tricks he kept his work studio. I later graduated from Pratt Institute majoring in illustration and have worked as an art director, illustrator and designer, then got into textile design and worked as an artist for Ralph Lauren Home Design for over seventeen years. During that time at Ralph Lauren I became interested in photography and started studying at The International Center of Photography, SVA and Pratt, started contributing to stock agencies and shooting assignments and for the past two years I have been a photographer full-time.

Q. What is it about film that keeps you shooting analog? A. I use film mostly for my personal work and it is all medium format (Oh and I love Polaroid!), so I love the large size which then lends itself to fine art and I love the saturated and lush color and qualities of film. I also just love the whole process of shooting film, opening a roll, loading it, getting it developed in that anticipation of seeing what you may or may not have captured and when you're ecstatic at the results, that rush of holding that print in your hands and being with it is like no other. It also gives me a chance to be separated from the computer and pixels, which is important and feels good.

Q. What made you decide to take photos with plastic toy cameras? Do you have a favorite toy camera, if so why? A. I think I was inspired by a beautiful little book, printed in Italy by photographer Christopher Anderson, called Nonfiction. It is a book about nothing in particular, just random shots taken with a toy camera, while on assignment, beautifully spontaneous shots. But really for me it was one day after I woke up with horrible vertigo which left me debilitated and made it hard for me to even walk up to the corner. I don't think I felt like myself again until 4 years later. My husband started driving me around Brooklyn to get me out and into the world again and I decided to pick up my Holga and some medium format film, it seemed light and easy enough to use to get me back into shooting again. When I was shooting I forgot about feeling dizzy. From that horrible time I discovered my love of film, toy cameras and Brooklyn. I shoot with several Holgas, but my favorite is my rare Woca.

Q. Your food blog is "Eating Brooklyn" and you are currently working on a Brooklyn photo book. What is it about Brooklyn that you find worth documenting? A. Well, when my interest in food photography became apparent it naturally made sense that my food blog should be Brooklyn-based to coincide with my monograph (Brooklyn book project) I'm working on since even my food interests were heavily focused on Brooklyn. Being a REAL Brooklyn native I feel I have a unique point of view worth documenting and what I love about Brooklyn is the independent spirit it seems to possess. Witness to all the changes over the years Brooklyn is constantly changing, some of it for the better and some for the worse, for my book project I would like to capture all of the free spirit that is Brooklyn today while preserving all of the character that might be gone tomorrow. For Eating Brooklyn I'm just intrigued by the enormous foodie scene in Brooklyn, together with an environment that lends itself towards urban farming, cultural diversity, freedom of ideas and community.

Q. Any film photography heroes? A. I am very inspired by Sally Mann, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Michal Chelbin, Claudio Edinger (who just told me he would write the intro for the Brooklyn book), Ben Roberts and Andrew Moore, just to name a few and as far as food photography, Ditte Isager, David Loftus, John Kernick and Roland Bello are some of my favorites.

Q. Best meal so far in 2011? A. I tend to cook at home more than eating out, because I just feel as though it's healthier and I know what I am eating, but of course I love to try new places in Brooklyn. When I do eat out its the smaller more unique places that I love rather than anything fancy, I also go for the experience together with hopefully good food to match. That being said I'd have to say I loved having lunch at Bakeri, in Williamsburg. This small little bakery is such a special place, while eating there you really feel as though you're in a café in Paris. I love the beautiful individual vintage bottles they serve water in, and the tea is served in bowls, if Anthropologie was a cafe this would be it. I had their veggie sandwich on focaccia with Gruyere, tomato and arugula, which is hot pressed and just the right size for one person. My husband had a berry scone like no other served in the shape of a slice of pie. Together with our bowls of tea, fancy water and cool music we were relaxed and in heaven. You should buy one of their authentic french baguettes to take home with you afterwards. More recently the Arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar at Rockaway Beach were pretty amazing as well!

All photos courtesy of Valery Rizzo of Eating Brooklyn