Behind the Lens - Brent Harrewyn, Food PhotographerSeptember 14, 2016
If you've clicked through our Annual Forum photos or checked out a copy of Edible Green Mountain Magazine - you've seen the work of Brent Harrewyn. Brent has photographed our past five Annual Forum Celebrations. His talent for capturing the special moments makes us return to the photos over and over throughout the year. We wanted to know how Brent developed his unique skill.
When did you discover photography?
BH: At a very young age; before I could read. My parents always had a subscription to National Geographic, so I would spend hours at a time flipping through the stacks of issues, obsessing over the photos – especially the portraits. Shortly thereafter my dad taught me how to use his old Nikon.
Tell us about your culinary background…
BH: I grew up in the culinary industry. I spent most of my life hanging out in kitchens. My grandfather was a baker/restaurant owner in South Africa and my dad (Chef Jozef) was a pastry chef for the Four Seasons hotel chain. We traveled all over the world because of it – but the family settled in Vermont when the old man landed a job at NECI - eventually opening his own Cafe/Bakery (Chef's Corner).
What are the most challenging things about photographing food?
BH: Getting the shot before the ice-cream melts.
What are some tips you’d give your average food Instagramer?
BH: Use non-direct natural light – a window! Don't use your phone's flash (especially in a restaurant – it's rude).
Favorite spots to dine/drink in the state?
BH: Favorites constantly change for me but, I've been loving the food truck scene in VT these days! But, Parker Pie in Glover is always a treat. Mad Taco in Waitsfield, Doc Pond's in Stowe, and of course Chef's Corner in Williston! I tend to favor simple eats, but can also appreciate the fancy from time-to-time. Also, I have to give a shout out to some of the wedding caterers in this state; like Cloud 9 and Let's Pretend Catering. I go to a lot of weddings because I photograph them so I see what these caterers are doing, which is impressive.
Tell us about your work with Edible Green Mountain Magazine…
BH: I'm the photo editor for EGM. I produce all the photography content for the publication. I shoot most of the features and covers, and contract out other photographers to help cover assignments. I spend most of my time visiting local food producers, farmers and chefs. My favorite part is production when I get to meet all these cool people.
Is there a favorite story you’ve worked on?
BH: I don't have a favorite because they are all so unique! However, a recent stand-out was an assignment I shot at Bread and Butter Farm this summer. The place is a gem and mostly because of the people that work there.
Do you have a favorite photo?
BH: I made a portrait last year of my folks in their kitchen that I will always appreciate.
From your vast experience photographing the food and people of Vermont, do you have any takeaways? What makes our food system special/unique/exciting?
BH: Vermont's food scene is world class. The people that make it all happen are so aware and conscious about doing things right and staying connected to one another and their consumers/customers; it's a direct reflection of the quality we see in the food. Things keep getting better because there are so many meaningful, collaborative, long-lasting relationships in our little food system.
What do you hope to see more of?
BH: Maple creemees. More maple creemees.
How do you think Vermont farmers/chefs/food producers are using photography well in their business — how could they use it better?
BH: We've become a visually driven society, so most consumers these days are more receptive to taking on a message through a photo or video than the written word – it's a seeing is believing type of thing. Most of this is done online via social media. That being said, I do see a few Vermont food producers and restaurants using social media effectively (some better than others). Just remember, it does not always have to be about how awesome your product is. Vermonters are nosey (for all good reasons) and like to know who is making their food and what families we are supporting. That being said, tell a story and let us get to know you! Check out Vermont Creamery on social media; they do an awesome job with this.
If a restaurant/farm/food producer wanted to up their game? How do you help? What are some of the services you recommend?
BH: Generating a loyalty, inspiring your consumers/customers and building a network of brand ambassadors is one of the most powerful things you can do (at least I think so). This is most often done on social media through effective photography and video production strategies. Visual storytelling!
View photos from the 2016 Annual Forum Dinner on our Facebook page!