photographer petrina tinslay

I'm still a big fan of Bill Granger's cookbooks. To me, the food is easy to cook and uncomplicated (I often lack the patience or time for recipes from other books). But I was thinking recently - what would Bill's cookbooks be without the enticing and beautiful photography? They set the tone for not only the recipes but the Australian lifestyle that he promotes. The imagery is the work of accomplished photographer Petrina Tinslay, who has become the cookbook photography queen. She's produced books with no less than Nigella Lawson, Delia Smith, Donna Hay and Neil Perry. Not only that but many of her images have graced the covers of Vogue Living, and many other high-end magazines.

Which five words best describe you? Enthusiastic, realistic, dreamer, passionate, patient.
What was your first job and what path have you taken since? I was a freelance photo assistant after leaving art school. I loved my job so much that I couldn't believe I was actually being paid for it! I'd be doing something completely different every single day. One day in a restaurant kitchen, the next shooting a portrait of someone famous, the next in some remote location. No two days were ever the same. It spoiled me for ever working in an office situation ever again in my life! I went freelance as a photographer after about 2 years assisting and loved being on shoots where you could create gorgeous images from + with amazingly beautiful things and places. It is so creatively satisfying, and I think I'll never tire of that feeling, even after shooting now for about 18 years.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Nothing can take the place of hard work and dedication to your craft. I love the saying... "the harder I worked, the luckier I got". My parents always had their own small business and instilled a good work ethic in me from a very young age. I feel this is the best thing you can teach someone, along with kindness, patience and humility.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I think working on great cookbook projects (around 45 to date) on a regular basis, with wonderfully gifted chefs and cooks like Nigella Lawson, Michele Cranston, Neil Perry, Delia Smith, Bill Granger, Donna Hay, Tyler Florence, Jill + Jewels Elmore, Alison Attenborough + Jamie Kimm. The length of time working on these projects allows you to establish wonderful relationships with the chefs/cooks/authors and the crew and you can really get your teeth into creating a look and style for their recipes with your photography... you do get to eat very well too. Some of these projects have left me with truly wonderful memories and experiences. Winning the James Beard Foundation (a US-based, internationally recognised industry award) for "Best Food Photographer" in 2000, for one of my cookbooks was really exciting too and more recently the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) US awards for "Best Photography+Styling".

What’s been your best decision? To study at art school once I'd finished high school. I went to Sydney College of the Arts and did a Bachelor of Arts (Photography/Film) and feel that it showed me a whole new world of creativity and expression. It gave me the time and place to experiment with my work and begin developing a style of work. Then going freelance as a photographer, where my work gave me some amazing opportunities to travel the world shooting some great places and projects. I've had some amazing assignments shooting in Nepal, Burma, Europe, Africa, USA, the middle East, India, Japan etc. I've had some wonderful opportunities in my career. It's been a very rich tapestry of experiences.

Who inspires you? So many people for so many reasons. But first and foremost... my Father + Mother, my Grandfather... all greatly loved and respected by all who know/knew them. I try to be like them as much as I can everyday. There are also some amazingly talented image makers out there whose work is both inspirational and beautiful. For me looking at beautiful and clever imagery is an eternal source of happiness.
What are you passionate about? Food and photography... probably in equal parts, if I'm to be completely honest! When I was about ten I used to think I'd become a chef and used to read about the Roux Brothers and other great European chefs. I find it interesting to see everything came full circle for me to still work with food, but from a different angle... photographing it, rather than creating it. I do think I'm better at eating than cooking!
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. The stories of their lives fascinate me.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To publish an eponymous title of my work someday... once I have a lifetime of images to fill it with.

What are you reading?

Annie Liebovitz At Work.

images courtesy of petrina tinslay

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