As a photographer, author, blogger, and designer Matt Armendariz knows food from almost every angle there is. Following a long career in graphic design, he created the popular blog Matt Bites and moved behind the camera lens, shooting for a wide range of commercial projects and books including Zoe Nathan's Huckleberry, Joe Yonan's Eat Your Vegetables, Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord's mac 'n' cheese tome Melt—as well as his own delightful book On a Stick! With four cookbooks that he shot for coming out this year, as well as Target's upcoming Easter campaign, the man stays busy. We wanted to learn more about his background and influences, what life as a food photographer is like, and some of the biggest misconceptions about his field of work.
Tell us about your most recent great meal.
It was probably Christmas day with our friends, all Irish transplants to LA. It was such a beautiful traditional feast, complete with Irish favorites shared with family and friends. For the day I felt as if I was completely transported, not to mention that as avid entertainers it was so splendid to sit down to a grand meal we didn't have to prepare ourselves! Seems we're always the ones doing the entertaining!
You worked as a graphic designer before you became a full-time photographer. How does your design background influence your photography and your approach to food?
I think the visual arts are all deeply related and intertwined, so it's nice to utilize my background and history on a daily basis with photography. The act of composition, use of negative or positive space inside a frame, and actually laying something out in a photo or on a table all tap into my design background. Once a designer...
Are there any pervasive misconceptions about food photography?
Absolutely. People still think we use fake things or that the food's not real. Couldn't be further than the truth. It's digital, we don't really have a need to employ those tricks from 20 years ago. Another misconception (and we have social media to thank) is that it's easy; sure, it's not always difficult but it is a specialized area of photography and you have to know the properties of food inside and out to make it successful.
Your partner, Adam Pearson, is a food stylist. Do you work together often? Could you speak to what that stylist-photographer relationship is like on shoots?
I love food photography in the commercial sense because it's definitely a group effort. You can't really do it without assembling a team that involves a food stylist, sometimes a prop stylist, a photographer, and a few assistants. Because of this, it's 100% a collaborative effort. I'm lucky that I get to work with my husband regularly and that he still loves me! But seriously, when we're on set we treat each other as collaborators, each bringing something unique and different to the shoot.
What's the most challenging part of your work? What keeps you most curious, engaged, and excited?
The most challenging aspect is taking an idea that's been created by an art director or editor and making their vision into a real, living, edible concept...a concept that will sell the recipe, the food, the bottle of wine, the lifestyle, you name it. Oh, and also trying to have a food shoot in some pretty wacky places like a rainforest in Brazil or a jungle in Belize and making it look effortless can be a challenge, for sure! As far as staying curious and engaged, travel is definitely the thing that keeps my mind and creative spirit open, not just professionally but personally as well. It excites me so much that this is an easy question to answer
See more of Matt's work at mattarmendariz.com
Photos courtesy Matt Armendariz