9.00 am on a Sunday at Bécasse. The restaurant is closed for business and we have it all to ourselves. The day of the Pepe Saya butter photo shoot is finally here.
I walk through the willow tree-lined hallway having a surreal moment. What was a concept in Pepe’s mind is about to materialise. And Gourmantic was invited to be part of it.
Butter meets Fashion
Inside the intimate restaurant with plush interior and ostrich skin covered tables, the excitement is palpable. This is to be a photo shoot with one of Australia’s most talented fashion photographers, someone whose work has graced the covers of major magazines, fronted international fashion and beauty campaigns. Henryk Lobaczewski, a completely self-taught photographer, has a string of awards and achievements to his name – all by the age of 27.
Our models are already on the job. Amelia is getting her hair styled and Renée is about to get her extension nails. Kevin (Mr G) unloads our camera equipment and takes a few test shots. Henryk and his team are on the way. Pepe and I venture to Bécasse Bakery for coffees and pastries.
For some time, Pepe and Henryk have been churning an idea for a butter shoot and it all came together over dinner when Pepe told Henryk, “I have this vision of beautiful models all dressed up and sitting in an amazing setting gorging on my butter.”
I first met Pepe at the Producers Lunch Forum at Quarter 21 and it was after Merna Taouk’s Master the Mousse class in their Tempe factory that he told me about his idea. I immediately loved the concept of combining food and fashion in a glamorous setting. And when Pepe said, “I would like you to write about it and take behind the scene photos,” I was totally thrilled. Then he added, “It will be an exclusive to Gourmantic.”
Butter. Fashion. Glamour. Gourmantic… My mind was ticking over with endless possibilities.
We discussed a couple of suitable venues and I immediately suggested Bécasse. I showed Pepe my article with photos of the venue and he liked the setting. On the following Monday, he pitched the idea to Josette Gardiner from Justin North’s office. Three and a half minutes later, it was a done deal, provided we shoot when the restaurant is closed.
Back inside Bécasse with breakfast, Henryk arrives and his team are setting up their equipment. He had already picked the location of the photo shoot – precisely where I imagined it would be.
Kevin (Mr G) and I start taking photographs of what is happening behind the scenes. The lighting at Bécasse is dim, and every time we take a photo with the shoe-mount flash unit, it triggers Henryk’s flash and floods the room in bright light. Plan B is to set up the tripod which was kindly loaned to us from a friend who is a contributor to Gourmantic. At least we can take steady shots without using high ISO.
But that feeling of comfort is short-lived. Henryk realises they’re missing a tripod and asks if he could use ours. So we’re back to the handheld option with high ISO. I cross my fingers that my limited Photoshop skills don’t let me down.
The events of the day from 9.00 am to 2.30 pm are relayed through the photos below. The experience of working alongside a professional team and seeing every nuance of the photo shoot is one of those special events that one feels privileged to have been part of.
When it came to writing the Pepe Saya article, I took my inspiration from the minute the photo shoot started. Although I watched it from the viewfinder of the camera, finger on the shutter in high drive, I let my senses, feelings and imagination guide me. And that is often the best way to write.
The photo gallery tells the rest of the story.
Update 18/5/2012 : The Pepe Saya Butter photo is currently on display in the window of Victor Churchill in Woollahra. We couldn’t resist taking a few snaps at night.
Victor Churchill window
Pepe Saya photo at Victor Churchill, Woollahra
The photograph will be on display for approximately two weeks.
Update 4/10/2012 – The photo was voted as one of the finalists for the 2012 Shoot the Chef photo competition. The collection is currently on display on level 6 of Westfield Sydney during the Crave Sydney food festival.
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