Sunday, March 7, 2010

Angelolli Asks Mable Tan

Kicking off the series is Mable Tan, a talented writer, photographer and food stylist. What a combo right? I had the privilege of working with Mable a lifetime ago, and since then we have both retained our passion for writing, but discarded everything else that is conventionally "right".
Mable is now in Melbourne, living the creative life. Her current obsession is figs (what else?) and she's a terror with her camera. She's not too bad with the words either.


Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mable and I am a photojournalist.

Why did you decide to live the creative life?
I've tried my hand at a few things e.g. kitchen hand, internet entrepreneur, advertising executive, media planner but the work I'd enjoyed the most was when I was writing/styling for Seventeen (Malaysia) and Marie Claire (Malaysia). It allowed my creativity to go... what's the word for it... crazy.

How did you start off working with food? And photography?
I used to work with Elaine. Back when she used to be a drover, uh ... I mean, editor. She assigned me to a column called Nosh and I got pretty into the whole food styling thing. I would wake up at 6 a.m. to cook, then I'd drive to the studio, style and wait for the photographer to shoot.

My best friend is obsessed with food blogs. Her idea of good weekend entertainment is to ogle at food blogs. So one day while baking her favourite cupcakes, she asked me to start one. I've always been keen on photography but it wasn't until I became unemployed with plenty of time on my hands in 2007 that I explored with food blogging + photography.

Mable (right) with her best friend Carrie Low, the one who started her off on her food blog.

Can you tell us some of your idiot-proof tips when working with food/photography?
Yes. Take the camera lid off.

I was at a shoot one day helping a photographer style some dishes. He had the whole shebang i.e. lighting, flash, fancy lenses. We tried a few shots, but in the end we pushed the table to the window and relied on natural lighting.

I'm always learning something new from my camera. The white balance (WB) and exposure settings are my best friends. I use it a lot to set the tone of the pictures.

Not only does Mable bake a mean peanut butter cookie and ricotta cheese cake, she takes awesome food pictures.

What were some of the best advice anyone ever gave you?
"Don't knock it till you've tried it."

What is on your current lust list?
Figs. I love its burnt deep purple and lime green exterior; the soft flamingo pink and funny alien insides; the seedy sweet texture. I can't believe how versatile figs are. It makes me happy just looking at it.

What would you like to see more of in the world?
More people embracing the slow cook culture. We should go back to home grown food. It's so much more natural and good for you. I have been incredibly lucky to travel to Sweden and Japan and the food culture there is enlightening. It's extremely backwards but in a way that it's so forward-thinking. Taking time to grow your own food, cooking it in your own way is such a blessing. My husband's dad grows his own lemons, plums, jalapeno chillis, tomatoes, passionfruit and mushroom. It's a very rewarding past time.

Who inspires you?
It's cliched but Jamie Oliver is a great ambassador for food. How he cooks and what he stands for in life is so refreshing - "Be responsible for the things you eat, the way you live and you shall be happy". We all need a hero in our lives.

What are you cooking now?
I'm tossing up between fig clafoutis or no-bake chocolate and fig slice.

Which bloggers/creative souls blow your mind away?
French expat Béa, (www.latartinegourmande.com) and Chika, a Japanese jetsetter (/www.shewhoeats.blogspot.com)

If you haven't had enough of Mable, go visit her at www.mabletan.com and feast your eyes on beautiful food and travel pictures. Catch another fascinating creative soul on Angelolli Asks next week!

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