I Wish I Had Known... About Writing A Cookbook!

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This is the seventeenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

On this post I speak with the fabulous Dina Begum, a Bangladeshi-born/East London-bred food writer about her passion for Bangladeshi food traditions and stories and her book Brick Lane Cookbook, in which she celebrates the diverse cultures and flavours of this much-loved area of London:

1. Where does your love for cooking come from?

My mother. I grew up seeing her prepare delicious meals from scratch almost every single day, using fresh produce. It seemed magical to me that she created feasts out of a few bags of groceries - that made me fall in love with cooking. My extended family are huge foodies and my maternal grandmother is also an amazing cook and this further inspired me, as I spent time with her during school holidays while growing up.

2. How does one go from writing down recipes on a notebook to actually writing a cookbook? Did you ever see yourself as an author?

I wanted to be an author before I even knew what an author was. I remember writing my first poem at the age of eight or nine and receiving a compliment from my teachers. In fact, my writing career began with fiction, poetry and narrative non-fiction including an essay on the shipbreaking trade in Chittagong, Bangladesh. While I loved to cook and write down recipes from a very young age I actually began focusing on food writing about five years ago. The two things I love are words and food, so I decided to combine the two!

3. What challenges did you face when you set yourself to writing the book?

Writing my debut cookbook was a tremendous learning curve for me. I learned how to write and format recipes properly, create delicious sounding yet relevant headnotes to accompany the recipes – which are crucial as they not only describe the dish but give helpful hints and tips. As a Bangladeshi cook, I learned through observing and helping. My mother and grandmother, like the majority of women of those generations never used measures, or wrote things down. It’s a very intuitive way of cooking. This made recipe testing a challenge at first as it was all new for me to measure ingredients exactly and time things. It’s so much easier now!

4. Did you work with a publisher or did you self-publish?

I was lucky enough to find a publisher through a friend who loved my blog and forwarded it to my publisher Kitchen Press. They’re an award-winning independent publisher and specialise in market cookbooks so it was a perfect fit for Brick Lane Cookbook. A blog is a wonderful way to highlight food writing, especially if you’re in the early stages.

5. How difficult is it to promote and sell a book? Where do you sell them?

My book is sold via my publisher and a distributor who deal with the business side of things. There’s also a PR to handle a lot of the promotional side. It’s available on Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Oliver Bonas and independent bookshops – one of which is the fabulous Brick Lane Bookshop on Brick Lane. As an author, I also consider it my responsibility to promote the book and I do this via social media posts, where I engage with my audience with regards to cooking and also promote any events I do. I also welcome press and promotional interest and do interviews where possible.

6. It has been said that people publish books nowadays for self-promotion rather than for profit? Is that your case?

I believe writing is a part of me and my life’s main purpose. Since my teens, I’ve published poetry, short fiction and wrote and edited articles for a magazine. This gave me a real sense of what it feels like to write for a living. To me being recognised for writing something interesting and producing good work is key. Self-promotion and profit is, and can be superfluous. Of course, if what you love can help you earn a living that’s a real bonus! My freelance food work is an essential part of my life and I try and connect it to my book as well as long term career goals.

7. Are there any other books in the pipeline?

Nothing concrete at the moment but I am working on a second book with more of a focus on Bangladesh. My book is split into Bangladeshi recipes and other cuisines which reflect the lovely diversity of Brick Lane, but it would be amazing to give Bangladeshi food 100% of my attention for my next project.

8. In your book, you publish recipes from your own kitchen but also from restaurants in Brick Lane. How did you get them to agree for you to publish them for all to see? How did you get their trust in the first place? Were they protective or happy to share their knowledge?

Through sheer power of persuasion and perseverance! Many businesses were easily convinced and keen to include their recipes in my book as they could envision how important it was to document the diversity in the food of Brick Lane. I think people love sharing their food stories. Some were protective of their recipes, especially ones they’d spent years perfecting or family recipes. I totally understood that as these are treasured recipes. I made it clear from the onset that they would be given credit and I would love to share the stories behind their dishes so they were happy to come on board and loved the process of chatting to me and showing me how to cook certain items, which was a real treat.

9. Have you ever worked in a restaurant? Have you thought about opening your own restaurant?

I haven’t worked in a restaurant as such, however, I have worked in them to host supper clubs and pop-ups, most recently at Darjeeling Express, which gave me a little taste of how restaurants operate. I also have some knowledge of them from family members who run their own restaurants. I would love to open some sort of eatery one day serving Bangladeshi food, with my own spin on it.

10. What are your thoughts on cooking robots like the Thermomix? Have you heard about the MIT robot restaurant that just opened in Boston last month?

I’ve literally just googled Thermomix! And to be absolutely honest this kind of cooking has never appealed to me. I’m sure it works for many people and it has its benefits but I just couldn’t imagine cooking this way. I’ve not heard about the robot MIT restaurant and find that very bizarre. I’m an old fashioned cook and not a huge gadgets person either.

11. On the day that we met, you were doing a demo on how to make one of your recipes using what you already have around in your kitchen. Do you try to apply the same concept to all of your recipes?

I believe in zero waste as a basic life philosophy, especially when it comes to food. So I strongly believe in utilising what you have lying around in the fridge or pantry first before buying more groceries. I love to create most of my recipes with that in mind. Use what you have and try and use substitutes. For particular recipes, substitutes don’t work but so many recipes are flexible. It’s all about adaptation.

12. Apart from the book, I know that you have also had your recipes published in many publications and that you host brunches where you share your delicious cooking with your guests. Have you ever considered giving cooking classes?

I love cooking for people and hosting pop-ups and demos. My teaching is currently available on Yodomo.co for whom I’ve filmed a Bangladeshi spice blend and recipe series. However, I’d love to give cooking classes and it’s something that’s on my list of things to do.

13. Where can we find out more about your book and your recipes?

You can find out more about my book and my recipes on my website (which has a recipes blog) and also follow me on Twitter & Instagram @dinasfoodstory to see what I’m cooking and eating and also find out about upcoming events.

This is wonderful, Dina! I really appreciate you sharing with me your tasty recipes and what being a food writer is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Contemporary Poetry!

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This is the sixteenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Being a big fan of Erin Bolens, you can imagine what an honour it was for me when she agreed to have a chat with me about what it is like being a contemporary poet, about her inspirations and about where in the UK can poetry enthusiasts and fans go to enjoy good poetry:

1. We met in 2017 during your beautiful performance at the Thames Festival's Boat Poets session at the The National Poetry Library and since then you can consider me a huge fan! Why do you think we need poetry?

That's so kind. I think my favourite part of doing this is meeting people along the way, so it's always great to come across those who are curious about poetry.

For me poetry is like a kaleidoscope - it's a small space with such a lot of detail in. Each read of a poem is a bit like shaking the kaleidoscope - you see a different pattern, a different colour and I love that. Poetry is a great shapeshifter and rises to lots of challenges so well. We turn to it both in times of sadness and celebration and I don't think that's ever going to change but I also love it when someone discovers poems that speak to their everyday life.

If it's something you relate to then it's a mirror that makes your perspective feel seen and if it's something you have never thought of then it's like seeing a new view or a door opening on a sight you weren't expecting. I love both.

2. How does one become a poet? Is it something that you study for or is it a talent that you are born with?

I think the habit and love of writing regularly is something some people develop very early on of their own accord and you can definitely create some brilliant poetry that way. You certainly don't have to study poetry in the formal sense to be a poet but listening to and reading a broad range of writing will definitely help to keep you experimenting and will fuel a useful curiosity about how words can be used.

3. What are the career opportunities for poets today?

I think this is a really exciting time for poetry. Perhaps it always feels like that when you are immersed in a particular world, but I do think there is an increasing number of spaces and platforms for readers and writers of poetry which is very exciting.

There isn't one thing that makes it possible for writing to be my job. I have worked with children since I was a teenager so doing that through poetry was a natural step for me and I really love it but it isn't for everyone. I do a mix of teaching, performing and writing commissions both for individuals, events or companies and organisations.

4. Do you remember a time before writing poetry?

Um not really. However, I don't think I would ever have called it poetry until much later on because for a long time I saw poetry as a very structured, quite old fashioned thing. For me, it was dictated by rules and it took a long time for me to discover how fluid and varied and expansive that label can be. That's not to say those structures can't be exciting but they're definitely not the only definition of poetry.

5. How has poetry changed your life?

Oh massively. It's always sort of been there because I've written for ages but I think discovering the world of performed poetry was pretty life-changing for me. I've always enjoyed stories and talking with other people and this combined the two for me.

I have a background in acting and at that time I found the autonomy of being able to write something true and perform it yourself really liberating. It became my favourite thing to do very quickly.

Aside from it being my work, just writing for myself is something that I get a lot of benefits from. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and feelings and is just a big source of calm and joy for me. Also frustration of course, but it's the positives that are always heavier.

6. Who inspires you?

This is a really tricky one and something I'm always adding to. For me, it's a big old melting pot that includes brilliant people from history to people I've met once at a bus stop who tell me something which changes my way of thinking or encourages me to do something.

I regularly work with The Poetry Takeaway which is a mobile space where Poets chat to people and turn those conversations into poems which are taken away and often treasured for a long time. It's a really beautiful thing and last year I wrote for a brilliant woman called Enid. She is one of the biggest poetry fans I have ever met and since then we have become friends. She has given me such incredibly kind and well thought out encouragement and advice. Recently, she told me not to deny myself any pleasure and not to over analyse poems.

For that and many other reasons, I would say she definitely inspires me.

7. When most people think about poetry, they think of the classics. But, like you, there are many contemporary poets out there that are equally as good as the classics, if not better. Do you have any contemporary poetry heroes or sheroes?

Yeah definitely. So many poets I admire and know are constantly reshaping my understanding of poetry and how it can be used.

  • Hollie McNish is a modern poetry Goddess and played a big part in me not feeling embarrassed to use rhyme if I wanted to.

  • Caleb Femi was the first Young People's Laureate for London and does incredible work with poetry in film.

  • Vanessa Kissule is doing brilliant things as the first City Poet for Bristol.

  • Toby Campion is one of my absolute favourite writers, performers and people and keeps everyone on their toes with how brilliant each new piece of work is.

  • Harry Baker is one of the most joyous poets and people ever. His love of playing around with words is so infectious and is always my go-to cynicism antidote.

8. Prose or verse? Or both?

Oh, both. Everything, all of it. Like with music, I think there are space and time for all ways of making and presenting any form or style of writing. I don't think it is possible for the existence of one to dilute another. You can have favourites of course, and for me, they change all the time, but I don't think anything is ever unworthy just because it doesn't speak to me today.

9. You contribute to shaping the young generation of poets through your workshops and your involvement in programmes like the Boat Poets residency. How can aspiring poets take part in these activities?

Projects like Boat Poets have been such a big part of my writing and life. They provide time, support and connections which expand your opportunities, help your confidence to grow and your work to develop and to be influenced by things other than your immediate thoughts and surroundings.

There are absolutely loads and I'll probably remember the best tomorrow but here are a few that I have taken part in or that I know have been a big part of the journeys of writers I know.

  • The Roundhouse in London. If you are under 26 you can enter their slam (usually takes place in early summer each year), apply for their poetry collective or to be a resident artist.

  • Apples and Snakes - they regularly put on brilliant workshops across and master classes for all ages and levels of experience across the UK. Their project 'The Writing Room' is another excellent collective based writing course.

  • SLAMbassadors - The Poetry Society's national youth poetry slam championships for 13-18-year-olds.

  • UNIslam - annual poetry slam bringing together teams from universities across the UK for a mixture of workshops and performances.

  • Barbican Young Poets - annual poetry course for young writers at the Barbican Centre in London.

10. Where can people find out about your schedule and performances?

I keep up most things on erinbolens.com

Thank you so much, Erin, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and learning about what being a poet is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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On Being Pretentious

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A few weeks ago I went to an event from a well-known organisation in the fashion industry. As I was walking into the auditorium where the event was taking place, the people before me in the queue started saying really loudly that they wouldn't seat anywhere else than on the first row because they must have had reserved seats for sure. I immediately thought to myself "how pretentious" and went to sit in the last row of the venue, as far away from them as possible. While observing their behaviour from the un-cool people's row, I couldn't help but wonder if they knew what being pretentious meant? Certainly, if they did, they wouldn't be behaving like that in the first place.

Being pretentious means to attempt to impress others by trying to show that one is more important or has more merit than one actually has. Basically, pretending to be something that you are not. So, if we all knew the meaning of the word, and we all knew that others know that when we are behaving like that it is because we are just trying really hard to look like something that we are not, then nobody would be pretentious.

Still, it is one of those behaviours that one witnesses regularly, not only in this industry but in society in general. Frankly, it looks exhausting. Living a life trying to always impress others so that you can feel good about yourself must take a lot of energy. An energy that could be used for being productive or to do some good, something that is really needed these days.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Fabiola Bastianelli.

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How To Survive A Portfolio Review

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Over the last four years, I have been shooting non-stop in order to learn the technicalities of my craft, to train my eye and my creativity, to create work for clients or for my personal projects, and to update my portfolio. All along, without even realizing it, everything that I was doing was bringing me to this past weekend when, for the first time in my photography career, I showed my portfolio to some of the major publications in the UK during PhotoMeet. It was intimidating, it felt like an emotional rollercoaster, but it was one of the most rewarding things that I have done since becoming a photographer.

Having your work reviewed is no easy feat. It doesn't matter if you are showing it to family, friends, peers or potential clients. You feel vulnerable, exposed, judged, and your self-confidence and the confidence in your own work is put to the test.

Imagine what it felt like when I attended PhotoMeet and walked into a room full of reviewers knowing that, for the following two days, eight of them would get to give me their feedback. It was like speed-dating for photographers. I felt like I was having eight job interviews one after the other with almost no time to breath and decompress. But I survived, and I owe it to how well I prepared for that weekend, not only mentally, but also by seeking advice and doing a lot of research.

Here is a list of the things that I did to prepare for my portfolio reviews:

Before the reviews

  • I made sure my portfolios were ready to be shown. You should always show the very best of your work, even if that means that you are only able to show 10 images. Everyone I asked and everywhere I researched suggested in between 25 to 30 images but, if you don't have that many, only show the very best of what you have. Also, most of the times we are our worst critics, and we tend to select images that we are attached to rather than the very best ones. If you can afford it, hire a photography consultant to do the selection for you. If you can't, ask peers, friends or even relatives to help you select them.

  • I prepared different portfolios tailored for different types of publications. If you are a food and travel photographer but you also shoot fitness, you don't want to show your fitness work to a travel industry publication. You should have two separate portfolios for this. In my case, I prepared three: one for fashion, one for portraiture and one for my personal projects, which fall more on the documentary side.

  • I updated my website, my social media and my print portfolio. Once you have the selection of the very best of your images, update all your communication channels. You want to show a coherent image of your brand.

  • I updated my promo material. After updating my portfolio and my communication channels, I printed new promos using the new images that I was going to show the reviewers. After each review, you want to leave something behind so they can remember you and hopefully visit your website and/or social media when they are back in the office.

  • I researched each and every one of the reviewers that I was going to see. Find out what their role is, what they look like so that you don't confuse them with someone else, what sort of photography they like (usually looking at the latest issues of their publication is enough) and what was published in their latest issue (good conversation starter and shows that you did your research).

  • I prepared a set of questions to ask them. Reviews are short, and in events like this one, they tend to last 20 minutes maximum. So you have to use this time wisely. Let them do the talk and ask you questions, but also have a clear goal of what you want to get out of the review so that they can give you good advice. In my case, I wanted to know if my portfolio was ready to be commissioned for editorial work (both in fashion and in portraiture) and what type of photography were their respective publications looking for.

During the reviews

  • I arrived on time. This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised.

  • I was courteous and friendly. Always be polite, hopefully not only with them but with everyone you meet.

  • I respected the time allocated for my review. Time flies and twenty minutes can feel like ten seconds. When your time is up, leave. It's disrespectful to them to take more time than they have given you, but also to the person coming after you because you are stealing minutes from their allocated time.

  • I established what I wanted from the review from the beginning. The reviewer needs to know what is it that you want to get out of the review so that they can give you productive feedback. Have a clear goal and a clear vision of where you want to be as a photographer.

  • I let them do the talking. Let the photos speak for themselves and wait for the reviewer to ask you questions before you speak. Reviewers love photography, you should let them enjoy that.

  • I was openminded when I heard the feedback. You may or may not like the feedback that you are getting, but you should keep an open mind and accept the feedback gratefully. They are the experts on their publications and the type of photography that they are looking for, and you are there to grow as a photographer and to learn what you have to do to be hired by them. Some of the feedback might be contradictory, but that is only because everyone looks for something different and what works for one publication doesn't work for another. Don't react negatively if you don't like what you hear. If you want to make it as a photographer, you have to grow a thicker skin and be ready to take negative feedback and rejection. It's part of being a creative.

  • I took notes. Write down everything that they tell you. Even if it sounds silly or redundant. When you get home, leave the notebook aside for a day or two and then go back to it and read it calmly. Take the advice that you consider objective and that you think it's helpful. In the end, you decide what to do with the information that you are given.

  • I was thankful when the review finished. When your time is up, thank them for their time and for all the feedback. And don't forget to leave a promo or a business card behind.

After the reviews

  • I sent every reviewer a thank you note. Use the communication channel that they have told you works best for them.

  • I put into practice everything that they advised me to do. This is the least you can do to make the experience worthwhile.

Will I do it again? Absolutely! The feedback that I got was priceless, even though next time I will make sure to choose less and more targeted reviewers. Overall, it was an intense experience and one of the hardest things that I've done. But, like they say, comfort is the enemy of progress, and if I want to achieve the goals that I have set for myself I must strive to live outside of my comfort zone.

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The Discounted Life

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I don't like to haggle. I never have. If I see a product or service for a price that I can't afford, I just don't buy it. To give you an idea of my way of thinking: I once went to the Grand Bazaar in Istambul and I didn't buy anything because all of the vendors expected me to haggle! I guess that I find it disrespectful to ask for a discount. That's why I can't believe how often I am asked to give one myself.

I don't entirely blame the consumer. It's just this discount culture that we live in. What started with an occasional discount, or the desirable 2x1, or the unmissable end of season sale, has evolved into a constant price cut that almost makes Black Friday last from January 1st to New Year's Eve.

We are so used to having prices lowered and to having special sales that we hardly buy at regular prices anymore. So, in order for retailers to be able to sell during the non-sale seasons, they have created a constant sales calendar that has gone out of control.

Don't get me wrong, if I find a bargain I take advantage of it. But I don't expect everything that I pay for to be discounted. Something is not right when you see discounted prices at a store all year long. And as a business, if your prices are discounted all the time, then the discounted price is the new regular price. If we continue like this, there will come a day when stores will have to give customers their products for free because otherwise, nobody will buy them.

As photographers, I don't think that's the type of business that we want to be, nor the type of clients that we are after. And as a client, I like to think that you hire us because you like our photography, or because you like our passion and enjoy working with us, or because our style matches your brief and we are the best for the job that you are quoting. But, not because we are cheap. I don't think that would do any good for your project, for the industry or for our respective brands. I don't know any photographer yet who prides themselves on being the cheapest.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Ferran Vergés.

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Thank You For Coming To Photo Scratch

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Thanks to everyone who came down to Photo Scratch last Monday! I had an amazing time, it was a brilliant opportunity to see familiar faces but also to get to know some really interesting people and, more importantly, to have the chance to appreciate great photography work. On top of that, the feedback that I received from the lovely people who stopped by my corner was invaluable. I am very grateful to Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal for letting me be part of this event and, above all, thankful to everyone who shared their opinion in regards to my project with me. Enjoy the photos of the night!

Photo Scratch is an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

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Founders Hanna-Katrina and Phil host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

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To find out more about Photo Scratch visit photoscratch.org

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I'm Taking Part In Photo Scratch

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On the 14th of May, 2018, I will be taking part in Photo Scratch, an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The event will take place at Hotel Elephant (Spare Street, London SE17 3EP) in Elephant and Castle. It's free, but you must book your tickets in advance to guarantee entry.

Founders Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

I will be presenting all the portraits that I have taken thus far of my personal project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress". I hope to see you there!

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Exhibition at One Canada Square

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From the 16th of April to the 1st of June, the AOP (Association of Photographers) will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibition called "AOP50: Images That Defined The Age" at the lobby of One Canada Square (Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB). Alongside these memorable 50 images, a digital exhibition of work by current AOP Accredited Photographers will be shown on a screen, including the image "The Anglomaniac" from my Brexiters project.

AOP50 is a retrospective which includes images by some of the world’s most well-known and respected photographers from the past 50 years. Curated by Zelda Cheatle, the collection of images celebrates 50 years of the AOP with photographs that illustrate the impact, diversity and quality of work by AOP members since 1968. As the AOP's Executive Director, Seamus McGibbon, explains, "many of the images have defined a generation, and helped to shape public opinion and to create change."

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Last night during the opening reception, while I looked around at the fantastic work on display I couldn't help but feel proud of belonging to a group of professionals that sets the bar really high and makes me want to improve myself every day.

Come celebrate this important milestone of the AOP with this free public exhibition, open daily from 7 am to 8 pm.

Photo of me by Andrezj Gruszka.

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Online Portfolio Updated

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These past few weeks I have been working hard updating my website with the help of a Photo Editor and Photography Consultant called Raffaela Lepanto. Raffaela and I gathered all the images that I have shot over the course of my career and put together an online portfolio that presents a more accurate version of who I am as a photographer. Along the way, it also made me realise that the quality of my work was better than I gave it credit for. What do you reckon?

It wasn't an easy task. We had to come up with a portfolio that was strong and coherent but that would also balance all the different types of photography that I shoot. Our main goal was to make the website appealing to those who are looking for my fashion work but also to those who want to see what I can offer as a portraiture photographer.

Raffaela helped me unify the Beauty & Fashion portfolios with the Portraits one, finding a consistent style all through. Also, she managed to build a Homepage Portfolio which could be appealing to Editorial and Commercial clients at once but also suitable and interesting for the general public. In the process, some of my favourite images were left out. But we had to sacrifice the most obvious commercial shots in order to give a contemporary edge to the website.

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I am really happy with the result and I think that we nailed it! It was a really difficult process because as photographers we are emotionally connected to our work. Having someone else take control over our work and tell us what we should and what we shouldn't present in our portfolios is probably one of the hardest things an artist can go through. But, in the end, it has been a relief. Just having the weight lifted off my shoulders of having to decide what to display in my portfolio has made the whole experience completely worth it.

Please browse through my website and leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!

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Exhibition at Four Corners

Catalonia: A Work In Progress

From the 18th to the 28th of April, my portraiture project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress" will be part of the collective exhibition Salon 18, organized by the London Creative Network (LCN) at Four Corners Gallery (121 Roman Road, London E2 0QN). “Catalonia: A Work In Progress” is a personal project where I explore the spectrum of opinions that people living in Catalonia have in regards to the Independence from Spain.

At first sight, it might seem like there are only two possible positions: in favour of the independence of Catalonia or in favour of the permanency in Spain. But the reality is more complex than that; there is a diverse set of opinions from the people caught in the middle.

Some people definitely want out, while others feel very much part of Spain. But, not everyone who wants to leave wants an Independence per se and would opt for just more autonomy for the region. Meanwhile, not everyone who wants to remain in Spain feels Spanish or agrees with the policies of the Spanish government.

Catalonia: A Work In Progress
Catalonia: A Work In Progress

Whatever the outcome of the Catalan conflict is, the government of Catalonia or the government of Spain will have to guarantee that all the people living in Catalonia can live in harmony disregarding their political views.

This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries, but the rest of the world found out about it after the events of October 1st, 2017, when the pro-Independence parties staged a referendum that the Spanish government considered illegal.

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Let The Creative Juices Flow

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Over the last month and a half, I have been attending a set of creative writing workshops organized by the guys at the Centre for Solo Performance in order to improve my writing and develop my storytelling skills. As a photographer and a visual artist, storytelling is at the forefront of my craft and these workshops are not only helping me with my image-led narratives, but they are also helping me to write a better blog. Joan Miró said in I Work Like a Gardener: "An artwork must be fertile. It must give birth to a world." Hopefully, from now on, I will be creating more interesting worlds.

This is the first time in my life that I take part in creative writing workshops, but it will definitely not be the last. I guess that I just didn't see any use for them in my previous industry, or I didn't fully understand how they could have an effect in my life. Learning how to structure stories or how to move past the blank page syndrome comes very handy whether you are a writer, an artist or someone just putting together a speech.

Besides, being surrounded by creative people from various disciplines and every walk of life is inspiring on its own. We all approach the exercises so differently that is very helpful to see the same topics from other people's perspectives. In my group, there are actors, visual artists, improv performers, physical performers, dancers, writers, teachers, preachers, playwriters, scriptwriters, poets and TEDtalk speakers. You can really feel when the creative juices flow!

I would definitely recommend these sort of workshops to anyone who's interested in improving their storytelling. It doesn't matter if you don't work in the creative industries, these skills are transferable to other types of jobs too. If you write proposals, letters, copy, if you talk in public or give speeches at work, or if you manage contents on social media for a brand, you are a storyteller in your own way.

Like they say, a good artisan never blames their tools, but they know that a good set of tools will make them better at their craft.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Fabiola Bastianelli by Andrzej Gruszka.

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