“It’s easy to shoot people doing the things they love–I’ll put it that way.”
If you live in Sydney and don’t know Kitti Gould by name, you’ll have likely come across her handy work bringing published articles to life. I’m willing to bet there’s a good chance that the photographer’s work has directly led you to a restaurant, bar, or café–by way of a beautifully captured plate of food. In the last few years, her work has featured in countless food, travel, and news publications across NSW, collaborating with Kylie Kwong, Neil Perry, and Andy Allen along the way.
But it’s Gould’s eye for capturing people behind the scenes that sets her apart. “It’s funny, I used to joke that I didn’t like shooting people because I didn’t think I was any good at it. And I vibed a lot more with the food because it didn’t move,” she laughs.
Shooting food, Gould’s work never feels static or placed just so. Wine pouring, oil drizzling, bread tearing, lemon squeezing, parmesan shaving, or pasta twirling–the images move, breathe, and make noise. “I do find that if I don’t have that sort of process or action in a content shoot, that it doesn’t feel that magical to me,” she says. More than just appealing to hunger, they make us crave the experience.
As for her portraits, they express a raw joy and a candidness that captures hospitality work’s long, late, and tiring hours, as well as its enduring camaraderie and pride.
Taking photos for a living wasn’t Gould’s first plan, who originally started as a hands-on art director in a time when social media was first becoming an essential part of big brand marketing. She recalls carrying a DSLR in her handbag at all times “just in case something popped up” and her early love of food leading to a vego food blog called ‘The Screaming Artichoke’.
“I’d always been interested in photography, but I never thought that I’d become a photographer,” she tells me. “It’s not something that the careers advisor at school is like, yes, that’s the good money maker–go into that avenue.”
Coming a long way in the 12 years since her blogging days, for which “the photography was absolutely terrible”, Gould credits the experience for helping her practice skills like food styling and lighting. “I don’t know that you can learn photography just by education. You have to go and do it–it’s the only way.” She also clocked up necessary hours in helping her understand the industry first hand–long ago, working the diner counter at The Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills.
Today, it’s clear that Gould’s passion for her work and devotion to its subjects is what so intimately connects her to similarly devoted hospitality folk. Seemingly, it’s what she owes her success to. And by understanding the importance of how food gets on a plate, she realises her responsibility in doing that process justice.
“It’s not just my picture. It’s the chef, the farmer, the server, it’s the restaurateur that owns the restaurant, it’s the person that made the plate–it’s a whole group of people that have come together,” she says. “And my photo is a representation of all that work.”
At the core of Gould’s food philosophy, guiding her both personally and professionally, is sustainable practice. It’s one of the reasons she recently moved away from the city and into a house mid-renovation on the NSW Central Coast. There, the photographer and food stylist plans to keep bees and drastically expand her previous balcony gardening experience, with already a few heritage hens to look after–all in the hope of creating a “closed loop” system of sustainable living.
“I heard a story about a chef that gave each of his sous chefs and the people in the kitchen a little tomato plant that they had to foster and raise to understand how hard it was just to grow a single tomato,” she says. “And when you’ve done that, which is partly my journey in the Central Coast, I think you have a bigger appreciation for the sacrifice that goes into food.”
Not to worry, Gould and her Canon 5D Mark IV plan on being in Sydney every other day when lockdown finally lifts. In the meantime, you can check out her Instagram and dream of your favourite bars and restaurants reopening.
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