When Austin, Texas-based photographer Jody Horton went back to school in the mid-90s, he intended to switch his career path.
“I was a writer/photographer [coming out of college], but I felt that work was formulaic, so I went back to grad school to do something more human-focused as a career pursuit.”
At the University of New Mexico, Jody realized he “missed being part of a publication,” so he helped start a magazine with a friend. It was during this time that he began to appreciate food as a subject matter for photography.
“It has a natural progression for creation: from gathering ingredients in the field to cleaning them to prep to completing the final dish. … I enjoy photographing that process.”
Jody got to capture that process for New Waterloo, a hospitality group in Austin which owns Italian restaurant Il Brutto and Mexican restaurant La Condesa. The company commissioned Jody to “refresh their website branding and social media library.” Interestingly enough, Jody still gets to do human-focused work through his food photography. Those humans just happen to be the chefs and cooks with which he interacts.
“The people that surround food tend to be passionate about what they do. It’s a pleasure to spend time with them.”
Il Brutto, which features traditional Italian fare, and La Condesa, a farm-to-table Mexican spot, have a lot in common, including their aesthetic and culinary ethos.
“[Some of] the spaces we were shooting in had poor light. We did bring in artificial light to augment some of those scenes because the daylight wasn’t enough. It can be a challenge to balance the two. [That said,] I really enjoy working within those dark, moody spaces. I always enjoy trying to capture the feel of a real location, which is important for a restaurant shoot.”
“Both cuisines are defined by their core ingredients and are very simple at that level. Attention to the dough for pizza and pasta [at Il Brutto] is key, just as masa is for tortillas [at La Condesa].”
Jody prides himself on his attention to detail, which he says is what gives his work an authentic feel.
“I have a good internal sense of what feels natural and real in a scene. My internal barometer guides me towards light and a spatial relationship. I think the cumulative value of a lot of small things ends up making a scene more or less credible.”
“Our mission is always to make food feel genuine and real. We want the photos to have an editorial and unfussy feel – just very natural. I want to convey that.”
Jody is also a lifestyle photographer, and capturing the atmosphere surrounding a good meal is as vital to his work as getting the proper angle to shoot a specific dish.
“I like when shoots have energy and spontaneity, and those are found within the process of making food and drinks, with people in action, creating within a ‘people scene’ some real-life action where people are being themselves and having fun.”
As you might imagine, Jody has received plenty of praise for his work, not only from New Waterloo, but from people in the community as well.
“I think they enjoy the realism and energy of the photos we create. It’s always gratifying to hear that your shots make someone hungry.”
Executive Chef: Rick Lopez