Inspiration or imitation – The Donna Hay Ricotta and White Bean Salad Challenge


 There’s a fine line between ‘in the style of’ and imitation and between inspiration and imitation. Meeta over at What’s For Lunch Honey? has already posted about the imitation question and I agree with what she has to say. Personally I never tried to imitate someone’s style but that is probably because of my obnoxious nature and not really being able to adhere to sets and groups but I see it all over the blogosphere. I know that there are people who advice aspiring food photographers to imitate the style of photographers they admire to achieve their own style but that just doesn’t make sense to me-how the hell are you ging to develop your own style by imitating someone else?? My advice is to look at loads and loads of photos, examining each and every one of them by picking out what you do like about them or what you don’t like about them. Look at how light is used, what colours, props, angles,  components and composition and then put the images aside and let it all mature in your mind. I am a great fan of the subconscious working for you, maybe because I am lazy but I think that it is a great way to develop your own style: ingest, digest and then create out of subconscious inspiration – in this way your own personality will shine through, I am sure of it. On the other hand, you can find inspiration in a single thing, right now I have a very special spoon that is inspiring me, I just need to find the right recipe for it…


 Back to what this is all about. My photographer friend and Weimar Plate To Page participant Simone of Junglefrog Cooking has started a monthly challenge called Donna Hay Styling and Photography Challenge and I decided to participate because I think it can be a very interesting exercise for me, not only because it’s always good to get outside your own little comfort patch (yes I know it should be zone but patch sounds more comforty) and also because of the incredible high class of the photographs and styling that you associate Donna Hay with, my instinctive feeling is that it can only be good for me to think in her/their terms. In Simone’s own words: “You have to cook and STYLE the recipe trying to replicate the photo as best as you can.” So I have but instead of imitating I tried to interpret the photo and the styling my way and still make it in the famous Donna Hay style. The challenge of this month is this and here is the original photo:

The original photo is from issue 42 of Donna Hay Magazine and the photo is from Chris Court.

To get that light blue tinge that is so characteristic of many of Donna Hay’s photos is not easy, you need to have the same kind of white that reflects in the same hue and that means serious prop and background collecting with lots of storage space. I wonder if they buy it with a grey card at hand or some kind of metering instrument. Anyway, on the eastern side of our house the light has a blue tinge when I shoot in the afternoons so that was the place of my choice. My Swedishness made me choose white wooden boards as background that rather absorbs light than reflects the blueish tinge but that is part of my interpretation. Though I didn’t have a strong direct source of light as in the original photo, the main light shoots in from the same direction, top right. For those of you interested in the technical aspects I used a Canon Mark5D II with a Canon 100mm macro objective, aperture f/8. 

Donna Hay's Ricotta and White Bean Salad-3

from Donna Hay

400g cannellini beans ((or white beans, 1 can))
1 red onion (small)
30g black olived (pitted and halved)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (leaves only)
1-2 red chili (small and sliced)
125g cherry tomatoes (halved)
sea salt
black pepper (cracked)
100g ricotta (fresh)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

 Place the beans, onion, olives, parsley, chilli, tomato, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss gently to combine. Divide between serving plates and top with fresh ricotta. Combine the oil and vinegar and spoon over the salad to serve.