It seems to make sense the day before Christmas (can you believe it!?), to share some truly exquisite food photography – these beautiful shots by Melbourne-based photographer Mark Roper are sure to whet your pre-Christmas appetite ! Mark is well known particularly for his stunning food and travel photography… if you’ve ever picked up Delicious Magazine, Countrystyle, Belle or Vogue Entertaining + Travel (before it sadly disappeared), chances are you have seen and admired Mark’s incredible work. His style is so relaxed, natural and effortlessly beautiful – never fussy or staged or over engineered. It’s no wonder Mark is always in hot demand!
I first met Mark on a shoot a long time ago with Megan Morton, and whilst I must admit I still don’t know him well, what struck me about him immediately was just how nice he was. Nothing was an issue – Mark was calm and measured and also, notably, he was extremely lovely to his assistants! (…not always the case, let me tell you!). He seemed to me like one of those incredible people who never gets flummuxed or stressed out or snappy… you know those people who have an aura of calm that they bring to every job? It really is the most amazing hidden talent… I wish I could bottle it because god knows we could all do with with an aura of calm this month. Perhaps Mark will give me some lessons.
Anyway. I digress. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about Mark Roper! PLEASE pop over to his website and also check out his folio on the KHM website …. because there are so so so many more beautiful shots to admire, I wish I could have included them ALL here!
Thanks so much to Mark for his time and super speedy interview turnaround!
Tell us a little about your background – did you always want to be a photographer? What path led you to what you’re doing now?
I‘m originally from the UK, where I completed a number of photography courses. I worked in a few different trades in between courses ( picture framer, bartender, pushbike mechanic…) to pay off uni fees until a mate of mine, who was assisting a portrait photographer called Dave Willis, went travelling and asked if I would like to cover for him. That was pretty much my foot in the door and I had steady work assisting in London until I moved to Australia in 1999. London was a great training ground – as an assistant as you were expected to set up lights and have a Polaroid ready before the photographer took over. I was lucky to meet and work with Mikkel Vang when I first arrived in Australia who gave me a great insight into how things work here.
Where might we have seen your work? What have been some favourite shoots / clients in recent years?
My work appears in the now sadly closed Vogue Entertaining as well as Delicious, Masterchef, Countrystyle, Belle, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure US, Food + Wine US, Waitrose Food Illustrated amongst others.
Some of my favourite shoots have been a dinner party for Vogue at Leona Edmiston‘s Sydney home. It was a lot of work and the people were so patient and lovely as they had to wait ages before I’d shot their dinner! The view and the weather really made me consider a move to Sydney. I also shot The Moet races tent designed by Bill Henson at the Melbourne Cup a few years ago for Belle. There was a fair bit of nervousness on my part taking Bill’s portrait as I thought he might question how I was doing things, but he was great and open to ideas. Oh and a trip through Oman was pretty special!
It can be so hard for emerging photographers to break into the industry… was there a ‘big break’ early on which kick-started your career? Would you have any advice for young photographers starting out and hoping to work for Australian editorial / print media?
My big break career wise was when the then Editor of Delicious magazine Neale Whitaker asked me to photograph Jamie Oliver on his trip to Melbourne. I took his portrait on some tram tracks and nearly got Jamie run over by a tram, so it could have actually been the end of my career as well!
My advice for photographers just starting out is try and assist in a few different fields of photography and see what you really love to shoot. Get in touch with people who’s work you admire, and if they can’t help you workwise, they are more than likely to give you advice and point you in the right direction.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Its one of those jobs where I’m lucky enough not to have a typical day. I often travel to Sydney for work which I love, but leaving at 5 am in the morning to catch a plane, that’s something I’m still getting used to! Otherwise It’s a quick catch up with my family in the morning and seeing my kids off to school before heading to a location and getting into the day. I’m lucky to be working with some great creative teams and shooting is the fun part. It’s the invoicing, bookkeeping and file processing which is not so fun!
How is your business structured..? Do you employ an assistant or other collaborators? Who takes care of the ‘business side’ of things?
I have a couple of regular assistants, Peter Tarasiuk and Ben Blacket who I employ not only because of their organisational and photography skills but because they’re great to hang out with! I also have Katrina, Emily and Tulla at KHM agency who give me invaluable advice and take care of my advertising clients. I have my frustrated bookkeeper, Eva, who shakes her head and then makes some sense of my appalling bookkeeping; and of course my wife Deb who keeps everything running smoothly!
Where do you turn for creative inspiration – travel, local and international design trends, magazines, books or the web etc?
I’m really inspired by the massive pool of talent we have here in Australia so when I get the chance I go through a lot of local books, magazines and blogs. Blogs are great and have sent me through different links to find some beautiful work I may never have come across.
Which other photographers, designers or creative people do you admire?
As well as the local photography talent, designers such as Salmon Design and Paper Stone Scissors. Photographers Martyn Thompson and Emma Hardy, film maker Sean Ellis. I’ve also recently discovered artist Datsun Tran’s bird paintings. I’m a very below average musician and always wanted to be a good one so I’m constantly inspired by anyone who can play! I could really waffle on with lists of people here!
What would be your dream creative project?
My dream creative project would be to collaborate with the design and art direction team at Toast in the UK. I’d also love to go to Japan. I’ve never been and it would be great to document the everyday, how people live, where they live……
What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forwards to Christmas!! A lot of eating and heaps of beach time with my kids Ella and Jack. I’ve got some great book projects lined up for next year but I’m not sure if I can say what they are!?
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
I love Brunswick, the food scene there is great, from a simple cheese pizza at A1 bakery to great Greek at Hellenic Republic. I’m also really enjoying my home suburb of Caulfield. It’s a great family area with Carlisle street down the road for great coffee and bagels!
Your favourite bookshop in Melbourne for design / photography / reference books?
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
I recently shot a lot of dishes at Gigibaba in Collingwood and we got to eat them all!! The real standout was the quail. I also have to mention the whole blue eye I shared with friends at the Albert Park Hotel……..oh my lord!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Saturday morning I’m usually sleeping in until lunchtime after an all night drinking and clubbing session………. I really wanted to try and make myself sound a bit more dangerous, truth is I’m a real day person so hopefully I’m out for breakfast with my family in Carlisle street or heading out to Caulfield park.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
I’m not sure how secret it is, but Cavallaro in Footscray. A beautiful Italian family serving the best ricotta filled Cannoli!