Following in the footsteps of Obama

Where would a former President of the United States go to eat when in Copenhagen?

For my first blog post in nearly two millennia I thought I’d tackle something a little light-hearted. 

Despite never really pursuing a career in food photography, it appears it has found me. Well, in the sense that a large client hires me on a regular basis to go round the city snapping tasty (and often gloriously dirty) dishes. 

It comes with its perks, too. Obviously I take great pleasure in stuffing myself with fine cuisine and bottles of chocolate milk, but now my partner is back at work after taking a year’s maternity leave, it makes all the difference when I roll through the front door carrying a delightful three-course doggy bag!

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One of the most recent shoots was at a restaurant called L’altrio. When I saw the location on Google Maps I didn’t feel anything in particular towards it, other than it was on a busy street in a strange part of town. Strange because it was undeniably Copenhagen (colourful buildings lining a harbour full of boats), but with a good mix of grit thrown in for good measure.

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Christianshavn is well-known for its free-spirited community of Christiania, where the folk co-exist as a collective governed by themselves and not the state. As a side-effect, the region attracts those who just want to get stoned or shit-faced, and so it’s quite normal to see a bunch of alcoholics on the corner, watching the rich sugar daddy mooring his boat. I believe the word is diversity.

Which is why I expected another stereotypical Italian restaurant, with spag bol on the menu and a polite waiter who wasn’t really focused on the task at hand.

Instead what I discovered (when I finally found it – the building was discreet and barely noticeable) was a cozy little place with a young, stylish man welcoming me with an espresso. We had lots to talk about whilst waiting for the chefs to put together the menu, and I could see I was dealing with an intelligent businessman who was trying his best to attract the right clientele.

As he excused himself to go and check on the cooking process I ventured upstairs to see what else I could find. Immediately at the top of the stairs I found a huge, brown leather book, which had been left open on one crisp page. Naturally my attention was drawn to is (as was no doubt the plan), and to my surprise there was a signature of a person who only needed to use one name. No, it wasn’t Madonna or Bono, but Obama!

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When the owner trotted up the stairs to continue our conversation, I asked him whether it was authentic, and why he was here. It was dated the last day of June, so it had been a very recent visit. The owner just smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said yes, it was real. He would say no more; clearly wishing to respect the privacy of a man the world knows very well.

He pointed to a back room where the President and his family had dined, and when his back was turned I quickly hopped in to each of the seats, hoping to soak up via osmosis some of the residue power. If it worked I didn’t feel a thing.

But then maybe it did. When the food finally arrived I had a flicker of creative juice wash over me, and instead of taking the standard indoor shots of the food I took the plates outside in the rain and started arranging them on stone steps, burnt-out coals from a recent bonfire, and granite rocks that were dotted around the garden. This is something I’ve never really tried before, and it worked a charm.

As of writing this, that particular menu (in part, thanks to my pictures) has sold a staggering 3026 covers! Without a single mention of Barack Obama.

Who says a professional photographer isn’t worth hiring?

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This blog post originally appeared on www.photographybymatthewjames.com

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