› Sun, 11 Feb 2018
The Valentine’s Fish
They tell you it is cold. They warn you that the February temperatures sit below the freezing line, that intimidating minus sign falling before an eight, nine, ten. We were prepared for standing in the hotel grounds, at the edge of a beautiful fjord, a small yet sublime stretch of gentle water. We were adorned with thermal base layers hidden under a thick jumper, trousers, snow boots and a hefty winter coat, with a hat, gloves and scarf included. But I couldn’t comprehend the bite of the wind that sprints over from Arctic Circle, around 300km away, at least not until I was stood at the front of a small fishing boat, tripod gripped and camera steadied to the best of my abilities. My hands alternated between feeling completely numb, and having sharp pinpricks spreading underneath my skin. I gave up trying to work out whether my scarf was wrapped around my chin once I’d lost all feeling in it. But it was all worth it.
We were fishing for skrei in the Sommarøy waters, alongside a group of some of Britain’s best chefs, overseen by Norwegian Seafood Council Ambassador Michel Roux Jr. skrei is a cod that is defined by its incredibly high-quality flesh, which becomes firm and lean on their extensive journey from the Barents Sea to their spawning ground, where they arrive between January and April each year. It is considered by far the best quality cod in the world, so we weren’t wasting our time or warmth here. I had been given the opportunity to photograph the age-old tradition that dates back to Viking times, and felt honoured to do so, even when my stress levels and patience became a little overstretched by the constant rocking of the small vessel, myself and my tripod slipping dramatically on the smooth floors of the boat with each wave. It was the first week of February, so the fish were plentiful in the choppy sea and even first-time fishers were able to grin proudly at their multiple catches using the bait-less line. I spent some of my several hours aboard the fishing boat photographing the chef José Pizarro, owner of several critically acclaimed London restaurants, pull squirming fish of varying sizes aboard the boat. We knew there was a chance he’d caught a skrei when the rod was bent into a narrow arc and Pizarro had to put a hefty amount of effort into keeping the cod on the line. Having to be an adult, at approximately five years old, the fish was a huge creature compared to the varieties that I’d seen back in England, with a distinctive line running along its grey-brown speckled side right down to its translucent tail.
The remainder of my time on the fjord was spent photographing our group’s larger fishing boat across the water and shooting the stunning views that passed us as we began to return to shore. Having never been to a country colder than Paris is in November before, the landscapes had a beauty that I couldn’t quite comprehend; we passed by stretches of mountains coated in a layer of snow that reminded me of the thick dustings of icing sugar you often find on stollen at Christmas. Seagulls circled the grey and white jagged ranges with the occasional sea eagle flying over, and as we got closer to land little wooden houses began to appear. Each was a warm terracotta colour that stood out from the cold horizon, yet seemed at home with the Norwegian sea view.
We followed the journey that the fish take from when they’re caught at sea, then processed through the factory and finally shipped out to be sold, or cooked and eaten by the locals. The Lorentzen factory that we visited was as I had anticipated; the stench of fish swept over me like the odorous wave that greets you as you enter a fishmonger, only this was a much larger, industrial space. The fish were checked over by several workers and then sent down a chute into a container that was then moved into the next section of the factory. I walked over to watch a man named Jim cutting the cheek off of each skrei, which is also referred to as their ‘tongue’ despite it being more like their throat. Each cheek was left on a wooden stick until there was a tower of pale, slimy flesh, at which point the man lifted them off and dropped them into a bucket with an unnerving ‘splat.’ Each head was tossed onto a gradually growing pile. The process was gory and yet strangely mesmerising. The speed and accuracy at which Jim worked made everything seem so natural; this is a central part of Sommarøy’s heritage and daily life, with this particular factory having been opened in 1896, and local children are often paid to help cut the cheeks when the catch is large.
We were ushered through some double doors and up some stairs where we removed our shoes and were offered traditional, thick, woollen socks that hung from a wooden paddle that was mounted on the wall. I walked into a flat that, to my surprise, was beautifully decorated in a simple, Nordic fashion and had completely escaped the smell of raw fish. I wandered over to factory owners and sisters Torbjørg and Unni, with husband Trond boiling several pans on the stove. He pointed out the skrei liver in one, roe in another and the final filled with cod stomachs that had been cooked for around three hours and stuffed with the liver. We all sat down around the dining table which was a slightly surreal scenario for me, sharing a meal with chefs who have a handful of Michelin stars between them, not to mention the list of accolades and years of experience in some of Britain’s finest restaurants. The trio of cooks introduced us to the dishes that were served simply with boiled potatoes, and one sister warned us, with a laugh, of the “interesting” and acquired taste of the liver. It was indeed a bizarre food and not at all what I had imagined; the small pieces were almost meaty-looking, however as soon as they were in my mouth they became a smooth, creamy paste, too soft to chew and surprisingly pleasant. The texture of the stomachs didn’t appeal to me, so I made the most of having beautifully firm flakes of cod falling off of the fillet that Trond had dished onto my plate.
That was the beauty of this trip; we experienced the narrative of skrei, the centuries-old tradition that has kept this area of the world fed and nourished and now we too were fishing in the ice-cold waters. We were watching each cod being studied to see if its quality was good enough for the official skrei label, then we were eating the fish in the traditional head to tail way.
This was the world’s best and freshest cod, taken from the sea that we overlooked as we ate, only hours ago.
› Wed, 03 May 2017
It’s taken me just over a week to write this post, as I needed that time to let the news feel real. Last Tuesday I attended the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards at the Mall Galleries in London, where five of my images of Silo Brighton were exhibited alongside two other finalists’ in the BBC Good Food Fresh Talent Award category.
After eight days of repeating my memory of Jay Rayner announcing my name and introducing me to the editor-in-chief of BBC Good Food, Christine Hayes, it’s finally sinking in that I won. Yes. I won. It’s amazing to see that in writing. Today I popped into the BBC Television Centre to see where I’ll be spending some time from June as, alongside a fetching glass trophy, two bottles of booze and a quality chorizo sausage(?), the prize is a six month paid internship as BBC Good Food’s House Photographer. Being interviewed by the Brand Creative Director and Brand Executive at the shortlisted-stage of the competition was honour enough considering I’ve admired the brand for years now; the website is my go-to for recipe inspiration and a flick through the magazine never fails to prompt a baking session or photoshoot. So having the opportunity to contribute to the magazine, website, social media channels, etc. is amazing, very exciting and a little overwhelming.
Being chosen as the winner felt like my work was being recognised, not just by friends and family, or clients, but by industry professionals whose opinion I truly respect. Hearing the judges’ feedback has helped my confidence in my work and my abilities enormously:
“Emma was the complete package. She was brilliant at food styling, worked really creatively with colour and light, plus her work was fresh and exciting.”
After the stress of last week (the award was the penultimate to be announced; cue internal panic/shaking/looking like a beetroot by the time I arrived on stage), I’m finally getting my head around what’s to come and I’m so ready to give it my all. Bring on June 1st!
› Fri, 14 Apr 2017
It’s officially Easter weekend, and I’ll take any excuse to make a cute layer cake! Following on from last year’s unicorn cake and my reindeer chocolate cake at Christmas, here’s my take on the Easter Bunny in cake form! Underneath the lemon buttercream is lemon sponge, sandwiched together with lemon curd; the ears, nose and eyes are made from fondant icing.
› Sat, 11 Feb 2017
With blood oranges in season at the moment, tiger lemons making an appearance in Marks and Spencer’s food halls and pink/red grapefruits readily available, I’ve selected and photographed three recipes that are perfect Valentines (or Galentines) drinks.
The alcoholic option – Blood Orange and Bourbon Cocktails – comes from Love and Lemon’s beautiful blog – one I’d definitely recommend heading over to, as their clean and bright aesthetic works really well with the beautiful photography, featuring mostly vegetarian recipes.
Tending the Table’s Rosemary, Honey and Grapefruit Spritzer is a great non-alcoholic option and uses honey as a natural sweetener to balance the citrus flavour, with the added twist of infusing the honey with rosemary.
The third drink also involves a herb, although this one includes thyme, from The Little Epicurean’s Spring Thyme Lemonade recipe. I used tiger lemons for this drink as they are a very pale pink on the inside which makes a lovely coloured drink to share on Valentine’s Day.
› Tue, 03 Jan 2017
A new year means a new blog post and involves looking back on some of my favourite images from 2016, those that I personally like the most due to the food or prop styling, the memories that that image reminds me of, or the photography itself.
I have captioned each image with a brief description, however I wanted to go into more detail about some of the content to give you an insight into the thought processes behind the concept and production of the images.
Starting at the top..I have always loved the form and structure of citrus fruits; the pimpled skin which comes in a variety of thicknesses and colours, the protective pith that lies beneath and, of course, the hidden flesh that has been conveniently segmented by nature itself, the cresent-moon shaped sections each surrounded and divided by a translucent membrane. The dramatic colour difference between the familiar orange and the more unusual blood orange fascinates me and the latter are one of my favourite fruits to work with. In these images, I paired the citrus with thyme to create an unusual flavour of cake, which I covered with a layer of frosting that was coloured to both compliment the orange slices and create a subtle ombre effect.
The two chocolate-covered cakes featured here (Halloween and Reindeer themed) are hands-down the best cakes I’ve ever made based on their quality of flavours and their moist and varied textures (this opinion is based on tasters’ reviews and not just my own bias!). The Halloween cake was adapted from a Spiced Pumpkin Cake recipe from La Pêche Fraîche, with adorable little meringue ghosts based on the Meringue Girls recipe, and a perfect consistency of chocolate ganache for the drip border that I managed to achieve after some experimentation. The reindeer cake (cousin to Rudolph and affectionately named Rosa) was created from Linda Lomelino’s brilliant Orange and Ginger Cake recipe, then covered in a sturdy chocolate buttercream, the recipe for which I’ve finally perfected, sprinkled with chocolate chips and cranberries and finished with antlers made from chocolate-covered marzipan, and of course a shiny red nose. Rosa came about as a festive take on my Unicorn Funfetti Cake, which was made from a plain sponge mix to which I added multi-coloured sugar strands to create the ‘funfetti’ effect. Covered in a white buttercream with some added pastel piping details, mini meringue kisses and icing eyelids/lashes, Una the unicorn was starting to take shape, and became rather convincing once the cute icing ears and twisted, shimmer-dust-covered horn was added.
The doughnut and patisserie images featured here are my two favourites from the Deliveroo commission I shot last year, which you can read about in more detail in my last blog post (Images styled by Eliza Baird).
The seaside-themed cake was for my Mum’s birthday and was a joy to bake and decorate as I love the asymmetrical balance of toppings/decoration that curves around one half of the cake’s surface.
The snowflake bread was one of my favourite things to make and style this year, as I loved braiding the dough and seeing the various transformations the babka went through as the bread swelled, expanded and baked. This was a faultless recipe from Twigg Studios which utilises the classic chocolate and orange combination and creates a festive showstopper to share with family and friends at Christmas.
And if you’re wondering about the beautiful golden chocolate egg, I didn’t make that…it was a Heston for Waitrose Easter special and came with a handful of pale pink, egg-shaped truffles hidden inside, embedded in edible hay. As you’d expect, of course…
› Wed, 09 Nov 2016
Back in May I was commissioned by takeaway delivery company Deliveroo to shoot a series of images for their new online advertising campaign. The shoot in Camden lasted two days and involved shooting a variety of foods that are available from Deliveroo, including, but not limited to, Asian cuisine, doughnuts, sandwiches, salads and sushi.
Several of the images are now featured on the company’s website and I’m delighted to be able to share a few of the full images above.
For those of you who are wondering what happened to the leftover food, do not fear, we had enough donuts, patisserie and sushi to last us the rest of the month.
Photography: Emma Boyns
Photo Assistant: Magus Andersen
Food Styling: Eliza Baird
Prop Styling: Emily Blunden
Art Director: Katie McLurg
Photo Editor: Elisa Merlo
Producer: Cassie Gale (LPA)
› Mon, 09 May 2016
I’m so happy to say that my two images shown here and the film of Tuppenny Barn (http://www.emmaboyns.co.uk/moving-image) have been Highly Commended in the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards 2016 – a great achievement as the competition had over 7000 entries worldwide!
The two images shall be touring with the exhibition this year and are currently in Cyprus after spending a few days in London at the Mall Galleries.
› Fri, 25 Mar 2016
Happy Easter Boys and Girls!
Have a fabulous break and remember to indulge in plenty of hot cross buns and mini-eggs; it’s practically mandatory…
› Thu, 18 Feb 2016
Drying fish was a pretty big thing in Hong Kong, especially on the islands where there was a little more space and fresh air away from the city and market buzz. Here are three images I captured showing the drying of three different types of seafood, from three different angles.
› Thu, 18 Feb 2016
Back in September 2015 I took a trip out to Hong Kong partly to see a friend and also to see the brilliant culture and landscape that the Asian place has to offer.
When I returned I lost several nights’ sleep over the fact that I had lost the main memory card that I had stored photos on but, to my utter relief and happiness, this was later found under the lining of the car’s boot. And so, five months down the line, I thought I’d share some of what I experienced in Hong Kong, starting with the people. Just click on the photos (in Tumblr) to view the captions below.