Sunday, May 3, 2020

Food Whispers NYC | Street Food

NYC Street Food

One of New York Cities most iconic institutions.

Photography and writing by Will Engelmann.

Street Food is one of New York Cities most iconic institutions. Walking off into the night exploring the city. Slowly passing cart after cart until the smell of halal and roasting kebabs fill your nostrils and you can’t take it anymore. Your feet start following the path your stomach is pulling you towards a street vendor. From inside a chef shouts wha-da-ya-havn? You look over the menu and peak inside the cart at the kebab skewers, slowly rotating hot dogs, and the giant pretzels glowing with oil and covered in salt.

Serving food on the street in NYC

A hot dog, a pretzel or a kebab skewer?

When you’re looking for a food cart you’re not necessarily looking for a culinary masterpiece. A work of perfect food art created by a master chef. You’re not going to find a lightly seasoned branzino paired with an aperitif or a dry aged tomahawk steak paired with a glass of wine. The great joy of a food cart is nostalgia. It’s simple pleasurable foods designed to entice you and bring you in. It’s a harkening back to a time when you were little. And a hot dog with a squirt of ketchup and cheese, hold the relish was all you ever needed or wanted in this world. Sitting there like a young boy in your high chair while your mom makes you food. The immediacy of having it now and the messy joy of just shoving it into your face. Cheese and ketchup squirting out as you take your first bite. And in a city as diverse as New York you can find comfort food from all over the world over by just taking a little stroll. Sizzling meats from the Halal Guys, a taco cart parked next door and a Greek souvlaki food truck next to that. Comfort food. Comfortable food that makes you feel good. A little bit of joy as you prepare to wander back into the night exploring what other little joys you can find in New York.

"Street food is about being out and about. It's just one part of a bigger story but maybe the best part."

New York city food vendor serving food A young woman passes a food cart on a busy new york city street

Exploring New York City.

For some the dream of opening a food truck or cart is an escape from their day job. A chance to excape the office and serve pork buns with a smile. But for many new immigrants it’s the American dream itself. An opportunity to start a business and pursue a better life. People come from every corner of the globe and bring their rich food traditions to this tiny island. Manhattan is roughly two miles wide and thirteen miles long but it holds the hopes and dreams of millions upon millions of people. But the dream of a better life for you and your family isn’t easy. Nor is it easy working in a food cart or truck. Long often 10+ hour days are spent standing on your feet slaving over a hot grill. Serving hot food to sometimes rude or un-gratuitous tourists and busy New Yorkers. The shouting and yelling from customers and competition from nearby carts.

A hardworking man looks tired behind a food cart

It's not an easy job but for many it's the American Dream.

Since the 1980’s New York city has put a cap on the number of mobile food vending permits that they’ll allow. This regulation is good for the city so that street carts don’t block busy New Yorkers commuting to work and it’s good for existing vendors to not have to compete with too much competition driving down prices. But in recent years it’s also created a two tier system of the haves and have nots. Sometimes it can take many years for a new entrepreneur to get their permit approved. Which has created a black market where permits are sold for up to 20,000$.

But even in this chaotic environment people still come from all over the world to serve you a hot dog. And in the process many of these people overcome the odds and find the American dream that they were searching for. The next time you ask for extra sauce give em a little extra tip.

It's all about the leads. The leads. I can't sell shit with these leads.

What's his story? A million paths through the city and which one did he take from here?

Read more at Food Whispers NYC

Thursday, April 30, 2020

NYC Street Food

I'm working on an article for a Food Website that I'm putting together. Food Whispers NYC

Here's a sneak peak at a couple of the photographs going into the article.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quarantine Food Photography Portfolio

New York Food Photographer

Quarantine Food Photography Portfolio

Photography work done during quarantine by the New York City Food Photographer Will Engelmann.

I’ve been at home for the past month under the shelter in place order in New York City. It’s been a trying time but what’s kept me not only sane but also thriving is Art. As much as I’ve been heartbroken for my myself and my friends who own or work at now closed restaurants in NYC, it’s also been secretly rewarding to suddenly have all the time in the world to create Art with photography. I can wake up in the morning with nowhere to go and nothing to do other than to look around my apartment and let my imagination wander. Lie on the couch until an idea forms in my head. An old film camera that resembles a face and a straw. That’s enough to get my mind working and my hands setting up a makeshift photo studio on my dining room table. I say dining room but I live in a large for NYC apartment where my living room, dining room and home office are all one long room. A lot of the food photography work that I did at restaurants in NYC was almost always fast paced. It’s an electric atmosphere with people dining, waitresses carrying plates of food past me while I work, chef’s shouting from the kitchen. Each restaurant moves and flows with a life all their own and I Love it. But now suddenly I have the time. I can subtly move a light an inch to the left, an inch to the right. And if I’m not sure about something I can lay back down on the couch and think about it for a little while. As heartbroken as I’ve been I’ve also found a way to Love photography and Love what I do again. It’s my Silver Lining in these trying times.

"Art creates a fire inside of me that slowly grows bigger every time I pick up a camera."

photography studio in a new york city apartment

At home taking photographs in New York City.

Being a Commercial Photographer in NYC means creating work for others in their style and vision. Which in of itself can be rewarding but when creating So Much work for others an artist can lose their connection to their craft. Forget why they even ever wanted to be a photographer in the first place. And even at times feel trapped by it. Not loving what you do anymore but also having it be the one thing that’s sustained you through all these years. I’ve been a photographer for 20+ years and a professional photographer for 10+ and the thought of leaving it behind terrifies me. What would I do? I don’t have an answer for that but what I can say is that the more Art that I create the more hope I have for the future. Art creates a fire inside of me that slowly grows bigger every time I pick up a camera. And I couldn’t say that two months ago.

There’s not a lot of food in this portfolio because it is a quarantine portfolio. And in this time I was limited by what I could produce. All the “drinks” are actually just iced tea, and a lot of things had to be improvised or faked or rationed. But that’s the great thing about the creative process. Being limited forces you to think outside the box and come up with new imaginative ways to look at the world around you. And even if I didn’t make my masterpiece everything that I did, mistakes and all, inform every work of Art that I’ll make from this moment going forwards.

And yes I am obsessed with smoke and I Love it. It’s a metaphor for something but I honestly never put too much thought into it.

Read More at Best Food Photographer NYC

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Chicken Tikka Masala

Recipe Food Photography NYC

Chicken Tikka Masala

Sauce:

* 2 tablespoons of olive oil
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 4 cloves garlic
* 2 tablespoons ginger
* 2 teaspoons garam masala
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 20 oz tomato puree
* 1 onion finely diced
* 1 teaspoon ground red chili powder
* 1 healthy pinch salt
* 1 cups of heavy or thickened cream
* 1/4 cup water if needed
* 4 tablespoons Fresh cilantro

INGREDIENTS

Chicken Marinade:
* 28 oz (800g) boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
* 1 cup plain yogurt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 tablespoons ginger
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
* 3 teaspoons garam masala
* 2 teaspoons turmeric
* 1 teaspoon of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

* In a large bowl, thuroughly mix ingredients for the chicken marinade; if possible let marinade overnight in the fridge.

* Bring oil in a large skillet to high heat. You want to blacken the chicken and burn it slightly. Fry a couple at a time making sure to cook them evenly on all sides. Set aside and keep warm.

* Add butter to the same pan and let simmer. Fry the onions, garlic, ginger until golden brown. 

* AAdd garam masala, cumin, turmeric and coriander. Fry for about 1min until the room fills with the fragrance of the spices.

* Add tomato puree and stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and becomes a deep brown red colour.

* Stir the cream and let simmer. Thoroughly mix until cream disappears into the sauce. Add the chicken and cook for another 10mins.

* Garnish with cilantro and pour a little of the remaining cream on top.
Read More at: NYC Food Photography

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Best Meats in Town

I've photographed many Pat LaFrieda meats all over NYC. You might not know his name yet but if you've had a steak at any restaurant of good repute in New York city you've had his meats. These are two of my favorites that I photographed at Antica Pesa in Brooklyn. a pat lafrieda steak photographed at the italian restaurant antica pesa a pat lafrieda slider sandwich photographed at the italian restaurant antica pesa

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Test Photoshoots

NYC Food Photography

Test Photoshoots - Try it you might like it.

One of the traps of being a professional photographer in New York City is that you only get to do what other people want you to do. That’s sort of the deal that you create what they want in exchange for money and that doesn’t necessarily mean that your creating the work that you want to make. One of the leaps that you have to make when you go from being a hobbyist photographer to a professional is to produce work for other people rather than just for yourself. And then the next step is to learn the business of photography and learn how to turn that skill into something that you can charge money for. For many people this leap can be creatively stifling and soul sucking. You’re making money and your achieving your dreams to become a professional food photographer but often the work that you’re creating no longer fulfills you spiritually. The advertising industry can be both a wonderful and fantastic place where the sky is the limit and at other times a crushing hellscape of repetition and boredom. Because this also has the tendency to make artists keep creating the same work over and over again because that’s the work that sells as opposed to the best work that they possibly could make.
a video of a dancer moving
As a professional food photographer or really any kind of photographer or artist it’s extremely important that you keep exploring and keep trying new things. Sometimes as a food photographer this means photographing things that aren’t food. Photographer’s usually refer to this as “testing.” Test shoots are non-paid jobs that you explore on your own or with a other creative professionals. This can be a great way to build your portfolio or try out funky new weird technics or ways to look at the world in an environment where you’re free to fail and try something else. When your a photographer and your on the job you often only have a very small window of time to impress your clients and the people that your working with. This can stifle creativity and causes a lot of very talented photographers to just create ‘safe’ work. It might not be their best work but they know that the client will like it. Test shoots are a free time. A time to try using that weird funky gel, create that dark moody lighting aesthetic with shallow depth of field. And if it doesn’t work out you’re only out the time it spent to create the work and not a hard earned client.
a dancer posing for a photograph
Finding other people to test with can be hard at times. Everybody is extraordinarily busy, overworked, overstressed, worried about money, worried about their relationships with others and finding others who are in the same creative head space as you at the same time that you are can be difficult. But rewarding. Never be afraid to ask to ask another creative professional if they’re free to test and never be offended when they say no.

By doing so you can learn more about yourself, more about photography and more about the world around you. Go out into the world and be awesome and do awesome things and awesome things will happen to you.

These are photographs that I took of my friend Shieri Yamafuji who is an amazing dancer and yoga teacher.
a belly dancer frozen in motion

Want to read more? How to be a food photographer.com a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword

Passport to the World - Cannoli in the coffee.

Being an NYC Food Photographer means having a passport to the world without ever having to wait in line at La Guardia. That doesn’t mean that you get automatic TSA pre check. In my life I’m constantly going from one restaurant to another and from one cuisine to another and one language to another. Part of what makes New York city such a great place to live is that people from all over the world converge here on these tiny islands looking for new opportunities. And many of them bring their food and culinary traditions with them and start restaurants. You can find just about every kind of food imaginable in NYC. From East African tibs and Injera to Himalayan yak stew. And as a food photographer your job is to help share those culinary traditions. In my life on Monday everybody is speaking Chinese, Tuesday switches to Italian and on Wednesday I’m photographing with the Dominicans.
cannoli being dunked in coffee
It’s important to understand the subtitles of these traditions. They share a rich cultural heritage but Italians and Italian Americans are very different people. Their lives are literally half a world apart and it can be important to understand these traditions. One time me and the marketing director of a restaurant photographed the most beautiful cannoli ever being dunked into a cup of coffee like a donut. But after the shoot when we showed that photograph to the owner of the restaurant who grew up in Rome the answer was just “No. No way. No real Italian would ever dunk the cannoli.” Fortunately we had photographed the cannoli in other ways but it’s important to be respectful to the traditions of a food that dates back to the Middle Ages. But if this was an Italian American restaurant they probably would say “Hey, knock yourselves out.” Mostly you just have to listen. I almost always advocate listening more than you talk. When you’re a food photographer on the job you often have very limited time to make a good impression and understanding the culture of the food your photographing is vitally important.
ethiopian food with a side of injera
My Chinese friend said a hilarious thing that the secret to young beautiful skin is chicken feet. Mmmm… mmm… chicken feet. Chicken feet are actually high in collagen which is good for your skin so it does check out. I personally am not a big fan of chicken feet. I don’t like human feet either and I think I’m just not a fan of the idea of feet in general. But I will always try them anyways hoping that this time I’ll like them. And I never want to put off my hosts who often insist on trying the chicken feet or the crawfish or that weird undersea mollusk. For many people who grew up in China chicken feet are a treat that they remember fondly from when they were kids. And they’re proud of that tradition. But for somebody who is Chinese American that’s not necessarily the case. I’m not saying that if you’re a food photographer you absolutely have to try the chicken feet but why not? If you don’t like it thats ok but at least be open minded to the possibility. I can eat tripe all day long and once had lambs face stew at a photoshoot. But I was disappointed that they left the eyeballs out of it.
Hands pulling apart crawfish at a Chinese Restaurant
I also love grasshopper tacos but I struggle a little when they leave too many of the feet on and one gets stuck in my teeth. They are pretty crunchy and delicious. I love them with a squirt of lime. In the same way that you want to keep an open mind about trying new weird foods and traditions try to keep an open mind about how you view the world and your approach to photography. If you always photograph everything overhead try a new angle. If you always pull the same soft box out of your lighting kit try shooting with just a bare bulb. I’m constantly looking at the work of other photographers to get ideas and inspiration for what the latests and greatest trends are. There’s a trend in food photography lately to make deadpan flatly lit photographs. There’s one food photographer in NYC in particular who makes these visually striking photographs. I would describe them as minimalism meets a deer in headlights. The way that she does it makes me not want to eat the food. In particular when she photographs meat I find her work off-putting as if I’m looking a cadaver in the morgue and not a steak in a fancy restaurant. And because of this I secretly suspect her to be a serial killer, I mean how could anybody photograph food and I don’t want to eat it? But I still notice her work and it makes me pause every time I see it. She makes powerful images and I think this aesthetic works better as an editorial photograph as opposed to product photography. but to each their own and sometimes I take inspiration from her work and try to work some of those ideas into my own. Try it sometime. You might like it.
grasshopper tacos from at Tolache

Read more at How to be a Food Photographer