Wednesday, August 16, 2006

the smell of money

Durians are spiky tropical fruits with pale yellow flesh that are so pungent that they are banned in Bangkok's skytrains and many hotels around the country. They smell of rot, or vomit, depending on who you ask. Being of a country where andouillette and rognons smell like piss, cheese stink of feet, and garlic breath is a national symbol, I wasn't afraid of tasting durian, but just never had had the opportunity yet. Then I got my first paid photography job ever, a catalogue for fresh and processed durian products destined for export to China.

This is a durian, not to be confused with a jackfruit. It (like everything else in this post except the icecream) was shot with natural daylight bounced off white cardboard sheets that also doubled up as reflectors. The fruit is standing on a tube of glass that has been photoshopped out, so that light hits the bottom of fruit as well.

Durian can be made into a paste and crushed almonds worked into the paste--delicious.

As these shots are for a catalogue, they are composed to go in the corner of a page that contains text. Hence, the image will only occupy a fraction of the page (1/3 or a 1/4). This shout would be the top right of a page, while the image above would be the bottom left of that same page.

The ice-cream couldn't be shot with natural light. I used flashes to allow a high enough shutter speed to freeze the dried durian flakes in mid-air. Of course, I used my slave flashes (see my previous posts, I've got 4 now). First I got a shot of the ice-cream with just the right amount of durian powder on it and then poured durian powder a dozen times until I got a good shot--which wasn't easy to time. Finally, I composited the spoon and falling powder with the ice-cream in photoshop. This way, I used only one ice-cream, and melting was not an issue.

This is what the powder comes from, dried durian. It cooks in a pot underneath which is boiling oil. I believe that's as close to an oven as things get in Asia. The oil doesn't come in contact with the durian so it's a low-fat snack.

Fresh durian, like mango, is best appreciated with sticky rice on which one pours coconut milk. The milk we had just went right through the rice--way to watery. We settled for white latex glue over which we poured some genuine coconut milk for a wetter look. So this is one dish I didn't eat.


Anonymous Mathieu said...

That's gorgeous stuff!

Some blown highlights on the first shot, but the rest is absolutely beautiful.

You're getting good... :-)

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Mathieu said...

Oh, and I luuuuuuuv mango and sticky rice :-D

12:40 AM  
Blogger gregoire said...

oops. fixed the blown out highlight.


12:53 AM  
Anonymous Mathieu said...

Much better!

12:58 AM  
Blogger schuey said...

"This way, I used only one ice-cream, and melting was not an issue."

so greg...

2:56 PM  

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