Eva H. Tram – Food photographer and food writer
How are our products presented flawlessly? There are special food photographers who put the products in the spotlight. We met Eva H. Tram, who is a specialist for such tasks. Read here this exciting insight into the work of a food photographer and food writer.
Tell us something about yourself and your work
My name is Eva H. Tram, and I am a food photographer and -writer. I am originally from Denmark but live and work in Sweden, in a small village in the middle of a forest. I write food and restaurant related trend stories, chef profiles, guides, reviews and more for magazines and newspapers. As a photographer I have my own business, Homemade Agency, where I create content (photo and video) for brands and media, often along with my husband Nicolai Tram who is a cook. We also recently made a cookbook about firecooking, which I am really proud of. It has just been released in the second print in Danish and recently won a World Cookbook Award. We hope it will be out in German and English later this year, but so far nothing is settled.
How’d you get started on this job?
When I were younger I worked as a waiter and got hooked on fine dining. I lived in a tiny apartment with practically no kitchen but a very low rent. I spent all my money on eating out in Copenhagen, where I lived, and other cities in Europe. Early on I started blogging about it. So when I finished my studies (I have a Master’s degree in digital communication) I got hired by an online restaurant guide in Copenhagen to write news from the industry and restaurant profiles. Later I started writing freelance for newspapers and magazines, and wrote and edited restaurant reviews for the Nordic restaurant guide White Guide. It was fun, because I actually got paid to work with my passion. But I came to a point where I felt I spent too much time indoors in front of a screen.
Why did you start photographing?
Leaving the city and living with nature right outside the door gave me the chance to take a step back and reflect on what kind of life I really wanted. A daily breath of forest air can work miracles if you want to declutter your mind. So, I digged deep and asked myself: What do I really want to do? And there I realised that I also wanted to create something beautiful for myself, rather than only writing about and reviewing other people’s work. So I bought a good camera and started my journey as a photographer – and it took off quickly. After one year I got my first magazine cover, and today I contribute to the leading Danish food media on a regular basis. But my book about fire cooking is what I am most proud of, and soon we will start working on our second book – about cooking vegetables over fire.
What makes a good food writer/food critic?
Food writing can be many things, from critical journalism to feel-good lifestyle stuff. I think a good writer is one who dissects the subject in an intriguing way so the reader gets wiser and entertained at the same time. When it comes to reviews, a good food critic needs to eat out A LOT, and have a deep knowledge about cooking, wine, food history and trends. We all eat and drink and can have an opinion about what tastes good and what does not. But in order to write a review that is fair to the people that put their hearts and souls into creating the meal you are reviewing, you need to have a solid background.
And a good food photographer?
Today, anybody can make a crisp and perfect flatlay shot with a smartphone. But I think that the most compelling food photograps are the ones that really tell a story. A good food photographer has a unique style and the ability to draw the viewer into the image, to make them dream of being in the environment the image was shot in, and eat that dish because it looks delicious.
What do you value most about your job as a food writer?
That I get behind the scenes at incredible places and get to meet so many inspiring people, hear their stories and learn from their wisdom. Eating great food is a plus too, of course, but not the most important for me.
What distinguishes a successful chef for you?
In my eyes, a succesful chef is one who has found a satisfying work/life balance with space for his/her personal life and passions, not just work. If the chef is not happy and totally aligned with what he wants to express, it shows in the food that it does not come from the heart.
Many interviews/articles with chefs often come very close to you as a writer. Which ones do you remember?
I feel deeply grateful towards all the amazing people who have taken the time to give me a glimpse of their world. Sometimes spend several days with me, and share what is often very personal thoughts. They have all touched me and taught me something. But one interview I will never forget – because it was so sad – was with a young, successful restaurateur, Maj Kaltoft, who I interviewed quite a few years back. The day after the interview I flew to Thailand and did not have time to write the article until about a week later. In the meantime I had not had any contact with the outside world. Then, when I sat down to write the article, I also checked a few online newspapers. There I realized that she had been killed.
In gastronomy there are many trends that come and go. What really essential developments do you see right now?
That the restaurant industry is starting to address the issues of gender equality and working conditions for the staff. Sustainability has been on the agenda for many years now, but applying it to people is a relatively new thing. Not just accepting a destructive environment as “the way things have always been” is gaining more and more importance. That is a very positive development.
Many chefs and restaurants are worried about bad reviews that will stay there forever thanks to the internet. What is your advice on how to deal with them?
Don’t get bothered by criticism from somebody you would not ask for an advice. If you can look yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you are proud of what you do, then it should not matter what others think. Especially not if those people are not smarter than you.
In times of super good mobile phones and Instagram; how can you survive as a food photographer?
Our media are becoming more and more visual, so I only see the demand for quality visual content as rising. As good as mobile cameras are, they cannot compete with a professional camera when it comes to image quality and editing options. That being said, in order to make a great food photograph you need a great dish to shoot. And there I am extremely lucky to work with one of the best in the world, namely my husband.
You are from Denmark and live in Sweden. The world loves Nordic Cuisine. How do you define Nordic Cuisne?
Long story short, I will define it as the traditional cooking of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Iceland. These countries have quite different food traditions, but a common denominator is that – because of our short seasons – we have traditionally had to preserve a lot of our produce for the long winters. Therefore, preservation techniques such as pickling, smoking, salting, fermenting etc. are cornerstones in the Nordic kitchens. A superstructure to this is the New Nordic kitchen. This is more avantgarde, not just using ancient techniques but actually inventing new ones. And with a stricter scope when it comes to produce. In the Nordic kitchens it is completely normal to use exotic spices such as curry and black pepper. Whereas chefs defining their cuisine as New Nordic will look for alternatives from the Nordic region.
How would you describe classic Swedish cuisine?
Heavy, rich, fatty and not that elegant. Sorry… But the Swedes have great traditions, such as their afternoon “fika” – coffee, cake and “mys” (the Swedish word for “hygge”). And not least “kräftskiva” held in August, where they gather with friends and family to eat crayfish and drink schnapps until they drop.
And modern classic Swedish cuisine?
A mix of French techniques and local produce. A lot of kale and root vegetables, a great focus on local sourcing and foraging, and the ancient preservation techniques I mentioned before. One important trend among good restaurants is that there is a much greater focus on vegetables than ever before – most of our traditional dishes have meat as the main produce.
You stand next to the cooks and write about them. Did it ever occur to you to work as a cook yourself?
Yes, when I was younger I considered it. And I often wish I was a better cook (though I am actually not terrible). Having learned to cook is a gift you carry with you for your entire life, its like a superpower that you can always use to delight people. So much love can be contained in a well-cooked meal, it can give you direct access to somebody’s heart.
Thanks Eva, that was special!
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