Have you ever lived through one of those singular moments in time where you look back and know that was the definitive moment that changed everything? I have experienced a couple in my lifetime – and while it’s only been a few days, I’m pretty sure last weekend was one of those moments.
You see, last weekend I went to beautifully historic Weimar, Germany to the inaugural session of Plate to Page: a three day food writing, styling and photography workshop run by four incredible women – Jeanne, Ilva, Jamie and Meeta.
I and the other eleven participants were excited as we first introduced ourselves that Friday afternoon, but surely we weren’t expecting the utterly transforming experience that would unfold over the course of the weekend. That’s right. Three days, four instructors, twelve participants. And what an intense and incredible weekend it was! Every minute packed with activities, the instructors definitely put the “work” into workshop – they pushed us, challenged us, worked with us, helped us, critiqued us, laughed with us, shared with us, encouraged us, drank with us, cooked with us, inspired us, and many smiles and hugs were had throughout the weekend.
We had lots of mini tutorial/exercise sessions and three major assignments – the first was a restaurant review, where we discussed what makes a review good/bad, and how to photograph in low light typical of many restaurants. Hello ISO 1600!
As for the meal? I think there were seven courses in all of traditional Breton delights – raw oysters, baked oysters, crab & sea snails, scallops, salad, roast lamb, and a dessert of crêpes with ice cream & salted caramel. It was a lovely evening of food, wine, and socializing in a beautiful rustic setting.
Saturday our second major assignment was to do a picnic shoot/article in teams of two – I was paired with Ishay, and we chose to write about store cupboard picnics and impromptu visits with friends, featuring some traditional S. African pantry items like Pilchards and anchovy pastes.
Each of us had brought tasty treats from our respective countries, and the picnic was literally a smorgasbord of flavors – cheeses, cured meats, chocolates, jams, there were so many options to try!
And along with foods, we each brought some napkins and flatware to use as props too, along with having some amazing vintage props so generously shared by Paula Walters to make use of as well – yes, we food bloggers even photograph the props!
Our third major assignment was to partner up and create a magazine style article. I paired up with Astrid and we set out to write and photograph our potential article about bringing a taste of Ireland to the table. Working in pairs with one person writing and one photographing was such a fun experience – we bounced ideas off of each other until we had our concept put together and then I immediately knew what I wanted to do for the shoot – the first thing was to photograph the gorgeous Bord Bía sponsored beef that we were prepping for lunch, as we wanted our piece to highlight the ingredients that make a meal. Then I took the parsnips and carrots and arranged them on a table to get a shot of some of the root veggies that were to be served with the beef:
And of course, after each major assignment was a critique session, which was invariably as valuable as the experience of the assignment itself. I learned so much about my own work – my strengths and weaknesses – and about food photography and writing by seeing what everyone else had come up with as well. I loved seeing how we could take such similar events and see them with completely different eyes, and it was so cool to see everyone’s personalities really shine through their creations.
So what did I learn?? I started this experience convinced writing was hard. It’s still hard! But I can see a path now to becoming much more comfortable with my voice and finding how to let that shine through. The exercises we did were challenging – both with time constraints and concepts. But thanks to the wonderful supportive and friendly environment, I did find the courage to share things I wrote – and for someone like me who doesn’t always view writing as their strongest suit, that’s a huge deal and speaks so much to the atmosphere of the event and people there.
And photography – gosh are we a bunch of shutter happy photographers! Ha in fact it was the running joke all weekend that food bloggers don’t get to eat enough because we’re all too busy photographing and analyzing the food – more than a few times I heard someone say,”no more photos, let’s EAT!” Ha what can I say, we love what we do! I loved seeing the rapid growth of everyone’s photography in such a short weekend – and I think I can finally start to see a direction of how my own photos are evolving, something I’ve never been able to do before.
But besides all the fantastic information I tried to soak up like a complete sponge over three days, what did I really take away at the end of it all? I learned that photography and writing need to both work together to tell a story, and each in their own right. I learned that waking up every day absolutely enthralled with photography and creating photos is totally cool and not weird at all And I learned that there are some amazing giving, passionate, kind-hearted people who all share a love for food, and am so excited and thrilled to now call those I met this weekend such dear friends.
Really, thank you everyone – the instructors and the participants, for being so wonderful and open and fun, and for creating a weekend I will never forget. Ilva, Jamie, Jeanne, Meeta – what amazing giving, helpful and generous women you are – I couldn’t imagine this workshop being any more perfect. Thanks so much for all of your help and advice, but more so thank you for opening up your hearts and sharing your passions with us. And to all the participants, wow, y’all are just awesome and bring a smile to my face. You all were as integral to the success of the weekend as the instructors, and I’m so honored to have been able to meet you and work with you and call you my friends. Móna called the weekend life changing – it was life changing indeed.
And also a big thank you to all of our lovely sponsors for helping to make such an amazing event happen!!
Plate to Page write up posts (will be updated as more posts go live):
Arthi – Ending on a High Note
Arthi – Reliving the Plate2Page Experience
Astrid – Who Would Have Thought…?
Ilva – Plate to Page Weimar 2011 – The Review
Jamie – From Plate to Page
Jasmine – Plate to Page Workshop
Jeanne – Plate to Page, Weimar – the Super Troupers
Ken – To Weimar with Love
Meeta – We Met in Weimar
Meeta – Plate to Page – Putting the Work back into Workshop
Móna – Life Changing, It Was
Móna – Life Changing it Was, Part 2
Móna – Life Changing it Was, Part 3
Móna – All in a Days Work
Plate to Page – Weimar Impressions, the first Plate to Page Workshop
Simone – Plate to Page – Experience of a Lifetime
Simone – Metaphors, Similes, and What it’s All About
*Disclaimer – I was not compensated in any way to mention sponsors, just wanted to thank them for their generosity and for donating such awesomeness to this workshop – all of it was amazing!!