It takes someone with a special sense of humor to photograph Porky Pig and Daffy Duck milk glasses as a key component of their portfolio. Did someone say Ric Cohn?
Cohn's beguiling style has helped him land several other prestigious clients, including Pop Secret, Quaker Oats, Martell Cognac, Georges DuBoeuf wines, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, and Bon Appetit magazine.
Although armed with a beguiling sense of humor and a fun attitude, Cohn says it is important for him to be intense while on shoots.
"I'm focused on getting what I want," he says. "I communicate to the client exactly what I will capture then concentrate on the job."
Seeing the Light
On every shoot, Cohn attempts to capture images that are tactile and inviting, and that frame a moment in time. The milk glasses pictured with the Oreo cookies helped him land work on the prestigious cookie account.
"I found these great glasses in an antique store and wanted to do something with them," recalls Cohn. "I also had a client for whom I had shot some jobs, so when they were working on Oreos I wanted to show them what I could do."
Continues Cohn: "You might not think that a shot like this needs a food stylist, but you'd be wrong. The Oreos were hand-selected from about a dozen boxes and then the filling was removed and freshly filled. I supplied the teeth marks—following my old ‘childhood method.'"
Cohn's lighting has frequently been described as "cinematic" because of the way he uses illumination along with design to tell the viewer more about what they are looking at.
"My lighting is designed to create, and add to, the story of the photograph," he says. "It is especially crucial in food and beverage shots. Food quickly melts, and beverages can lose their consistency so getting the light just right relatively quickly is key."
Working with food has a lot in common with shooting people, explains Cohn. That's part of why he does a lot of prep with stand-in food while he works out the lighting and design, and why he always roughs out a shot before clients arrive.
"You have to be ready when the moment is there. With food, you need to work with a good food stylist the same way you need to work with good hair and makeup artists for beauty and fashion."
"I frequently work with tungsten lights for the control it gives me, but of course, this creates even more of a heat problem. I always use the heat gel on the lights to keep the wilting temperature down to a minimum."
Norman strobes with custom-adapted Fresnel heads, and Arri and Dedo tungsten lights win his Most Valuable Equipment awards. Take his images of Strawberry Cake, Pasta Pot, Sundae Games, and the Champagne Pour, featured throughout this article.
"These images were taken before I switched to digital and were shot with my Sinar p2 with Kodak E100S film," he says. "About two years ago, I felt digital was where I wanted it to be, and with the addition of an Apple Mac Dual G5, I was able to get both the quality and the speed from digital that I demanded. Today, I'd do them on the same Sinar p2 with a Flexback adapter and a single-shot Phase One H25 back."