Book Review | Market Day issue #1 by Russel Wasserfall

April 1, 2015 · 1 comment

in Book Reviews

Market Day is a collaboration between Russel Wasserfall and four other contributors, looking at the diverse sub culture of food and characters at the iconic Neighbourgoods Market in Cape Town. It is the first in a series of four journals that looks at the seasons and ever evolving tides of the market over two years. This issue looks at the coffee culture, the vast array of breakfast options at the market, a peak into the background of some of the traders, market tips and a collection of photo stories and must-try recipes by citizens and contributors.

The picture intensive book is documentary style and brilliantly executed. The pictures of the market capture the ambiance and the hustle and bustle of market life, and the portraits of the traders are insightful and real. The food photography of the recipes is exactly what you’d expect from Russel – beautifully styled, well lit, honest and mouth wateringly hunger engaging!


I managed to catch up with Russel and chat to him about his work.

What made you decide to go into self-publishing and how did you go about it?

I came to photography 17 years ago, from background in advertising and writing. Despite working as a commercial and documentary food photographer, I am fascinated by publishing. I have worked on 18 cookbooks to date. It was just an obvious next step to take the skill-set I’ve built up in my career and apply it to publishing my own stuff. In Jacana Media I have the dual advantages of an accomplished publisher and an awesome mentor in the form of Bridget Impey. I called her and said “What do you think of this idea?” She just asked how she could help.

What is it about food and its presentation that inspires you?

I have always been driven and fascinated by the story behind food. How does that meal get to your plate? Photographing a plate of food is not even half the story for me. That’s why Market Day is such a seminal project for me – it’s all the stuff I’m fascinated by – how people engage with food. What they eat and why they make that choice. How they earn or eat their daily crust.

 Using citizen journalists for the Market Day project was a nice addition to the book. Was it tricky co-ordinating that?

Once I found the contributors, briefing and co-ordinating the work was a cinch. The trick was to find them. When I started working on Market Day, I was aware of just how many people around me at Neighbourgoods were carrying cameras and documenting their experience. Chatting about it with the designer Roxy Spears, she wondered if there was some way to incorporate that aspect of the market. That’s where the idea came from, but approaching people and asking them to contribute was hard. Either they were foreign visitors (lots of them) who were leaving next week, or they thought I was trying to sell something. As it was the first issue, there was nothing to show them, to explain what we were doing. We eventually approached bloggers who were keen to have a go.

What was the most rewarding aspect of producing Market Day?

Getting the stories behind those counters and behind the people that you see every Saturday at the market. It was also rewarding to see talented people get their work published in print for the first time.

The most challenging?

Model releases. It’s a bit of a trick having them signed after you’ve made images of people. If you ask before, the subject becomes aware of you and the candid moment is lost. However, without the release, the image is useless for publishing. Understandably, if you are seen pointing your lens at someone – particularly a child – without permission, people can get quite tense. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings so you can melt into them a bit.

Why is collaboration important to you?

In particular, my collaboration with the designer, Roxy, is vital. As a team, in conceptual mode, we come up with amazing stuff. Even if the idea looks like a dud to start with, one or the other will add a thought or an insight and suddenly we’re into a new inspiration. It just seemed natural on this project to open the doors a bit wider and draw in some other contributors like Sam Linsell, Sarah Schafer and Hein van Tonder to see what they could bring to the table.

How would you describe your photography?

I wouldn’t really describe it. I see food a particular way, and make stories and images of it that I enjoy. Leave it to the reader or observer to describe or interpret it.

What should every photographer who aspires to become a food photographer, know about styling food and food photography?

I think that knowledge of your subject is vital. The best portrait photographers I know have a keen insight into people and are able to get them to relax easily. You don’t need to get food to relax, but you need to know how to make mayonnaise in order to capture meaningful images of the process of making it. Another key point is that it isn’t going anywhere, so as long as it is not something that spoils quickly (like ice cream) you have time to look and play and shoot.

What equipment do you believe is essential for beautiful food photography?

Some kind of camera, a good eye, and a knowledge of your subject. The willingness to challenge accepted norms in visual language also helps a bit.

Name three things on your bucket list.

I don’t really have a bucket list. I’m fortunate (or bloody-minded enough) to pretty much do the things I really want to, like publish a book. A supersonic flight would be good, and I’d love to fly a sailplane again. Wish I could get my Bronica SQ 6×6 camera back from the dude I foolishly sold it to some years back.

Finish this sentence – I can’t live without…

doing something creative or challenging that occupies my mind each day.

Market-Day-01-Rikki-Hibbert Market-Day-02-Rikki-Hibbert

Market Day is published by Russel Wasserfall Food and an imprint by Jacana Media. The journal is available from all good book stores, as well as at the market every Saturday.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Erika van Zyl April 1, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Great interview, Rikki. One day…

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