Behind the lens | Pablo Baracat

08 Jun 2014
4 min read
FOUR catches up with Buenos Aires-based professional sommelier and food photographer to some of Latin America’s greatest chefs, Pablo Baracat…

Being a food photographer and a professional sommelier, it must be hard having to switch between varying roles and skills. How do the two careers differ and which, if you can choose, do you prefer?

Becoming a sommelier gave me a different point of view of the world that I’ve not had up until I began. I do a lot of work with the Asociación Argentina de Sommeliers (AAS) as part of the directive board, working to expand the careers of sommeliers and help place Argentina on the map when it comes to sommeliering. Becoming a sommelier has meant I’ve been able to involve myself in the wonderful world of cuisine and gain the tools and skills that are so important when it comes to interacting with chefs, which is important in both my roles as a photographer and sommelier. I see both careers together, since the one complements the other. In reality, however, it is photography that is taking a more prominent role in my life at the moment, filling me with joy each and every day.

What’s it like being behind the scenes at restaurant El Baqueno (no.39 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2014) as their resident photographer and seeing the kitchen staff work their ‘magic’?

Living out this experience, in such close promixity to the chefs I admire so much, is a real privilege for me. Above all things, the most gratifying is to have the chance to learn from chef Fernando Rivarola who is — besides being an excellent cook — an excellent person who loves what he does and transfers his wisdom with humility. Of course, all this (without forgetting that the best part is having the chance to taste his dishes!), is an incredible experience and one that I wouldn’t sacrifice for anything in the world.

Tell us about the project you currently photograph for, “Cuisine without frontiers”, and the chefs involved…

Cuisine Without Frontiers searches for the pluralisation in cuisine. It is a chance to give out regional products and to promote the intercultural exchange between countries, cooks and products.

“El Baqueno” hosts the event and once a month invites chefs from different latitudes of Latin America, as well as the rest of the world. Some of the best chefs who have already participated in the project are: Alex Atala, Virgilio Martínez, Mitsuharu Tsumura, Rodrigo Oliveira, Kamilla Seidler, Dario Gualtieri and Fernando Jara. And the next participants will be Massimo Bottura, Matias Perdomo, Rodolfo Guzman, Jorge Vallejos, Carlos Garcia and Ciro Watanabe, among others.

The opportunity I have to shoot Cuisine Without Frontiers and the chance to be so close to some of the very best chefs in Latin America and learn from them, that’s priceless. It’s also not the simplest of tasks. Everything occurs in the middle of the action and not in a photographic studio where you have the right amount of comfort required to shoot without effort. The atmosphere and energy during that moment brings out the best of me, though, and that’s what I intend to transmit in every picture I take.

How would you describe your defining style?

Clean, crisp, simple and elegant.

Who or what inspires your work the most?

The thing that motivates me the most is that my best photography is yet to be shot, but I know that it will be soon.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I am proud to have met and photographed several of the best chefs in the world and see that many of them use my pictures or share them on their social networks. That’s really gratifying. But perhaps most gratifying of all is when I meet someone new who says: “someone told me about you.”

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a food photographer?

We live in a world where we are surrounded by a wealth of information and images. Just look at pictures of food taken in a style that you like and process it in a way that leads you to a style that feels exciting and true to yourself.

Play with light and don’t be scared of low light conditions. Above all, be true to yourself. Be passionate and relentless; look for the stories behind dishes; get as much industry experience as you can and remember that food photography is not a job, it’s a passion. This is the key to success.

Do you have a favourite type of food that you like shooting? If so, why?

Actually, I don’t have any favourite kinds of food that I like shooting. I like well-decorated dishes, those that makes you lose your breath and inspire love at first sight. If I had to choose I would say that I like shooting food that I’ve not yet had the opportunity to photograph the most.

What plans/projects have you got in the pipeline for 2014?

I’m currently working on the book “Cocina sin Fronteras” [Cuisine without Frontiers]. This is the second book that’s been published using my pictures. The objective is to narrate all of the experiences of the project from beginning to end, rather than producing a traditional recipe-style cookbook.

I also have a trip to Bolivia scheduled, where I’ll be attending a workshop about “Food Photography” and visit my friend Kamilla Seidler from restaurant Gustu in La Paz.

Another trip on my agenda is a visit to Peru, where I will be meeting several chefs, all of which I have become very good friends with. There I hope to photograph Virgilio Martínez’s works again who, in my opinion, is one of the best when it comes to plating food. I’m so pleased I had the chance to capture his talent in 2013 when I was asked to photograph his dishes.

Other than that, I’m also hoping to travel to New York to meet Francesco Tonelli, a food photographer whom I really admire.