16 Mar 2015
3 min read
For FOUR USA, Asia and Germany’s latest covers, René Riis worked with calligrapher Saiu Minagawa on one of our most interesting cover series. We chatted to him about the Japanese-inspired concept…

When thinking about a cover for FOUR, what kinds of inspiration do you seek out? These issues were Japanese focused on the cover, so did you start looking for ideas from Japan?

Even before I startedthinking about a cover for FOUR magazine I talk to FOUR’s directorsabout some basic ideas or a direction we could explore. That gave me a starting point for my ideas.In this case, the starting point was Japan, which quickly developed into maybe something with Japanese calligraphy.

Working with food and photography can be tricky. Do you have any assistants that help out with the shoot?

I have different kinds of food photography jobs. Some of the jobs, typically advertising jobs, are complex and require one or two assistants. One who helps with the lighting and then a digital operator.I must admit I still also enjoy to sometimes keep things simple and just work alone. A food stylist or a chef is vital for a good food photo, in this case I worked with the experienced food stylist Max Faber.

The calligrapher produced some amazing work for the cover shoot. Did you design the food around the text, or did you let the calligrapher create the text, and then design the food around it?

I was very lucky to find Saiu Minagawa, a prize-winning calligrapher living here in Berlin. I decided together with the food stylist that it would be better to let Saiu do her artwork and thendesign the food around and on top of that. I think it would be difficult to work the other way around. With food you have to take the shot quite fast and I did not know the working process of a Japanese calligrapher.Therefore, I took the safest way. Apart from that I had decided to place food on top of the artwork if the artist would allow it.

What were some of the particular challenges in shooting these covers?

Therewere a couple of challenges with the covers. First of all I had to find out if the artist would be offended if we placed food on top of the signs.There are different rules in each culture and field of work and you do not want to start a new collaboration by stepping on someones toes. Saiu told me she was cool with us playing around with food on her artwork, so I was happy.Secondly, I had to find a way to place the food on the paper and artwork without destroying it. I was split between either do a separate shot of the artwork anda separate shot of the food and combine the two in photoshop, or somehow shield the artwork with a plastic sheet or glass.I did both but I only used the plastic sheet solution.

The images are quite playful in a way, do you think so?

Yes I do think so. I like to work with a loose frame or just some ideas and I am very aware not to have everything planned to the last detail. I think it is important to be open whenworking with a photo. If you plan everything you limit some of the possibilities you could discover in the moment.

What are four key components to a successful photography shoot?

Food appeal, composition, light andsomething that is tickling the eye the certain something that makes the photo alive.