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Michael Falco
Michael Falco

Life Lessons: Carl Warner, photographer

Carl Warner, 47, has made a global name for himself as a photographer of 'foodscapes' - exquisite portraits of rippling seas, bosky woods and medieval Tuscan townscapes, all created with fresh food.

Carl Warner, 47, has made a global name for himself as a photographer of 'foodscapes' - exquisite portraits of rippling seas, bosky woods and medieval Tuscan townscapes, all created with fresh food. His first book, Carl Warner's Food Landscapes, is out now.

 

People say that the devil is in the detail, but for me it's just the opposite. Working in miniature as I do, I'm always seeing evidence of a creative design, from the spiralling galaxy to the spirals in the centre of a sunflower, or how the human lungs so closely resemble upside-down trees, and where we breathe out carbon dioxide, they breathe it in. I'm interested in making people perceive how beautiful our world is. When they look twice at a picture which shows a sea made out of smoked salmon, ringed with dill trees and rocks of black bread, then they appreciate the real thing more.

Having a family makes you realise what's important. Photography can be a very egotistical profession, and it's easy to get caught up in what you're doing and get stressed if things are going wrong. My wife nearly died having our second son, Tom, and he stopped breathing three times while in intensive care. He was in an incubator for a nerve-racking fortnight; that made me realise none of what I'd been worrying about before was really that important.

Be a good supporting actor. Instead of thinking about life as a film in which I'm the star, I try to think of myself as a supporting actor. It's easy to get caught up in your own work, but you want to make sure you're a supporting actor in your children's lives. I'd rather have 20 Oscars for Best Supporting Actor than one for the lead.

The best way to sell something is through humour and entertainment. After 25 years in advertising, I know that there are only a handful of ways to sell something to someone. My images are humourous and whimsical, and now they're being used for all sorts of campaigns to promote healthy eating to children - that makes me feel very privileged. Although my own children aren't impressed: one of my sons refuses to eat anything green.

Look for the unusual in life. Broccoli makes great oak trees, but for mangroves and acacia trees, I use Italian parsley. Clouds are easier: you can get great effects using red cabbage or mozzarella, and white bread can be teased into wisps.

As told to Lydia Slater

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