Chef Jim Sullivan began seriously pursuing photography with the simple goal of capturing his dishes more accurately. In a matter of years, his passion blossomed into a second career documenting not just the Southern California food and cocktail scene, but the larger ecosystem that surrounds it – the markets, food halls, trailers, suppliers, and communities like Baja California where sustainable stewardship is critical to the future of food.
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ONA: How did you get into photography/videography?
CJ: I have always had a real passion for photography but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started really focusing on it. As a Chef, other people would take images of my food that weren’t up to my liking. This motivated me to start learning the nuances of light and food photography in order to represent my food.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
CJ: I have several camera’s/lenses, which I think most photog’s do.lol My real passion is for film photography, which I am lucky to have a Mamiya 645 Pro and a Leica M6. I typically use these for more creative shoots, whereas I use my Canon 5d Mark III with a 60mm macro lens for my food photography. I also have a Fuji Xt1 with a 21mm/50mm Zeiss lens set up for street/urban photography, which I absolutely love.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? And what is your dream project?
CJ: The kind of project that drives me is one that involves learning. My dream project would be to travel abroad to study, cook, and shoot various cultures. If I could right now, I would travel across Japan with my cameras and chef knives. I feel the only real way to understand culture, food, and art is to travel and live in that area of interest.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
CJ: For me, the hardest thing about being a photographer is having the time needed to put into projects. Being a husband/dad with a full time job makes it very hard for me to get in the time I need to be creative. Although I will say that my wife and family are extremely encouraging and without them I wouldn’t be where I am.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
CJ: My style of shooting is pretty much consistent across the board. Whether it be food, landscape, urban, I always always am trying to utilize soft light, hence my favorite hashtag #chasinglight.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer/videographer just starting out?
CJ: I would say this about photography or food: “Learn the classics.”
ONA: How did you hear about ONA?
CJ: I’ve been following ONA on Instagram for some time and finally was able to get my hands on a leather Prince Street bag and Lima strap for my Fuji.