Virgin Territory — behind the scenes

Virgin Territory photo shoot

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing authors in the past, and just when I didn’t think it could get much better, I received a fascinating proposal for a book by legendary Mediterranean food expert Nancy Harmon Jenkins a few years ago. This project was ambitious, a magnum opus of sorts — everything you need to know about olive oil from producing it to cooking with it, along with 100 recipes as well. Of course I had to acquire it, and at long last, Virgin Territory is due to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 10th! Photographer Penny De Los Santos traveled to Tuscany with the author to capture scenes there, and I urge you to check out the book for yourself to see those shots, but I was lucky to be able to art direct the photo shoot for the food in the United States. Here’s a little bit of the behind-the-scenes action, caught by me. For the real food photos, again I urge you to get a copy of this fascinating (and beautiful) book.

Virgin Territory photo shoot

Penny is always hiding from the camera when I’m trying to catch her working, but there is a glimpse of her, working magic of course. I wasn’t able to get a shot of prop stylist Hilary Robertson on set, but she did a fantastic job — my first time working with Hilary.

Virgin Territory photo shoot

Virgin Territory photo shoot

The food styling was equally impressive. That’s stylist Simon Andrews arranging some fritters on a plate. I’m very lucky to be able to work with Simon regularly (though not often enough). He’s so relaxed on set, even when things are getting heated up in the kitchen and on set.

Virgin Territory photo shoot

Virgin Territory photo shoot

These are some really great examples of what a great team we had with Simon and Hilary on the shoot. Fish is so tasty, but photographing can be such a challenge. These shots (again, just my snapshots — buy the actual book to see Penny’s beautiful work) make me want to run out right now and make fish for dinner.

Virgin Territory photo shoot

I love shots like this when I’m on set because I don’t have the gear to do this myself at home unless I stand really, really still with my camera, but it’s still basically impossible without a great tripod and sandbags to hold things steady.

Virgin Territory photo shoot

And as for the food, everything was wonderful as I can personally attest. Okay so I didn’t actually try this because it’s not gluten-free, but there are plenty of healthful, olive-oil-centric dishes in the book to try no matter what you dietary restrictions are. I think Nancy Harmon Jenkins has achieved just what she set out to do with Virgin Territory — write a truly significant work on the subject of olive oil, maybe the only book you need.

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