Photo contest for Curdbox | August 2020

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Curdbox is our monthly cheese + pairing subscription service. Want to join our merry band of cheese lovers? Head on over to our subscription page to sign up for your monthly box!

Summer's just wrapping up, and we've also reached the fourth and final round of our four-month photo contest series for Curdbox (check out MayJune, and July). Below, see the box from four photographers styled four different ways, along with an interview with the winner at the end! This month, our four photographers were lucky to be working with (and then eating!) our August box The Grate Outdoors

Nimbe Juarez

As you might be able to tell from her website Fit Food Dreams, Nimbe is an exercise fanatic and a food lover (and a DACA Dreamer!) Her photos were a mix of sharp and pristine above-the-board shots, as well as a few showing her enjoying the board (in the grate) outdoors.

Photo by Nimbe Juarez (@ fitfooddreams)

Our favorite photo of Nimbe's had this spade-shaped cutting board with the box contents thoughtfully placed around. (Bonus trivia about Nimbe's image: the words just visible on the cutting board are an old Swedish saying that literally translates to "bread and butter keep the cheeks red," but would more accurately translate to "an apple a day keeps the doctor away.")

Diana Beshara

Diana is behind the popular Cantina Royal Hot Sauce out of NYC. She definitely embraced the spirit of the box, as her photo shoot was set on a sunny beach with a cute wine picnic basket, to boot. 

Photo by Diana Beshara (@ cantinaroyalhotsauce)

Our favorite photo of Diana's was actually a gif! The fun stop motion style showed the unpacking of aforementioned cute basket, with a hand sneaking in one of those delectable pimento kettle chips at the end.

Leia Vincent

Leia works at Anschutz PR, a public relations company focused on cooking and entertaining, so she's no stranger to working with companies like ours in order to showcase a delicious product (if we do say so ourselves).

Photo by Leia Vincent (@anschutzpr

The photo we chose from Leia's submissions was a tidy photo with the pimento chips spilling out in the foreground, the cheese board in the mid-ground, and our curdbox box in the backgrond. That very outdoorsy tree stump cheese board was a nice tie-in with the theme, and made us smile!

Laurie Mueller—the winner!

Though we enjoyed all of our submissions, ultimately we give the honors to Laurie of Eye for Elegance Photography. True to her company's name, her images were light, bright, and sophisticated. Though she wasn't able to actually shoot outdoors because of the hazardous wildfire smoke that has been blanketing her hometown of San Francisco, she still incorporated some dark green foliage to offset the golden hues of the cheeses and cheese plate.

Photo by Laurie Mueller (@EyeForElegancePhotography) 

Interview with Laurie Mueller

Note: The interview has been edited for clarity. 

Laurie Mueller, August contest winner

How long have you been doing photography? Professional or in spare time? 

I've always loved photography, I've always loved making things basically. I had a very active imagination as a child. I used to to play with my parents' 35mm camera when I was growing up (and created a bunch of non-memorable photos!) but I still enjoyed photography so when I got to college I got a digital camera that was putting photos out that were 640 by 480 so...basically the size of a postage stamp now? So from there I kept going up and around 2010 I got my dream camera which is the Canon 5D Mark III, and I've been using that ever since. 

I actually was in tech for the past 20 years. I was trained and worked as a mechanical engineer, and then I went into product management, most recently was at Facebook and Instagram. But I always loved the creative process of photography and when I had my daughter I knew I wanted to spend a lot of time with her and work wasn't letting me do that, between the commute and work itself, so it was the right time to transition. I was able to practice on her because she was my captive subject, so I honed my eye on her. But two years ago I discovered this thing called brand photography, which sounded exactly like what I wanted to be doing, because I love hearing people's stories. What I did a lot in product management was to talk with so many different kinds of stakeholders, whether it was artists, engineers, lawyers, advertisers, and everyone has their own language and they don't always jibe with everyone else's. So, as a product person I enjoyed being able to work with each one individually and understand where they're coming and take everyone in a room and bring them together as a team so that everyone could understand where everyone else was coming from so we could create something that was a unified vision. So,  that whole story-telling aspect, I wanted to do that with photography. So I'm able to do this with entrepreneurs, where they are living their heart's passion but being an entrepreneur they're so focused on the day-to-day doing a million things at the same time, so telling their story is probably not what they're spending a lot of time doing. Especially when it's they themselves represent the brand as much as the service or product they're offering, so what I wanted to do was to be able to get to know the story and then celebrate who they were and take that time and really show how they bring themselves into their work and create a visual narrative that reflects all that. That's the kind of relationship I love building with my clients.

What inspired your style/styling for this curdbox?

I really like the grace and organic feel of nature and that's what I wanted to bring into it. So I really love product design, and whenever you want to communicate something it's about getting down to the very core essence of that, while stripping away everything that's extraneous. So I liked to bring that pure focused nuanced sense to the photos I create. So in this case, I wanted to evoke nature and the outdoors and that breath of fresh air. That's also why I chose the materials I chose, even though they are gilded, it's still a stone surface, so I wanted to bring elements of nature in a subtle way. I wanted to use the plant to use, which is something I inherited from my grandmother who passed away two years ago, so it had special sentimental meaning for me, so I wanted to let that frame the cheeses. 

What did you most enjoy about participating in this contest?

The opportunity to have so much fun with the cheeses and see the different personalities. I read later in your blog post for the Grate Outdoors that the Vat 17 was particularly good for nuggeting, but I had noticed that it just came apart that way. So I really wanted to bring out the textures of those cheeses because for me that's a lot of the fun of playing with food, is seeing the contrast and textures and by emphasizing those it gives hopefully the viewer a sense of what it would be like to eat those. So even though it's not tactile, it's as close as you can get type of thing. 

What was the most challenging part?

Knowing when to stop! One thing I've learned as a photographer is that you can have a plan for what you want to do, for the atmosphere you want to set for the shoot, but you should also never constrain yourself too much, like "I'm going to get this one shot" because I've found that I start with one composition, and then I play with it a little more, and it goes in a different direction, and basically I let myself go into a flow and see where it takes me. And I find that my favorite images are generally not the first ones. So with the one you chose, it went in that same direction: I started wanting an architectural feel, and then I wanted to do a retro style, but then it led me to this idea of letting the individual cheeses shine and then wanting to bring them back together and evoke the outdoors a little more, and that's how we ended there. So the hardest part is figuring out which photos to deliver. I actually edited 71 photos, but I didn't want to overwhelm you. But it's fun to share my vision and have fun with it.

Did you have a favorite photo?

That's like asking which one is your favorite child! I enjoyed creating all of them.

Which was your favorite cheese and/or cheese combo?

We loved all the cheeses but our two favorites were the cave-aged cheddar and the Vat 17 and I think that's because of those beautiful crystals scattered liberally through the cheese. And my husband is from Wisconsin so he is a true cheese lover and connoisseur and he couldn't get enough of them. We also loved putting them on the potato chips because the crunch came through with the slight spice, that was nice.

What about the pairings?

Probably the chips. I love the idea of the infused almonds. I actually served it to my parents without telling them what it was and it completely eluded them, they had no idea what they were eating. I enjoyed them because they were so quirky but I liked them more on their own. 

Anything else you want to add?

Thank you for having this! It's a great way to have fun and creativity. And being able to see what other people do. I'm glad I was in a later contest so I could see what other people had done. But just the opportunity was great because I'm the mother of a four-year-old and she takes up most of my time so I don't get a lot of time for personal creative projects as much as I'd like to. So this was a wonderful escape for me. And of course just being able to have the cheese and pairings would be fantastic for people who are otherwise limited to the way they can enjoy themselves. You can't just go out to a wine bar anymore, so having a gourmet tasting fun experience at home is really nice to have.  


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