Charlie Bennet has made a remarkable journey. He was in the midst of a successful career as a brand director at one of Sweden’s major advertising agencies when he decided to start over. After more then 12 years in the advertising industry, he quit his job, went back to school and studied to become a photographer. Bennet had incidentally never before held a camera, unlike many other photographers who have been photographing since an early age. He applied to the photography school Fotoskolan STHLM in Stockholm, Sweden.
Since 2009 Charlie has made his living as a full time freelance photographer. He prefers to photograph food and interior but also blends still life shoots in to his assignments. Bennet’s photography is graphic and lines in his work are apparent.
This is how he describes his work:
”I am a former brand director with Ogilvy & Mather that turned life around and became a photographer. Photography is what I do and I do it out love and passion, which shines through in my work. I take upon every assignment with the great enthusiasm that can only come from someone dedicated by heart. I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing clients and great people. I seek challenges to constantly become better at what I do and I carry out my clients challenges with respect and humbleness. To me nothing is impossible so bring on any assignment that seems difficult and we’ll make sure it turns out amazing together.”
For more than five years Charlie, who has his roots in Stockholm, Sweden, has been based in New York City. He works out of a 3700 sqf photo studion in Midtown, Manhattan, equipped with a commercial kitchen. He lives on the Upper East Side with his wife. Between work and trips Charlie spends as much time as possible with his wife and friends. Moreover, he loves to cook as much as he enjoys the culinary offerings of the city’s restaurants.
When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a photographer? What was your first camera?
There is a very specific moment when I decided that I wanted to become a photographer. I spent close to 15 years in the advertising industry prior to switching to photography, the last 5-6 years of my career not fully enjoying my job but without really knowing what to transition into. One morning in the summer of 2007 I woke up and as a flash out of a blue sky the thought came to my mind, I was going to be a photographer. At that point I had never held a camera in my hand but had always found images interesting. I got my first camera, a Canon dslr 300D, the first digital camera Canon launched and realized I had to take a class to figure the whole photographer thing out. I quit my job, went to photography school and graduated the spring of 2009. I since then have been working as a freelance photographer, first two years in Sweden and for close to seven years in New York City.
What is it about food that is most interesting to you to shoot?
Photographing food is amazing because not only is it such an epic subject matter which allows for so many kinds of creative directions, it also blends multiple senses. Apart from the obvious, visually esthetics there is also flavors and smells. Food is also something that everyone can relate to and in that lies the challenge. It is so rewarding to create images that will inspire people to cook and eat.
Whats your favorite restaurant in New York City that has photo-worthy food?
Oh, there are so many… You typically want to make sure you shoot food outside the studio in daylight so it needs to be a place with great light. Then it comes down to what you are looking for. A slice of the best pizza could be really cool just on a disposable paper plate from Russo’s or 2 Bro’s. Black Tap has been considered one of the most popular spots for their extreme ice cream cones. If you want a great shot of a burger there are few places that would rock it better than Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. For the most beautiful food creations and still with great light I would recommend a lunch at Eleven Madison Park. Le Coucou is another fantastic place if you want to get the perfect setting for that Manhattan cocktail.
What is the coolest place you’ve traveled to for a shoot?
I’ve been shooting around some great spots on Iceland, which was really cool. I’ve also travelled to some really deserted and interesting places in America. I’ve had a few shoots in some faraway places up in norther Norway and Sweden, where you feel like you are very far from civilization.
Who are some photographers (or pieces of work) that inspire you the most?
I am inspired by so many amazing artists but to name a few Greg Crewdson, Annie Leibovitz, Pete Souza, Irving Penn, Andrea Gentl & Martin Hyers.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to rookie photographers?
Work harder than anyone else.
When shooting with VF, how did you select such specific food items to pair with the jewelry?
For the food and jewelry shoot we did it was actually a lot easier than you might think. I picked my favorite things from the kitchen – like oysters and chocolate and paired it the beautiful jewelry I felt would make great photography. In multiple cases it was just a perfect match immediately, like the eggs and the bracelet and the dark version of the earrings and the oysters.