Cooking Soul: Sam Mellish
Sam Mellish is a South London based photographer with a passion for food culture and aesthetics. If we are what we eat, where we eat tells something about us as well: his book “Roadside Britain” documents his journey across traditional roadside services in the UK, with images that silently tell the story of people living their life on the road. His realistic approach gives the sensation of watching through other people with a pure and genuine look.
1. How would you define your approach to food photography?
In 2008 I began a documentary project titled Roadside Britain. The work was inspired by traditional roadside services in the UK - cups of tea, bacon sandwiches, Full English Breakfasts, people on the go. Think Route 66 culture of Great Britain. It was an incredible journey observing culture on the fringes of society. This work was very much shoot what I see.
2. When did you start working with food? Why?
When I was about 15, my first job was working as a part time kitchen porter, un plongeur as Orwell would write in Down And Out in London & Paris . Le Talbooth was a rather beautiful restaurant in Dedham Vale, in Suffolk. Its Constable Country, very picturesque. I went on to working in kitchens around the world - Australia, the European Alps, London... During this time, I was practicing to become a full time photographer which i achieved in 2008.
3. What's the concept behind the series (the one we'll publish with the article)?
Roadside Britain explores the traditional and quintessential aspects of British trunk road-side culture, with emphasis on location and environment. The work features images from across the length and breadth of the UK. Depicting the people and places of a threatened livelihood, the images are by turns warm, nostalgic, quirky and melancholic, and have immediate appeal to anyone who has ever driven any distance along the country’s A and B roads.
Roadside Britain was published by diesel books in 2012. More info here: https://dieselbooks.co.uk/books/
4. Are you a food passionate or you're just fascinated by its aesthetics?
I love food, though I’m not a foodie. I like to cook for people, and enjoy cooking for myself. My girlfriend calls me fussy, but I disagree. Working at Le Talbooth during the 90’s was a good time. Seeing Marco Pierre White’s ‘ White Heat’ at the age of 15 was mind blowing. I knew when I saw that book I wanted to be a photographer. Bob Carlos Clarke and Martin Parr were real inspirations to me in my late teens. They still are today.
5. You are engaged with many UK’s leading third sector organizations. What leads your passion towards these kind of initiatives?
For me, photography has always been about shooting real situations. There might be some direction and set up, but I’ve always lent towards documentary or photojournalism. I’m lucky to work with some amazing clients, and work on campaigns and commissions that might have lasting impact for is something I’m very proud to do.
6. You are based in South London. What's your favorite restaurant in the city?
Thats right, I’ve been in the lovely South London for about three years. There are many great places to eat south of the River. Bravi Ragazzi in Streatham is an awesome family run sourdough pizza place. Really friendly, great wine and the produce is spot on. I took my girlfriend to Sketch London in Mayfair a few years back and that as incredible, the service, champagne and food was a wonderful experience. We’re very lucky in London, we are spoilt for choice.
Photographs by Sam Mellish