Seiji Nanbu’s passion for food and photography is palpable through the vibrant content he features on his social media platforms, and through freelance collaborations with restaurants, coffee shops, and culinary entrepreneurs. Talking with him, though, it’s clear to see that his work goes beyond just getting the perfect shot for posterity sake. Instead, he puts enjoyment of food over flawless documentation, and elevating the work and stories of food creators he admires above all else.
Can you tell us more about where you're located and how you first got interested in photography and content creation?
I’m based out of Portland, but make very frequent trips to Seattle. My interest in Photography started out with me just taking some cell phone photos of whatever I was eating. I eventually started taking a lot of photos of the great meals I was having in town, which then evolved into people asking me to come take photos.
Food and coffee feature heavily in your work! What is your favorite type of content to create, and how did you hone in on this specific focus?
My favorite type of content is definitely restaurant food content. I love channeling the creativity found in both the chef's food and the restaurant's design. The honing came naturally when I started bringing my camera with me on my food adventures.
We’d love to know more about your process! How do you set up the “perfect shot,” and what types of tools and methods do you like to use to make this happen?
My perfect shot always happens next to a window with lots of natural light. I love the nice diffused natural light that fills up a room on a cloudy day. It also generally involves lots of symmetrical subjects.
How do you use the lens of food and coffee to tell the stories of the individuals and businesses that create them?
People often use mediums such as food and drink to really display their personality and unique style. My photography just helps capture and reframe that into a shareable format that everyone on the internet can enjoy. I don't often feel like I do much of the creative work behind the food photos, I just help the real creators have a better way of sharing their passion and experience.
How did your world of content creation change during the height of the pandemic, and how did you deal with and adapt to not being able to physically enter so many restaurant and cafe spaces?
The pandemic really made me take a long hard break and reevaluate how I wanted to keep doing freelance work. While I ended up not doing any photography during most of the last year, I got to channel my creativity through food writing instead. Now that things are opening back up, I feel like I have a much more stable and diverse work situation as well.
What have been some of your favorite dishes, and coffee drinks, to photograph and consume in 2021 so far?
It's been hard with everything being takeout only, but I've found myself enjoying and taking photos of more meals at home. One of my tastiest and most gorgeous home dishes has been the masterpiece of a pork chop from the good folks at Piccone's Corner.
How do you balance getting a great image with enjoying the food and the moment?
I've learned to take my photos quickly and efficiently, so that I can get to my food before it gets cold! This requires occasionally compromising the perfect shot so that I can enjoy my meal.
When you’re not photographing the culinary creations of others, do you like to cook for yourself at home? Any favorite dishes to prepare and share?
While the frequency of cooking at home has increased, I'm usually a pretty big fan of simple dishes that are ingredient forward. When I cook at home it's usually something like salads with veggies from the farmer's market, chicken on a charcoal grill, or fried eggs with a companion.
And what about coffee -- do you have an ideal at home coffee ritual and brew method?
Until I got my new Ratio Six, I was brewing a lot on my Kalita or my Clever dripper. For smaller batches I still use both. My usual ritual is getting to work and dialing in whatever's fresh from my Bottomless subscription on my Kalita.
What are some of the top spots you’re hoping to visit and photograph this year in Portland and beyond?
This year I'm excited to be photographing some amazing food for Feast Portland, but I'm also stoked to visit San Francisco and New York City again, and take some restaurant food pics for fun.