Category: Photography

James Ransom: Culinary Color


James Ransom moved to New York City in 2000 and in the intervening years has quietly become one of a handful of  top commercial food photographers. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Food & Wine. He is also part of the team at Food52—a popular foodie website. A graduate of the BYU Photography program, Ransom recently worked on advertising projects for HP, West Elm, and Walmart. He also traveled the world for photo shoots in Brazil, India, and Egypt. HIs popular Instagram feed also has a healthy supply of bacon. Ransom was also the first artist profiled on The Krakens. He lives with his wife and four kids in Manhattan.

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How did food become a big part of your repertoire? I was introduced to food photography 10 years ago when I shared a studio with another food photographer. I got to work on a couple of projects with him and learned to recognize what good food photography looks like. A few years later I got a glimpse of food from an editorial perspective while working as a photo assistant. I built up a small body of work on my own and was fortunate to meet Food52 in 2011. We hit it off and I’ve been working with them ever since. It’s been such an amazing opportunity. The latest Food52 cookbook, A New Way to Dinner, was just released on October 18th.

Describe the Mormon artist community in New York these days. I live in a relatively inexpensive neighborhood, so our ward has always been full of artists of all disciplines (our musical numbers in Sacrament Meeting are always amazing) and I’ve gotten to know a good number of Mormon artists over the years. We don’t get together and hang out or collaborate very often, but there is a sense of camaraderie because we’re all in the struggle together, as artists trying to live the New York dream, and as Mormons. Apart from the Mormon Artists Group, I haven’t seen a ton of interaction among Mormon artists in New York.

What’s next for you? I’ve started to dabble in video, so that’s something I’d like to continue learning about and producing. I’d also like to venture back into the fine art photography world. My younger brother took his own life 6 years ago at the age of 28, and it’s something I’ve struggled to come to terms with. Because it’s such a stigma in society, and in the Mormon faith in particular, it doesn’t get talked about enough. It’s easier to not talk about it. I’m hoping to produce a body of work that will help me, and maybe others, deal with the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide.

Visit James Ransom’s website.

Follow James Ransom on Instagram.


Veronica Olson: Photography


Veronica Olson is a talented photographer and prop stylist. She graduated from BYU and has a sumptuous Instagram feed. Olson lives in New York City. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her work as a prop stylist.

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Tell us about your journey growing up and becoming a photographer. As a child, I was always into art: drawing, coloring, sewing, crafts. Anything visual and creative. Relatives and teachers complimented me from a young age, and my love for art was reinforced. Later, in high school, as I started thinking about college majors and a future career, I was starting to lose interest in drawing and painting. I had lost its joy, and I could no longer execute what I envisioned. I continued with the advanced classes, because I had for so long identified myself as an artist, but remember feeling like a fraud surrounded by the other students.

I credit my initial interest in photography to my dad. Always a supportive parent, if my brother, sister or I had interest in a hobby, he would not only encourage us, but participate as well. So, looking for another artistic field I may enjoy, he signed us up for a extracurricular photography course, and bought a DSLR. I loved those weekly night classes together, and found a new way to express creativity. Instead of rendering from a blank page, I discovered how to work with what was already there, adding, reducing and changing perspective to determine the content of my frame and tell a story.

When I went to Brigham Young University, I was accepted into the photo program, and over those four years, learned more about technique, process, the industry, and art direction. I created a large portfolio of still life work, planning and styling with exactness. My teachers gave me a hard time for being too narrow in my work, pushing me to branch out of still life, but I’d determined my direction, and I think it helped me get a head start in the industry. (Although I definitely admit I should have been more humble in listening to their critiques and trying new things!) But the industry in New York requires some specialization, and still life is where I thrive.

You once wrote, ‘When I want to make something happen, I determinedly do, with discipline and faith.’ Explain how this applies to your craft. I believe we are all creative, being children of God, the ultimate Creator. Being creative, and especially being creative for a living, requires immense faith. And faith requires action. As a photographer, I want to have faith in Him, trust the worthwhile process of creativity (even with setbacks), and be open to His will. I have a tiny perspective of where I’m at in my career, satisfaction with my work, my ability to create the beauty I want to create – and without hope in Him and surrendering my own will, stubbornness and discouragement really get in the way. I want to be constantly progressing and hopefully becoming more like Christ, and that applies to creativity and career as well.

I must have faith, that with discipline and His grace, I can achieve anything. I’ve seen it many times: when I’ve doubted my own ability to move to New York, take on a big job, work freelance, finish a stalled project, ask for help. The path isn’t always clear, but I determinedly move forward and it works out, and I’m reminded every time to have more faith and confidence. I’m also a big believer in visualization as a form of prayer. I am very grateful for the opportunities in my short career so far, and while I’ve worked hard to meet goals, I totally attribute any success to blessings from Him.

Visit Veronica Olson’s website.

Follow Veronica Olson on Instagram.


Mark Owens: Landscapes


Mark Owens is a professional photographer based in San Diego, California. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and studied photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He was profiled previously on The Krakens  for his Celebrity Photography.

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What makes a landscape great? That’s a difficult call as defining greatness is a subjective exercise. Everyone’s criteria are different. For me, shots that combine technical excellence and a unique perspective are good. But if a shot also transmits meaning and can conjure an emotional response, then it’s great.

What do you travel with? It depends on the destination, time of year, and client. So it varies, but the essentials are:

  • MacBook Pro laptop. These days with social media being so important, turnaround time is almost immediate.
  • Camera Bodies. I always have 2 in case one breaks down. I had a sensor fried by lasers in Taiwan once, so I was glad to have a backup.
  • Variety of Lenses. Always a 24-70 fixed 2.8, telephoto and a fisheye. Then depending on luggage space and location I will bring others.
  • Bose noise canceling headphones. Flights are noisy.
  • Flights are cold.
  • iPad filled with movies. Flights are long.

Do you ever get time for yourself? Unfortunately not that often. Typically if I’m on the road with a musician and we have a few hours free it’s spent editing photos or sleeping. But if the schedule permits sometimes I will fly out early to shoot and enjoy it. (For Hawaii I went out a week early).

Visit Mark Owens’ website.

Follow Mark Owens on Instagram.


All photos copyright Mark Owens.

Jed Wells: Me


Jed Wells is a freelance filmmaker and photographer with an amazing series entitled Me. He graduated from the photography program at BYU. He was profiled previously on The Krakens for his series Peru. Wells lives in Utah.

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Tell us about your creative career. Like a proper history, or an impression of what my career is? Because in many ways, it’s a total mess. When people ask me what I am or what I do, I’m not sure from week to week how to answer. I usually settle on “Photographer” as the 1st level, asked and answered, put a label on it response. If anyone asks beyond that, it gets fuzzy pretty quick. I graduated from BYU with a BFA in photography. The kind of photography where the images don’t move. I was interested in motion picture, not just in the cinematography, but in direction and storytelling in general. I had acted through high school (had an agent, walked away from a college theater scholarship after my mission) and the notion of marrying those worlds– of seeing my pictures move, of developing and framing a story, using music and props and wardrobe– was totally enchanting to me. So I got involved in that stuff my junior year at BYU. Shot some shorts, did a crash course in independent film studies of my own invention, and wound up shooting and directing a feature film the spring after my senior year. That project kept me in Provo that last year instead of venturing out to New York or LA to do a traditional photo internship.

I had determined early on that I wasn’t a weddings and families photographer. Just isn’t my nature and I’m not sure I’m very good at it. So living in Provo with a wife and kids, wishing I was making movies, not taking weddings… the only thing left for me to do was become a graphic designer. I got a couple of in-house jobs, designed a lot of web banners and album covers, and slowly worked my way into the local music scene shooting bands and making music videos. The advent of DSLR video, specifically the Canon 5D MkII, was my ticket to ride. One tool that could get me two jobs. I started doing that and bit by bit, good word of mouth, loyal clients and the right connections got me on my feet (did I mention I got fired from my design job in 2009, effectively knocking me off my feet?) and I’ve been juggling a career ever since that lives somewhere between, and often, combines still and motion picture in a variety of assignments around the world. It most ways it’s a dream come true. Sometimes, especially when someone asks, “So what do you do for a living?” I’d love to be able to say, “I’m a photographer. I do this one thing, and that’s it.” But it’s not exactly true.

Talk about your series Me. The Me series is a compilation of self-portraits taken over a couple of years when I was involved in a beard and moustache-growing community. It was pre-Instagram, pre-most of social media landscape that exists now. We were a fraternity of like-minded creatives across the country who liked cultivating our facial hair, taking pictures of it on a daily basis, and getting feedback from our fraternity of like-minded creatives across the country. I took the task pretty seriously and got more elaborate with my portraits than my wife thought was prudent at the time. I was between jobs (polite way of saying I had just been fired) and had a lot of spare time, so I used the time to exercise my camera, explore storytelling, and admire my own visage for hours every day. To my wife’s credit, she rolled her eyes when I was setting up and shooting these images, but she never stopped me from doing them, and the resulting series has landed me more work that almost anything else in my portfolio.

Visit Jed Wells’ website.

Follow Jed Wells on Instagram. His work Instagram is here.


Veronica Olson: Prop Stylist


Veronica Olson is a talented prop stylist and professional photographer. Olson graduated from BYU and has a sumptuous Instagram feed full of delightful images. Olson lives in New York City.


Tell us about your work as a stylist. After graduating with a BFA in photography, I started out in New York assisting super talented prop stylist Robyn Glaser. I was lucky to learn from her on set with some of the best photographers in the commercial world, and discover the industry of styling.

While I’m still pursuing photography as well, working in props is really fulfilling. When shooting my own personal work, what I always loved is using objects to tell a story, and arranging various items to form a whole. So prop styling is a natural route for me. I enjoy sourcing props, shopping, collaborating with photographers and art directors, and deciding the visual direction of the image. On a commercial shoot, the stylist can almost have more creativity; a photographer determines the lighting, but a stylist is choosing colors, composition, textures, shapes. This year I’ve had fun jobs for clients like American Girl, Williams Sonoma, Yosi Samra, NBC Today, Gracious Home, Food52. I appreciate that being freelance, it’s something different every time. I could be styling shoes for a holiday catalog one week, and a kids cookbook the next.

I enjoy projects with great clients, food stylists, assistants, etc.; the still life industry is full of nice people, and it’s usually such a collaborative effort. Often photographers can request a certain stylist on a job, and I’m thankful for talented photographers I love working with like James Ransom and Nicole Gerulat, who have helped me grow and accelerate my career.

What’s next for you? For this year, one goal is to focus more on my photography. I’ve sort of put photography on the back burner while being so busy with styling, but I don’t want to abandon that side of my craft. I want to get back into shooting more often, and expand that client base. I’ve heard some detractors say you can’t be both a photographer and stylist, but I disagree. Each helps me be better at the other, and I like being versatile. It may not be traditional, but it works for me.

I have a few exciting commercial projects coming up already in 2016, and a collaboration with StoryKeep photographing family heirlooms. I’m also working on a site called The Family Gathering (@familygathering instagram) to share how relatives create connection to past generations, specifically through art, objects, and documenting family history.

I love New York, so I’ll continue my career here, and look forward to working with talented creatives, expanding my portfolio, and following the Lord’s will. It can be easy to get caught up in business and competition of the industry, but no matter where my career goes, I want to respond with humility, love, and grace.

Visit Veronica Olson’s website.

Follow Veronica Olson on Instagram.