An Interview with Rebecca Simonov (Clumsy Cook) conducted by Marilyn Schotland
Bombus Press: Hello! Thank you for joining us and being here and we are extraordinarily excited to have your work in the first issue of our journal.
Rebecca Simonov: Thank you so much, it’s an honor to be a part of Bombus Press as it’s starting out and I’m really excited to see where this lit mag goes.
BP: Oh god, that sounds so awkward.
RS: “Lart mag”.
BP: How did you get into photography?
RS: It actually stemmed from me getting into videography first. I started out making cooking videos on YouTube, as a means to get into film school. I wanted to learn how to use a camera, and I thought, “How can I go to film school if I’ve never used a camera?” Eventually, that got me on to Instagram and social media, where I saw all these beautiful photos. I needed to figure out how to do this too! Luckily, I had a DSLR from my videos, so I kinda started seeing how can I recreate some of my favorite photographer’s styles, (badly), but I tried and it kind of became an even greater love than videography. I just love it so much now.
BP: Do you see yourself as having a specific style or one that is ever evolving?
RS: Honestly, it’s kind of more like one that seesaws and I find myself in between modes of inspiration. Sometimes, I’m really into very dark, moody, staged and artistic styles. I love that natural light and stuff that feels more ethereal and warmer. And I find that the issue with my Instagram is that never really has a consistent style, which I know is bad for marketing. Every time I take a photo, I look at it as its' own thing.
BP: What has influenced your style? Who are your current inspirations?
RS: There are certain food photographers in the field, who are just amazing; some of my favorites are Beth Kirby, (who's great as a base), and Skye McAlpine. There’s a certain sect of Instagram food photographers whose work which is dark, rustic and very stylized. I love that, but I don’t want to get caught up in it. Currently, I think there are two types of photography that are very popular right now: one is very bright and blown out and the other one is darker. I want to see if I can get my own medium.
BP: Being a Michigan native, do you see your work as being inspired by a sense of place?
RS: When I started, I was 17, and I was very, “I’m sick of Michigan; I want to travel“. And I still want to do that, but I found myself gravitating towards other cultures and cuisines. I want to be in Thailand, so I’m going to learn how to cook traditional Thai dishes. More and more lately, especially with Detroit’s growing food scene, I’ve found myself loving the stories that Michigan can have. For example, the produce of Michigan is not necessarily unique, but it is Michigan produce and Michigan producers. I think there’s a little bit more truth to cooking, especially flavor wise. When something tastes good, you’re excited to shoot it.
BP: How do you go about translating food from table to screen?
RS: It varies from dish to dish. There are different elements of different foods that are more relatable to people. For example, if you’re shooting pancakes, people can empathize with the image of syrup dripping down and butter melting; and you can play into that. For pasta, conversely, you might want to focus on the movement and the garnishes. Each dish has its' own highlight points and I don’t always know what those are; they tend to come together naturally. Trying to put movement in allows me to understand the taste better.
BP: Finally, a question that we've asked all our editors: what do you like most about bees?
RS: What I love most about bees, (and I say this in an ecological sense too,) is how important and absolutely crucial they are to our entire food system. And it’s unfortunate that bee populations are depleting, but I’m not scared of bees anymore! I look at them and say, “Oh, you’re why we have beautiful flowers and beautiful fruits and beautiful everything, and you might be a little scary, but that’s ok”.
REBECCA SIMONOV is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying communications with a minor in food and the environment. She is a cook and photographer, specializing in food photography (but likes to dabble in other types). She is passionate about feminism, human rights, and sustainability. In her free time, she can probably be found in the kitchen or outside in the woods. Instagram Facebook YouTube