In­spired by his ce­ram­i­cist mother, teenager ben orkin Is tak­ing the world of food In­sta­gram­ming by storm


We in­ter­view Ben and Gemma Orkin, mother and son tak­ing the food in­dus­try by storm

What were you do­ing aged 17? The only job I had was temp work, most of­ten stand­ing out­side New­lands cricket ground as a hu­man bill­board while be­ing mocked by my peers.

17-year-old In­sta­gram star and food­pho­tog­ra­pher Ben Orkin has clients both lo­cal and over­seas and the mak­ings of an ac­tual ca­reer. All from broadcasting his food photography hobby through

In­sta­gram … while im­per­son­at­ing a reg­u­lar school-go­ing teen in Cape Town.

Raised in a fam­ily of food­ies, Ben says, ‘My mum is the chef in the fam­ily and I was in­spired by her, but ev­ery­one in my fam­ily is a cook. It’s in­spired me to cook.’

It helps that his mother is re­spected ce­ram­i­cist Gemma Orkin, her wares fea­tur­ing oc­ca­sion­ally in his pics. ‘I get amazed at what he does,’ she says, ‘es­pe­cially his photography. He sees beauty in things I would not re­ally no­tice. It’s styled to a point, but what he pho­to­graphs is very hon­est.’

The shoots hap­pen in his bed­room in the fam­ily home in Clare­mont. Whereas most teenage boys will have walls plas­tered with var­i­ous dec­la­ra­tions of in­fat­u­a­tion or re­bel­lion, Ben’s room is neat and or­dered, adorned with the odd sculp­ture or sketch. Most of the space is ded­i­cated to his craft. Ben has plenty of props; plates, trays, cloths, kitchen tow­els and other goedes that will bump a food im­age from good to great. ‘The cook­ing and bak­ing goes on in the kitchen and then I shoot in here with all my props. I do art and de­sign at school, and I ap­ply what I learn in those sub­jects into my food styling and photography. Dur­ing the mak­ing of the food, I photograph the process. Once it’s made I will style it with props. Then I will photograph it, and edit it in Pho­to­shop. That’s the process for the blog us­ing a Canon 5D MARKIII. For In­sta­gram I will use my iphone in much the same

‘He sees beauty in things I would not re­ally no­tice. It’s styled to a point, but what he pho­to­graphs is very hon­est.’ Gemma Orkin

process. It feels like cheat­ing to use a proper cam­era for In­sta­gram.’

That feel of an Ital­ian nonna’s kitchen? Ben’s room. That mouth-wa­ter­ing shot of freshly baked bread? Ben’s room. The bowl of peas that look as if they just came from a coun­try gar­den? You guessed it.

On get­ting at­ten­tion from clients and the me­dia, Ben says, ‘It’s so ex­cit­ing. It’s so nice to feel re­warded for all the hard work you put in. Es­pe­cially when it’s a client want­ing you to photograph one of their prod­ucts.’

As for the medium it­self. ‘I used to look at the num­bers on In­sta­gram, whether my ac­count went up or down, but I don’t do that any more. I fo­cus on the con­tent… There are a few In­sta­gram ac­counts that I re­ally en­joy, but I try not to be too in­spired and in­flu­enced. I try to be orig­i­nal and unique.’

Ben’s plan af­ter school is to get in to New York’s School of Vis­ual Arts to study de­sign. Then he wants to be a food stylist and pho­tog­ra­pher. ‘I’ve al­ways had an idea of what I want to do.’

A 17-year-old talk­ing about orig­i­nal­ity, his busi­ness and a solid plan for the fu­ture? #blessed

In­sta­gram: BENORKIN ben­skitchen­

Ben with his mother, ce­ram­i­cist Gemma Orkin OP­PO­SITE PAGE, FROM TOP LEFT Ben’s In­sta­gram post of Hearty Spiced Lentil Soup; Ben at work; ce­ram­ics by Gemma Orkin

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Ben’s col­lec­tion of props; Gemma at work in her stu­dio; Ben’s In­sta­gram post of Christ­mas Chal­lah; Ben prep­ping in the kitchen; Ben’s In­sta­gram post of Meat­loaf Kof­tas and Tomato Bul­gur Salad

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