Previous to her life as a Los Angeles-based portrait photographer, Angela Marklew studied chemistry and worked as a scientist testing explosives for the Canadian government before deciding to follow a safer path. "Risking violent encounters in Nevada, dehydration in New Mexico, even becoming the lone victim in a near-fatal car accident," explains Marklew in her bio, "there are virtually no limits to what I will face when there are images to be captured. I can commonly be found scaling broken ladders, jumping fences and wading in swamps to realize creative pursuits."
At first glance, it seems like any other beauty shot. A lovely girl with exquisite features fills the frame, her styled hair atop those perfect features, accented with nude lipstick, subtle eye shadows and dramatic lines of bright-red rouge leading the eye down her cheekbones. On her smooth and bare neck and shoulders, she elegantly displays two mimicked strands of plump, red beads, one slightly smaller and slightly shorter than the other. Though the beads are very nearly identical, you can see a small differentiation between the colors and shapes. You soon recognize that not only are the beads organic and unique, they are, in fact, fresh cherry tomatoes strung together to create a faux necklace.
Angela Marklew's personal project thef word presents stunning examples of modern fashion and beauty photography with food either playing a supporting role to the story of the image or becoming part of the costuming and style. Striking models are portrayed wearing stunning chokers made of lettuce or sleek ties made of silvery, whole fish. In each image, Marklew's photography juxtaposes the expectation of precision and control of modern beauty photography with the playful and intriguing nature of the unexpected.
That balance between two seemingly separate, though oddly connected, concepts fits the portrait of Marklew herself. Though Marklew studied darkroom photography for two weeks when she was 16, her education and first career were in chemistry; straight out of college, she was actually a scientist in a Canadian government lab. But the chemistry that she was doing with her job and her interest in the analog photographic process weren't so separate as one might think. The science background gave her the ability to problem-solve and think analytically, where the photography that she pursued for fun was an outlet for her creativity and artistic sensibilities. The two lives complemented each other, and Marklew jumped at the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and escape the harsh winters of her native Canada, considering that leap of faith her retirement from science. Her new goal was to succeed as a professional photographer.
Though she had been photographing for years at this point, she had never had any formal training. Once in Los Angeles, she looked around for an internship or assistantship where she could work and learn under the tutelage of an established professional. She responded to a Craigslist posting by renowned Los Angeles photographer Mark Robert Halper, and when she went in for the interview, they clicked.
"Our personalities complemented each other, which is important when working with someone every day," Marklew explains. "I think he also saw that I wanted to learn, and my background in science gave me the tools to solve problems."
For eight months in 2006, Marklew was Halper's first assistant, helping with photo shoots and workshops, gleaning everything that she could about lighting, posing, photography and the business. At this point, she also picked up a digital camera and started to learn that process, though it was one step removed from the familiar chemistry of the darkroom.