DPP: It's impressive that you can be such a strong still-life photographer and people photographer, for instance, at the same time. That's a rarity in the photography world. The common thread in all your work, be it portraits or food photography or still lifes, is the very graphic nature of the images.
Habib: I like very simple and graphic images, and I like strong color. I love the work of Andy Warhol. Bill Brandt was a huge influence on me at one stage. Jeanloup Sieff, as well. Irving Penn had a huge influence on me. Chuck Close—I love his portraits. Very graphic and powerful.
DPP: Like your image of chopsticks in a takeout container set in a red background. It's a great example of a graphic photo with strong Warhol-type colors. How do you create these types of images?
Habib: A lot of them are shot separately. I shot the chopsticks and container on a neutral background, then created the red background and the shadowing in Photoshop. There's a bit of refining to do, but it's pretty straightforward.
I loved the idea of starting with a blank canvas. I found that my studio in London was bogging me down more than anything. I just let go of it and haven't had a studio since. I love the freedom of it.DPP: How did you learn the craft of photography?
Habib: I went to Mallinson's School of Photography on the Isle of Wight. That was a two-year course. It was basically black-and-white fine-art photography. We did landscapes and printing. Then I went to the New England School of Photography in Boston for two years. That was very commercially oriented. Their goal was for you to come out of the program with a commercial portfolio so you could go out and get work. That's where I learned the 8x10 and 4x5 cameras. I then assisted for about a year in Boston before opening my studio there in 1983. Then I went back to Europe in 1986 and opened a studio in London. In 1994, I based myself in Paris until 1997 when I came back to the States and settled in New York. I was shooting mostly 8x10 for the still lifes in Europe, but when I came here they seemed to prefer the 4x5, basically because it's quicker.