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Photographer Brian Grech Gives The Back Story To The Poignant Broken Plates Shoot

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Just weeks after the assassination of journalist and editor Daphne Caruana Galizia, the latest issue of ‘Taste&Flair’ was published – a magazine representing the literary manifestation of ‘the other side’ of the investigate journalist’s persona. Within it, a poignant photographic spread that struck a chord with a grieving public. Brian Grech spoke to Lovin Malta about his work on the shoot. 

 “A few hours before the incident, I was on the phone with Daphne planning the mushroom-themed photoshoot happening that same week. The last time we spoke, we decided I’d be in touch with her regarding a concept for this shoot, and if necessary she would get some props [to the set] with her”. 

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Photos: Brian Grech for Taste&Flair, 2017

Brian Grech first met Caruana Galizia in 2011. He had worked with her on a two-day shoot at her house in Bidnija, which she’d meticulously styled with objects she loved and collected over time. Grech is a photographer and visual designer who’s been working in various media for the past nineteen years. His work has been published in high-profile titles such as Dazed & Confused (Korea), Harpers Bazaar (UK), Elle Decoration, Wallpaper* City Guides and more. He characterises his working relationship with Caruana Galizia as trusting – she gave him full creative liberty, and this shoot was no exception. 

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Photo: Brian Grech for Taste&Flair, 2017

“Generally Daphne would leave things in my hands, and [my colleague] Stephen Azzopardi assists, taking care of the art direction,” Grech explains, describing their conversations around this particular shoot. “There was no real brief apart that the food would be prepared by [chef] Michael Diacono, and that it would have a mushroom theme”. 

Ultimately, Caruana Galizia would never become aware of the shattered ceramic idea. The direction was steered completely by Grech, and he’d already worked with similar visuals for a shoot back in 2010 for Style on Sunday magazine. But this new spread would be contextualised by the shocking events that had unfolded at the beginning of the week, a mere three days before Grech was set to shoot. This series would have a completely different meaning.  

 
“Smashed plates are more difficult than people might think. Once you hit the plates, the pieces scatter completely. When I first tried it to see how it could work out, the plate ended up all over the place. But I knew that it could create visual impact. A few years later it was interesting to see that chef Massimo Bottura was working in a similar vein with his deconstructed/smashed desert dishes, where the food was dropped/smashed on the plate, not the actual crockery”.

“I felt that this food shoot had to pass on a message”

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Photos: Brian Grech for Taste&Flair, 2017

Grech infused the concept of deconstructed tableware with the emotional repercussions felt by the real-life events that had taken place – events that took hold of the nation and shattered its serenity. “Although Taste&Flair had nothing to do with Daphne’s blog, I felt that this food shoot had to pass on a message”.  

He describes the feeling of suspension he found himself in following the assassination – both on an emotional and practical level. “No one really knew what was going on with the magazine since Daphne was the mastermind behind it,” Grech explains. “My first thoughts were to create a very violent photoshoot, however at the time I was unsure who would have the final say on the editorial content, so I opted to tone the theme down. It was then decided that the November issue would be published as planned – apparently Daphne had already prepared most of the content”.

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Photo: Brian Grech for Taste&Flair, 2017

Although Grech’s decision to tone down the violence in the shoot was borne out of a feeling of insecurity over editorial direction, it was perhaps the best direction the photographer could have taken. The strength of the shoot ultimately lies in the idea of layers. Masking, transparency, and destruction intermingle and together provide that ever-familiar sense of emotional fragmentation. A sensation that what’s being seen actually has a multitude of truths attached to it.

“It’s the idea of shattered beauty, shattered freedom of speech,” Grech says. “If you zoom in on some of the images, you’ll see pieces of newspaper, dented cutlery and notebook pages – and they speak for themselves.”

“In a world where I feel people read less, visual imagery can have more impact”

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Photo: Brian Grech for Taste&Flair, 2017

“Art and photography can show beauty as well educate,” says Grech whilst reflecting on the role design can play in moments of crisis. “It can also alienate and make people dream. It can shock, make people think, question things, question the obvious, look at things differently, make people feel uncomfortable and bring them out of their safe zone. In a world where I feel people read less, visual imagery can have more impact”. 

Grech describes the shoot as a “personal tribute”, and mourns the fact that Caruana Galizia will never get to see it. “It was a very emotional one for everyone at the photoshoot. The feeling was surreal because there were times when Daphne would turn up to shoots to see what was going on. This time, we had to come to terms that this was not going to happen”.

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“Daphne trusted me blindly”

Photo: Brian Grech for Taste&Flair, 2017

When asked if he would work with Taste&Flair again – it’s since been confirmed that the magazine will continue to be published – Grech said that he would, without hesitation. On the question of whether he could foresee the shoot’s impact with its audience once it was published, he says that he didn’t really concern himself with how people would perceive it, but that he did intend to “pass a on a social message”.  

“I just had to somehow incorporate the events of that week and their impact. I felt this was a way I could express myself and make people think.”

As ever, it’s impossible to know how those who are no longer here would perceive their friends, families, or collaborators’ reactions to their absence, in whatever format they might be expressed. We’ll never know what Caruana Galizia would have made of Grech’s narrative. But it’s from the relationship he shared with the editor that the photographer feels he can confidently extrapolate her reaction. “Daphne trusted me blindly with food photoshoots. I feel confident she would have loved it.”

To see more of Brian Grech’s work you can visit his website here. 

What did you think of the photoshoot? Let us know in the comments section!

READ NEXT: WATCH: Young Daphne Caruana Galizia Speaks Her Mind In Rare TV Interview

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