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Rick Pushinsky and his dad Steven
3rd October 2017

Just Not Kosher: Q&A with Rick Pushinsky

“I was terrified for the whole journey to Devon,” says photographer Rick Pushinsky speaking about his favourite portrait commission to date. “But after the photos were taken, I found David Bailey to be great company. We had cheese toasties and he told me his favourite joke, which was about a snail.”
Rick Pushinsky's new recipe cards, Just Not Kosher
London-based photographer Rick Pushinsky is a people-person. Specialising in portraiture, he has photographed some of world’s most celebrated creatives. His portraits of Tracey Emin, Judith Kerr, Amanda Levete Architects, Erdem and Martin Roth, to name a few,  have filled the pages of some of the UK’s most-read magazines and newspapers. Vogue, the FT, The Sunday Times Style and Architectural Digest are all fans (and clients).

Rick’s latest project, however, may well be his most personal yet. Just Not Kosher is a series of recipe cards detailing some of the family meals made by Rick’s father Steven Morris (Pushinsky is the family's original name that was changed to Morris when the family moved to the UK). As the name suggests, all of the recipes can be adapted to be Kosher-friendly.  The recipe cards are unique in their approach: Rick’s beautifully abstract photographs juxtapose with the glossy 70s-esque laminate of the recipe cards and, as a distinctly personal project, the cards are joyously littered with old family photos and anecdotes. 

Take this one from the recipe for chicken soup: 

When I was nine, my mother had surgery and was incapacitated for about six weeks. Every Friday, my job would be to get the chicken soup on the go so that when she came downstairs, after I had gone to school, she didn’t need to stand at the stove nor lift any heavy pans. Needless to say, the recipe for this elixir has remained deeply embedded within my soul ever since.” 

Ahead of the recipe cards launching, we caught up with Rick to find out more about the project. In the interview that follows, Rick discusses why recipe cards are making a comeback, the “heightened hostility” in the Pushinsky/Morris household while choosing which recipes to include in the project, and his unconventional route to becoming a photographer. 
Just Not Kosher: Baked Bananas
What inspired you to pay tribute to your father’s cooking in this way?

It’s near impossible to leave my parents’ house without having overeaten. On the mornings after a get-together, my dad usually fields requests for recipes so this means that many recipes were already written down. At first, we thought about making a one-off book just for ourselves as a kind of family archive. After photographing some of Mark Hix’s food columns for the Independent I started to think I should photograph some of my dad’s dishes too, in the same way, and I began to take photos of the finished dishes. It started to build into a bit of a collection.
Rick Pushinsky's brother, Harry
How would you describe your dad’s style of cooking?

Big, irreverent.

There are a million celebrity chefs out there, what does the cooking of Steven Morris offer that they don’t?

A bunch of real dishes inspired by a family’s shared cultural history, restaurant visits and holidays to far and not so far flung places that we have enjoyed for years. Meals that have stood the test of time that can also, if you need, be made kosher for a Jewish audience.

Why did you decide to make recipe cards?

For me, all these recipes represent home. They’re the meals that I remember from growing up: things we ate abroad that my dad would attempt to imitate when we got back, and even some that my parents ate as children. The recipe card reminds me of those times gone by, of the magazine clippings and scraps of paper tucked into food-splattered and handwritten recipe books. Recipe cards are practical and their comeback is due! They are much easier than holding open a book or trying to keep an iPad dry.
Just Not Kosher: Gillians Lokshen Kugel
Can you tell us about what recipes you’ll be featuring? Do you have a favourite?

They’re a selection of perennial favourites that myself, my mum, dad and brother have all agreed on following a few months of discussion (heightened hostility). Though I love them all, my favourite is probably “Egg & Onion”. It sounds so ordinary but something magical happens when you combine the few, simple ingredients. One forkful and I’m instantly transported back to a childhood Friday night dinner.
Just Not Kosher
How will you know if the project has been successful? What do you want to achieve?

In my eyes it will be a success if people enjoy and share the recipes with their friends and families. It will also be a success when my parents are smiling on the launch night. It will save my dad from writing so many emails.

Can you cook?

I learnt from the best!

Do you approach more creative photography – like the cards and your Songs of Innocence project – differently to how you’d go about a portrait commission?

On a portrait shoot, time is usually limited. I have just a small window of time to take the required pictures. Making work for myself – like the Songs project, where there is no predetermined outcome – will often run alongside research and reading and, most importantly, they give me the time and freedom to experiment and go down esoteric rabbit holes.
Just Not Kosher: Baked Bananas
Who has been your favourite portrait subject so far?

David Bailey. I was terrified for the whole journey to Devon but after the photos were taken, I found him to be great company. We had cheese toasties and he told me his favourite joke, which was about a snail.

What do you think it is about your style of photography that people respond to?

I enjoy the people I meet and I like to think that comes across in the portraits. Perhaps my background in drawing and painting also gives me a different approach to portraiture from someone with a pure photography background. Similarly with my still lifes, I find it endlessly fascinating playing with the materials, objects and their associations, so hopefully my enthusiasm can be felt in the photographs too.
Just Not Kosher: Pissaladiere, Sea Bass on Fennel
You started off working as an artist. What made you switch to photography?

After graduating, I’d been making highly technical reworkings of old masters, then moved on to making semi-abstract paintings using photographs that I had been taking, mainly of street debris. The paintings weren’t saying what I wanted. I realised that I was into painting for it’s own sake and in fact photography was saying it better. I also began to think that being a photographer would be a really nice job, and it is.
Rick Pushinsky's new recipe cards, Just Not Kosher
Fancy trying out the recipes for yourself? Order the Just Not Kosher recipe cards here.

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