Collection of Sources and Secondary Information

I collected my interviewees through Facebook. I joined several food allergy groups and pages. Once I was accepted to join these pages, I put out a call for anybody who would be able to give me a first-hand account on what living with an allergy is like. I was surprised with the amount of sufferers that responded, and I was left to sift through material supplied by the interviewees to then determine the most powerful responses.

I asked the participants a series of questions designed to get detailed, powerful statements. The list of questions I used is below:

*Questions were altered should the participant be accounting their experience with their family members allergy*

  • What was your first experience like when you realised you had a food allergy?
  • How do you feel when you go to a restaurant for food?
  • Do you feel like their is a stigma attached to allergies? Do people take it seriously? Do you feel judged? Etc
  • How do you feel about your allergy?
  • What has been the worst experience(s) you’ve had with your allergy?
  • Do you feel like your allergy controls you or stops dreams/aspirations etc?
  • How has your lifestyle/decisions changed since adopting to an allergy?

I met Ellen Burnup in a supermarket, she is a family friend with a gluten intolerance.

 

Secondary sourced information:

https://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/e10

https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2016/15103/quarter-of-people-with-food-allergies-suffer-reactions-when-eating-out

https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/eating-out-with-a-food-allergy.pdf

https://www.allergyuk.org

General Reflection/Summary of Project

With hindsight, I am able to reflect upon my project. I can note it’s success, disapointments, improvements and problems.

I believe my project was successful by collecting bespoke content and high quality images. I created an editorial that although was inspired (in terms of layout and other photographers), no other publication has discussed this topic in the same manner. However, I can identify weaknesses within my documentary, that with hindsight I could have improved upon.

One main weakness in my project is the images taken outside of the studio. When I took photographs in the studio, I had the benefits of time, lighting, repositioning etc. However, the photographs taken in the supermarket, pub and kitchen were taken without these resources. Therefore, the images are not of the high quality that the photographs featuring the skull are. Luckily, it is clear that the photographs are not supposed to be the strongest aspect of the documentary style articles – the content is. However, I would have preferred to conduct these shoots with the appropriate equipment to ensure continuity throughout the piece.

One aspect I would do differently is in regards to collecting sources for the ‘To dine for’ and ‘What’s cooking’ articles. In the supermarket, I photographed Ellen Burnup, a gluten-intolerant sufferer. I did this before the studio photoshoot. However, when I showed Karl drafts of my work and photographs, he commented on the lack of imagery without more documentary style images. Therefore, I had to collect willing sources in just over a week who would be willing to accompany me to a restaurant and would allow me to photograph them cooking. Unfortunately, the contacts I knew who lived in the UK stated it was either too short notice, they were at work or they didn’t respond. In hindsight, I should have taken the initiative to collect more photographs earlier in restaurants and a kitchen, but with time restrictions I didn’t. As a solution, Kevin Smith (my boyfriend) was featured in the ‘to dine for’ and ‘whats cooking’ articles. I clearly stated that we wanted to experience life with an allergy, as opposed to using him as a ‘fake source’ by claiming he suffered from something he didn’t. I ensured Karl approved of this before continuing, he did.

Another difficulty I had was my ability on InDesign. Although I believe my work is strong, i was not capable of producing exact similarities to The Sunday Times. As a solution to this, I tried to incorporate as much fine detail as possible, and experiment with the layout of the page. My peers had the opportunity to upload their project to wordpress, but this would not be suitable for my choice in topic or how I envisioned the project to be. Despite my lack of creative knowledge, I feel that my efforts with InDesign are notable, and with more experience I’d expect future work to be more successful.

My favourite images represent the milk allergy. I had to capture movement by milk being poured onto the subject, I created a bright, vibrant image through colour clashing. This is enhanced through my choice of white backdrop and white skull.

Despite the weaknesses and difficulties I have encountered, I believe that my magazine is a success. This can be exemplified in the close attention to detail I had. For example, my page numbers start from page 13. I made this decision based upon the research of magazines in general, and the Sunday Times. Normally, the first few pages of a magazine are filled with advertisements, contents page, editors letter, light-hearted columns and features. It would be unusual for a magazine to begin with an editorial like mine, thus explaining the page numbers. Furthermore, I believe that I created bespoke content and approached a daring, creative idea with open arms. I am yet to find one magazine that has used the same approach as I have to discuss the rise and stigma that surrounds food allergies. Furthermore, I have documented my work through WordPress throughout my project, which includes my research, thought process and intensive information including sourcing of contacts, test shots, reflections and inspiration.

Overall, I have put a lot of time, effort, resources and creativity into my Photojournalism project. I have approached a difficult, new subject that I had no knowledge on previously. It would have been very say to choose a subject that I had relevant sources lined up for, or that there is a lot of magazine articles that show similar work. In light of this, I believe my work demonstrates boldness and a daring choice, but one that I believe has paid off.

Editorial Image Selection

After the photoshoot in the studio, I had over a thousand photographs, each representing a specific allergy. I arranged the images into the categories of:

  • Shellfish
  • Egg
  • Cows milk/dairy
  • Peanuts
  • Gluten

I was then able to select my favourite photographs, and compare each photograph to the other. For some categories, I had more images to choose from than others. For example, for the category ‘eggs’ and ‘milk’, there was a lot more images as I had incorporated movement within the images. Therefore, as an egg was being broken on top of the skull, I took several photographs within seconds to ensure the photograph was as dynamic as possible.

Each category is listed below with the relevant images.

EGGS:

EGG 1EGG 2EGG 3EGG 4EGG 5

Ingredients/props used to resemble food containing eggs:

Eggs (whole and cracked), feathers, meringue, cakes, marshmallows and mayonnaise.

GLUTEN:

GLUTEN 1GLUTEN 2GLUTEN 3GLUTEN 4

Ingredients/props used to resemble food containing gluten:

Beer, gravy, baguette (bread), cereal and pasta

MILK:

MILK 1MILK 2MILK 3MILK 4MILK 5

Ingredients/props used to resemble food containing milk:

Various types of cheese (grapes to replicate cheeseboard), milk, ice cream and sprinkles.

PEANUTS:

NUTS 1NUTS 2NUTS 3NUTS 4

Ingredients/props used to resemble food containing peanuts:

Peanut oil, salted/dry roasted peanuts, monkey nuts, Snickers chocolate bar and peanut butter.

SHELLFISH:

SHELFISH 1SHELFISH 2SHELFISH 3SHELFISH 4

Ingredients/props used to resemble food containing selfish:

Muscles, crab and crevettes. Oyster sauce was going to be used, until it replicated the appearance of gravy which was shown in gluten.

Main body text

The following content is the context which supports the documentary style imagery. For each of the three articles, the same heading has been used to refer to the magazine easily. 

 

‘ANOTHER ONE BITES THE CRUST’

30 years ago the free-from aisle, gluten-free bread and lactose-free milk didn’t exist. The number of people suffering with a food allergy is rising. What is everyday life like for them?

I remember my mum telling me that food intolerances were just an excuse for the fussy kids – that their parents were making excuses for their disobedience. I remember the head chef in a restaurant that I worked in rolling his eyes when he got a “gluten-free” check. I remember my brother mocking my lactose-intolerant boyfriend for ordering
a “soy latte”.

For some reason, the rise in allergies has reduced the amount of people that take them seriously. Surprisingly, “44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy… 48% of sufferers have more than one allergy” according to Mintel in 2010. So, why is their such a stigma against food allergy sufferers?

Ignorance is bliss.

Recently, Pediatrics stated that 31.5% of children with a food allergy were bullied as a result of their allergy. These children even disclosed that they had been threatened with food by classmates. They believed that their experiences of bullying derived from the stigma that surrounds “being different”.

Before Dina Luttrell Rudesheim was four years old she had experienced her first reaction to garlic. Dina is now 52 years old, she suffers from multiple allergies, including gluten, eggs and dairy:

“Life changes? HUGE. I rarely socialise anymore. When I have tried, I’ve been both openly mocked and made people feel bad that I couldn’t eat anything. I miss the days of not being the centre of attention because of food.”

Dina isn’t alone. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organisation found that “every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room”. But surely, these facts are over-exaggreated? People suffering with food allergies can just have a little bit and be OK, right?

Well actually, no.

Despite there being a distinct difference between food allergy sufferers and those with food intolerances; neither should be taken lightly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a food allergy “causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body.” Symptoms of a food allergy can include swelling, breathing restrictions and anaphylaxis. A food intolerance is an ‘internal struggle’ between the digestive system and the properties of a food product. As opposed to the body reacting to a food product. The NHS state the most common symptoms of a food intolerance include “tummy pain, diarrhoea and skin rashes”.

The stigma surrounding food allergy sufferers extend to their lives. Sufferers that I spoke to often described allergies as “restricting”, “isolating”, “alienating” and “lonely”.

Admittedly, I take the flexibility of my everyday routine for granted; can’t be bothered to cook? Order in. What drink do you want? Whatever you’re having. What do you want for dinner? Whatever you want. Dina’s lifestyle is something entirely different:

“Socialising is almost impossible. Trying to have Thanksgiving dinner or another event with friends or family is a nightmare.” Dina expresses, “Either I don’t eat or I make my own food. It feels especially isolating because you can’t even share in the festivities.”

The reality is, the lifestyle of sufferers is dictated by their diet. They must expect acceptance from their friends towards their dietary requirements, they must put their trust into the chefs or servers that are handling their food, they must expect criticism from those who do not live the lives that they do.

I spoke to those who were effected by food allergies everyday – from the parents of children with food allergies to the sufferers themselves.

 

‘To dine for’

In an effort to experience what living with a food allergy or intolerance is like, Kevin Smith restricted his diet for a day. We took a seat in the middle of the quirky, open planned beer garden of our local pub. The sun beamed onto the flowers beds, children chased each other around the picnic benches and tables; these are the moments to kick back and relax, surely?

Under the guise of a life-threatening egg allergy, we were able to look at the allergens handbook. The handbook identified all their products on the menu, from bread and butter to the Hunter’s Chicken. For each product, 14 columns followed which detailed the top 14 food allergens. Any column that had a tick in, showed that a product contained the identified allergen. Pretty easy, right?

Wrong.

The chips had milk in, pies used egg wash, gluten was in the gravy and peanut oil is used for frying. The menu was restrictive enough if you should have one food allergy – to outline multiple allergies would be a nightmare. I had assumed restaurants would cater for food allergies, I mean, who puts milk in fried potatoes? But, this wasn’t the case – by law, restaurants, cafes, pubs etc. have to disclose which products contain the top 14 allergens. But, they don’t have to cater for those suffering with a food allergy or intolerance.

In December 2014, The EU Food Information for Consumers (FIC) introduced legislation that means “food businesses have to make information on 14 allergens available to consumers. This ranges from the most common allergens, such as peanuts and gluten, to less well known triggers for allergic reactions such as mustard and celery” according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

A study by the FSA found that 69.18% of food allergy sufferers said they had experienced “Staff not understanding the severity of an allergy, and how easily a mistake may cause a reaction”. 67.9% said that staff displayed a “lack of knowledge of menu content when giving information” and 41.64% stated “Staff being in a rush and not checking thoroughly/informing the kitchen of my/my family member(s) food allergy”.

Melissa Dawn has a son with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and garlic. Melissa believes that attempts to understand her sons allergies made by a server is incredibly reassuring:

“Restaurants scare me. However, restaurants that have servers that ask questions and are informed put me at ease.” Melissa states, “When they wave off my concerns and say they understand; it’s usually the opposite. We avoid restaurants most of the time.”

Melissa isn’t wrong; the enjoyment was lost in between analysing numerous sheets of paper against the menu in order to decide what to eat, and having to express multiple times the severity of Kevin’s allergy. But, the fun didn’t stop there; there was still the anxiety of cross contamination and if the server would inform the kitchen correctly.

The FSA study also found that since December 2014, 34.19% of food allergy sufferers had experienced an allergic reaction to food in a restaurant/cafe or takeaway in the UK.

Despite the efforts made by introducing stricter laws, the risks are all too real for sufferers. Based on the results from FSA study, over a third of people with an allergy are still experiencing allergic reactions to food when they eat out. As a result, nearly 19% of those individuals have been hospitalised. Would you run the risk?

The restrictions of a sufferer’s life don’t begin and end at the dinner table. Many are socially anxious when dining out or attending friends parties; their allergies burden their everyday, lifestyle choices. They did not choose their allergy, but somehow their allergies effect the choices they make.

 

‘What’s cooking?’

The weekly burden; the dreaded food shop. Children race down the aisles, you can’t find the beansprouts and somehow your ‘£30 shop’ has totalled £67.92. It’s a routine most of us are all too familiar with, but the costings of the weekly shop effect some more than others.

It seems that free-from products are far from free. The hefty price tag that attaches itself to allergen-free products can burn a large hole in the consumer’s pocket; often indicating that a simple £5 recipe can be three, or four times more expensive when made with allergen-free products.

To put our research to the test, we decided to make allergen-free pancakes As a cows milk alternative, we used almond milk, as an egg substitute we used flaxseed powder and as a plain flour alternative we used gluten-free flour. This recipe should have cost an approximate £4, but when made with allergen-free products it came in at over £11.

The Food Allergy Institute of North Texas expresses that the production process “requires strict vigilance”:

“Manufacturers must use dedicated single-source ingredient suppliers who do all parts of production. This includes: growing, harvesting, milling, and packaging. Dedicated assembly lines and equipment must also meet strict guidelines.”

Many families and sufferers are experiencing food insecurity when it comes to stocking the shelves every week. Brittany Thorpe, mother of three says that the cost of living with allergies limits her disposable income:

“My husband and six year old son both have anaphylactic allergies, so we fill our cupboards very carefully. Our whole family eats according to their dietary restrictions while in the house. It’s the only way I keep things relatively ‘fair’.” Brittany explains, “So, our kids will burn through the £3.99,175g free-from cookies in less than a third of the time than the £3.56, 515g Chips Ahoy cookies.”

Although the rise of free-from products hitting the supermarket shelves is a triumph for food allergy sufferers, it’s not all blue skies yet. Not only is the costing of products restricting, but to find a hybrid product that combines a lifestyle choice with an allergen-free item is even harder.

As food allergens are on the rise, those making the choice to be Vegan, Organic or Halal are too. To source products that can satisfy this need is made harder in the already rigorous production process. If it didn’t seem that the lifestyle restrictions surrounding an allergy were already troublesome – the extension to peoples religious beliefs and personal views have been thrown into the mix.

Christine Rowden developed an allergy to eggs at the age of 40. At the age of 22, Christine committed to being a Vegetarian. Her diet was dramatically restricted once again:

“It was a nightmare. I had to balance a choice that I made years ago with an allergy I didn’t choose.” Christine sighed, “Explaining to people you’re allergic to eggs and you’re Vegetarian is difficult. It’s another reason for them to ‘roll their eyes’ at my allergy.”

Sadly, the rise of food allergies isn’t enough. The price of allergen-free products would only decrease if there’s a rise in food allergy sufferers. The more consumers requiring free-from products, the higher the demand. Therefore, lower costs.

But, for now, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

If you would like information or support regarding an allergy, please contact AllergyUK on 01322 619898. Alternatively, you can visit their website: http://www.allergyuk.org

Equipment and Information for studio photo shoot

I selected five images that I felt represented specific allergies. I took these photographs in a studio in Huddersfield.

I used a Canon 5D Mark III camera, a Canon 70-200 f28 lens and a light trigger.

The lighting was created by a Bowens single flash head with a basic reflector dish placed on a high 45 degrees angle, approximately 5m away from the subject. This lighting created a hard, sharp shadow.

I made the decision to use a white paper backdrop for numerous reasons. Firstly, by choosing a similar colour backdrop to the subject of the skull, created more emphasis on the food surrounding the skull. Secondly, I was able to easily create an infinity curve.

The food and skull were placed on top of a level surface. The infinity curve was created by attaching the roll to a clothing rail, allowing new sheets of paper to be cut off and replaced with fresh, clean paper.

‘What’s cooking?’ Image Selection

For the article ‘What’s cooking?’, I photographed Kevin Smith from several angles and experimented with the camera settings. I took over 150 photographs, but I was able to select the ones which showed the most potential. The main difficulty with with taking the photographs was to focus on both Kevin, the pan and the ingredients. However, I believe I created a strong, shallow depth of field which provided more emphasis on the ingredients. The narrowed down photographs are:

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It was difficult to get Kevin’s full body in the photograph as I wanted a clear shot of the pan and ingredients. A solution to this problem was to photograph his hand/arm as he cooked. I did not see this as a disadvantage like the ‘To dine for’ images. The ‘What’s cooking?’ article was largely based on statistics and a general awareness of allergen-free costs. Unlike the emotive content in the article ‘To dine for’.

The image I chose was:

WHAT'S COOKING? 7
Kevin Smith cooking allergen-free pancakes

I chose this image as I used a shallow depth of field to make Kevin’s hand blurry, but still recognisable. This created more emphasis on the pan and ingredients. The focus was clean when picturing the images and all writing is legible. Furthermore, as the image had to fit one A4 page, a close-up shot was essential to display all the props used.

 

‘To dine for’ Image Selection

For the article ‘To dine for’, I photographed Kevin Smith from several angles and experimented with the camera settings. I took over 100 photographs, but I was able to select the ones which showed the most potential. Each photograph held it’s own merits – composition, lighting, mood:

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It was difficult to make a choice out of this selection. I really liked the close up shots, but they lost the human interest angle that my project was following. By Kevin being included in the composition of the photograph – this focused on an everyday experience for food allergy sufferers. The image I chose to use in my magazine is followed:

TO DINE FOR 3
Kevin Smith reading the allergens document, and comparing with the menu

This selection was made for a variety of reasons. Mainly, the composition of the photograph provided vivid, bright colours – similar to the colour palette used in my editorial work. Furthermore, I believed that the content of the article would be emphasised if it showed a human, in such a human interest article. The photograph shows Kevin comparing the food allergen document with the menu, and his expression is focused.

‘Another One Bites The Crust’ Image Selection

For the introduction to the editorial; ‘ANOTHER ONE BITES THE CRUST’, I photographed Ellen Burnup. She has a gluten intolerance and was willing to be photographed in the supermarket. I took over 30 photographs.

Unfortunately, when I looked at the photographs when I was home, a lot of them appeared blurry or unfocused. Several days later I realised that this was because I had the lens of the camera on manual focus. So, I was lucky to get at least one strong image. I selected the image I did because it was the only one that was focused appropriately on the subject and not elsewhere.

The narrowed down photographs are:

GLUTEN - TESCO - ALLERGY 1GLUTEN - TESCO - ALLERGY 2GLUTEN - TESCO - ALLERGY 3GLUTEN - TESCO - ALLERGY 4GLUTEN - TESCO - ALLERGY 5