Monday, 4 December 2017

Photography isn't in the eye of the beholder, but in the soul of the artist

Aristea Rizakos is an interior and portrait photographer based in Toronto. With an eye towards perfection and a passion for spaces, she easily moves from shooting editorial projects that convey a story, to larger scale commercial projects that need to make a splash and catch the eye of millions. Aristea has been capturing candid and commercial moments since 2000, and there's probably a few top-notch clients on her list that you'll no doubt be impressed with. 

She loves it when hints of contemporary finishes are playfully applied to modern design. Aristea Rizakos is all about the eclectic infusions rather than matching furniture.

Mix it up a little, allow the objects in your space to speak individually.

I've had the pleasure of working with Aristea during my ad agency career and can personally attest to her eye for excellence and an exceptional dedication to her craft. 

I sat down with Aristea recently to chat about what she's been up to since we last met and what the future holds for photography. Her most recent project 
– Circa – incorporates conscientious design with thoughtful composition. Circa homes have a unique approach to city living.

Why Circa? What drew you to the project?

This project was introduced to me by a very talented Art Director, Benny Yip from L.A. Inc. - a branding and marketing agency. They represent real estate and property developers. His team were working on the advertising for Circa who refurbish/renovate existing low to mid rise properties. The project involved photographing an old beautiful Victorian home in the High Park area which was converted and organized into four condo units.

They kept true to the original architecture of the building and transformed the space delivering elegant design. (

What was the process like?

Process involved a lot of prep. It always starts with the creative idea with their visual references where they provided mood boards as to how they would like the final images to feel. Soft, moody, and classic.

They were looking for ten shots to complete their brief. This would be a mix of the space, wide shots and detail shots (vignettes). But not too wide! If you go super wide on interiors they start looking like MLS shots. There’s a big difference between real estate photography and interior photography, and i shoot the latter. It’s stylized, and many days of prepping and organizing props and furniture and post with retouching.

The process begins with establishing the shots. You just don’t show up to the location on any given day and start shooting. We do a walk through weeks in advance and scout seeing through a lens. We take multiple pictures of potential shots for shoot day. For instance, different angles, focal length, etc.

I then put together the scout shots (very raw, and not styled) of what we captured on scout day, and send to Art Director to consider for shoot day. He makes his picks and then sends it off to Accounts to present to client. Approvals are made and then voila, we have our 10 shots confirmed.

We have our shot list, however we now need to style the spaces. This requires a stylist, not a decorator. Stylists are in the know and have experience with agencies and understand what’s required to interpret creative. My stylist would then communicate with the Art Director and present all the props she believes that would be in line with the art director's vision. He makes requests for certain props. There is a lot of going back and forth where she would photograph each prop that she would be using for each room and catalogue them. Some items are rentals, but mostly purchase and returns. She pulls up on shoot day with items only which have been approved by the creative team. There are no surprises! So, here comes a van with art works, towels, linens, pillows duvets, chairs, books, dishes, fruit, vegetables, rugs, vases, flowers, trinkets, and list goes on and on. It takes about an hour alone to bring these items on set before anything gets pulled out and organized into their shot order.

I show up on shoot day, shortly after the stylist, with my two assistants, as we have to load in all the equipment and start lighting the first shot. And of course the shot order has been predetermined following the scout day as I use a mix of God’s light and strobe for shooting. All the shots have been timed as to how long it should take to prep and style, set up lighting and shoot. Shooting is a long day; we were there for about 12 hours start to finish.

Less is more. Keep things simple.

Seems like there’s a lot of teamwork involved. ….

Many people were involved in this production. And a lot of hands on. There were 8 people on set, crew plus agency.

What are your thoughts on the real estate industry in Toronto?
It's a very exciting time in Toronto with the market. I can not see the market ever going down…it’s hot, and really, we just don’t have enough homes. Condo’s are a great but most people who decide on a family want something bigger; that’s when things get tricky. Staying in the city and wanting a home for a growing family is hard to find. So people go north, or just wait. 

What is the first thing you focus on when you enter a room to photograph? 
Is it an object, the lighting, focal point?

I think about what do I want this room to say. How do I make people look at this room. Find the right angle, establish lighting and what do I add or take away with regards to props. I’m a minimalist. Less is more. Keep things simple. I’m not one for clutter.

It's lighting first. You can only see things for what they are with lighting.

What drew you to this project specifically?

The creative. I think it was beautiful concept from the Art Director. It’s great working with an Art Director that you admire and appreciate their aesthetics and creative.

What are the hottest trends in home décor at the moment?

Home décor trends are constantly changing. However, keeping your main canvas neutral and monotone allows you to change from season to season with affordable accessories.

What are the hottest trends in architecture/building industry? 
Engineered finishes. Technology is changing and you have a lot of options with building materials and finishes.


Photography isn't about the camera. It's about the artist who can see beyond the ordinary and capture the moment that is truly extraordinary. Contact Aristea Rizakos

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Cheers to health & happiness

It's Father's Day this Sunday. Sure, cocktails are great, but nothing is as inclusive for all audiences as Mocktails. Think about it as the current heat wave engulfs us. Everyone loves something refreshing as we reach for something that will hydrate rather than dehydrate, this is where DK's book by Vikas Khanna comes in. Khanna takes the reader on a journey where 80 nonalcoholic drinks are introduced and elevated to a whole new level in Mocktails Punches & Shrubs. 

Imagine serving a Kumquat, Pineapple and Paprika drink, at your next party. Did you know that the tanginess of Kumquats are a wonderful inspiration to take your mocktail to a whole new level of cool? 

Scents bombard us at every level, and Vikas Khanna attempts to infuse these everyday flavours and experiences, into a glass. One sip will evoke memories that will be vividly remembered for a long time. 

"A plethora of tasting experiences provide me with insights on what is mixable, edible, and more importantly, what can stimulate and benefit us in a positive way."

A personal favourite remains the Elderflower, Mango and Ginger Drink. What the reader will note about the ingredients is the relative ease with which to concoct these creations. For example, this elderflower  mocktail on page 110 serves 6 and takes 15 minutes.

There are ten recipe categories ranging from Fruity flavours to Tradition with a twist. For the strict tea-totallers amongst us, why not give Time for tea category a try? You'll travel to the mediterranean with Lebanese Rose Tea, hop over to Western India with Gujarati Lemongrass Tea, and climb mountainous Bhutan with a Butter Tea with Fennel. 

Mocktails is published by DK Books and you can find it at better booksellers in time for Father's Day and as a keeper for your bookshelf or your bar.

If you're still in the mood for alcoholic classics done to perfection then check out our Cocktails review. Both Mocktails and Cocktails are also handy if you are throwing a Canada 150 party in a few weeks. 

Happy Entertaining! 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Cocktails proves that classic drinks are rad

Sure, this is alcohol. But it's alcohol with attitude.

From the mixology maestro Klaus St. Rainer, of the world-renowned Goldene Bar in Munich, comes a book that perfects the art of mixing drinks. Cocktails proves that classic drinks can be fun.
Klaus St. Rainer believes that a drink is the sum of its ingredients, and adheres to the philosophy that you should never accept anything but the best: 
"it is far better to indulge a bit less, but of the highest quality, and savour with true passion."  

Klaus St. Rainer has been a professional mixologist for a quarter century but it has been for the last 20 years that he has witnessed a return to a 'Golden Age' in cocktails. A key to understand about this superb DK hardcover is that it is from the perspective of a purist. On the one hand, St. Rainer is an idealist. He extols the virtues of cocktails being done the right way, with premium ingredients and simple techniques, all while using traditional equipment. On the other hand, he is a realist who understands that technical innovation such as sous vide equipment, dehydrators, and kitchen techniques in the "cuisine" style approach provide an opportunity to take mixology to the next level.

This isn't necessarily a book for those cutting their teeth for the first time on cocktails, but it is a necessary addition for those who care about mixology and want their cocktails to taste spectacular, all thanks to an award-winning bartender/mixologist. Besides, the handsome golden bound hardcover will look great on your bar shelf or bookshelf, and as the pages show, there are some brilliant pictures to encourage the reader.  

Cocktails is published by DK Books

Saturday, 25 March 2017

An Alternative to Chianti for Pizza

It's not Bordeaux (Médoc),
It's not Northern Rhône,
It's not the Left Bank.

It's Chile's Rapel Valley from the Devil's cellar. There's simply a lovely rich moutfeel to this wine that tempered with some spice that makes it irresistible at this price point. 

We tried it with pizza. But would try it again with ribs.

Syrah: 65% 
Cabernet Sauvignon: 20%
Carmenere: 15% 

Nose: Blackberries, Blueberries 

Taste: Smooth and Spicy
          Some nuttiness

Toronto Star Rating: 91 Points 

Saturday, 28 January 2017