Chef Portraits: Ian Carswell

I have always been an art lover. From a young age I spent countless hours drawing and painting, and I have been lucky enough to visit some of the best galleries in Europe; and since moving to Ottawa I have learned that the city happens to boasts one of Canada’s premier art galleries. That’s why I was really excited to meet and shoot my fifth chef, Ian Carswell, Executive Chef of KW Katering at the National Gallery of Canada.

Ian Carswell National Gallery of Canada

Before the shoot, Ian and I chatted over the phone a few times and hit it off really well. At times I found it difficult conducting business over the phone with someone I hadn’t met while my two kids screamed and sang in the background, but as a family man himself, Ian completely understood. He even cooked my boys breakfast and treated them like kings during the morning portion of our shoot.

Based on our conversations leading up to the shoot I expected to really enjoy this experience, and I did. I can only describe Ian’s personality as amazingly infectious. After meeting me in the parking lot, he led me to the kitchen to introduce his staff, and then delighted me with a tour of the gallery… which was closed for the evening and completely silent. Ian has a great sense of humor, and had us laughing throughout the night, but he also showed that he could easily switch gears and seamlessly manage a couple of issues that arose as the evening wore on.

This shoot differed from the others in the series, because although there were some images shot in the kitchen, it was almost entirely shot in an underground boardroom where the staff set up a makeshift kitchen to prepare the dishes. You’ll notice that once the food was cooked, it was wheeled to the plating area in a large portable warming oven. The other thing you’ll notice, is that the staff were performing their art while being surrounded by famous works’ on the walls.

This was a memorable shoot for me because it’s not everyday that you have complete access to one of Canada’s treasured art institutions. I have Ian and his crew to thank for making the night such a special one for me. If you’re a lover of food and art, then you’ll want to make the National Gallery of Canada a definite stop on your Canadian travels.

I hope you enjoy the images…





  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about and seeing the great shots of Dr. Carswell (BCC pet name for Ian) and his team in action. I have had the pleasure of attending events at the gallery and it was wonderful to see the behind the scenes photos. Thanks Shane!

    1. Thanks so much Judy! I thought of you when I looked at one image I have that isn’t included in this series. I got him pulling his latex glove on before he started working. Dr. Carswell is a very fitting name 🙂

  2. I love the locations you chose for the shots in and around the gallery. You really caught what makes this such a great building! (Sadly, I have never eaten in any of the gallery cafes, but after seeing the kitchen photos, I think I might next time 😉 )

    1. Hi Julie! So great to hear from you 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful comment. I know I’ve been a bit absent from blogging, but I’m trying to limit my posts to ones that are meaningful, rather than make a point of posting daily. Hope all is well on your little island.

  3. I have to say Shane that I regret having gone so long away from WordPress because I have missed so much. But at the same time it is nice to have a group of your blogs to look through all at once without needing to wait. I really enjoyed looking through these Chef Portrait projects you have put together. Normally I am not much into portrait photography but then again that mimics what I said about street photography about your work as well. When it comes down to it I think it’s more that your editing style is what I’m drawn to more than the subject matter. That and you know how to compose a shot very well. I believe you have truly found your niche in the photography world and it looks like you are enjoying it very much.

    I hope you continue to run with this as I enjoy not only viewing the photos but reading about the people that you photograph. It goes more than just showing one photo of a person but giving an opportunity see what they do and what they enjoy as well as giving a little background about them. These different parts help complete a story that is easy to fall into and feel like you have a greater connection to them and what they do. I feel as though if I were to visit these restaurants and see the chefs I would know who they are a little rather than just seeing ‘someone’ running the kitchen.

    I can’t wait until I can start contributing again to this community and have only just recently stepped back in to “catch up” on blogs as I have been away for far too long. I am afraid it might not be until spring until I am able to post again but I will not stop visiting the blogs until then. So much can pass you by in just a few months. I have a few project ideas of my own that I can’t wait to start. Although it doesn’t involve people I believe it will be worth it. Just to give a bit of insight it involves wide angle macro and focus stacking. I can’t wait to start experimenting.

    1. Tha is so much Justin. What’s keeping you away from blogging and shooting these days? I’ve been so busy with my real job, and other photo projects that I’ve just been too tired to process and write about the photos. But I’m getting the itch again. So glad if you get back at it yourself. Have a great weekend.

      1. I recently moved a couple months ago and have been busy working around the house. My oldest daughter, 6 years, also started hockey so that has been taking up some of my time too. I’m almost done with the work on the new house and then we need to still unpack and get rid of things we don’t need/want anymore so it’s not just sitting there.

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