From still life images of homes, food, cosmetics and botanicals, to her breathtaking portraits of faces from around the world, Andrea Gentl is a true creative marvel that has captured it all. She met her husband and creative partner Martin Hyers at Parsons in New York City and the two have been traveling and working together for over twenty years. The duo has worked for countless brands and founded Wanderlust: a platform dedicated to sharing their global explorations of food and culture while also hosting photography workshops. Gentl also runs Hungry Ghost, a blog where she thoughtfully shares her travel and culinary inspirations. Whether it be the faces of locals from Burma and Istanbul, to the silhouette of a seductive cocktail, Gentl has the ability to draw the eye to any subject.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
generous. curious. creative. honest.
thats 4! lol
How have your travels informed your work?
Travel informs every aspect of my inspirations. My family didn’t travel much when I was a kid.So I am making up for it now! I spent a lot of time as a kid obsessing over the stories and photographs in my grandparents Time Life Series of Travel and Cooking. It was one of my favorite things to do at their house. I must have hauled out those books hundreds of times. I started traveling when I was about 19, I went on a very transformative semester abroad to Siena Italy. What was meant to connect me to my Italian past became instead, a life long desire to be constantly immersed in other cultures, other lives, other kitchens and other light. In Italy I really started to focus on photography by photographing the old Italian ladies in black who sat together in the harsh noon sun embroidering, knitting and gossiping. They were very open. As a super shy kid, it was hard for me to put myself out there but in another culture where no one really knew me I could be free and that freedom bloomed into many positive changes for me.I began to see myself as both a participant and observer. When I travel I am constantly looking at color, light and texture. As creative, you can’t help but bring these images and inspirations back to your home base and into the studio. The light I see in a church in Mexico might make its way back into a cosmetic shoot in NY. The eyes never tire of searching for beauty and light.
What is the process of collaboration like between you and your husband Martin?
Collaboration is everything for us. I have worked together with my husband Martin Hyers for over twenty years.We met in college at Parsons School of Design. We knew right away that we would work together. I am little more introverted, he is a little more extroverted and so it goes the yin to the yang. We knew we were stronger as two but collaboration comes with some hard life lessons. Competition and ego being front and center. When you work together you have to be able to let all of that go. I am not going to lie, it wasn't always easy but I wouldn’t change a thing. It is so nice to bounce ideas off someone, and to know that your shared stories and references are the same. We push each other to keep moving and evolving and to bring something new to our clients. We never want to be stuck repeating ourselves. If we start to feel that we go deep and begin to strategize change.
Where is home for you?
Home for us is our Broome Street loft. It is a funky 100 year old artist building. We are at the beginning stages of renovating and are talking a lot about how we have lived there as family (we have been in the same loft for 21 years) and how the space will transition for our family in the future. We want to respect the space but are ready to change it up a bit. My goal is to keep the funky artist vibe but to bring a little modernity and a travel vibe to it. It is exciting because the kids are weighing in and telling us what they have loved about growing up in the space. It is a family project. Family is super important to me. I value my kids opinions and respect them immensely.
We also have tiny farmhouse in the woods in upstate New York. I definitely need nature, I grew up in surrounded by woods and fields in a super small New England town. Most days were spent outside. I need to have my hands in the dirt wherever I am in the world. Honestly, I can feel at home almost anywhere.
When did you first find your passion for what you do?
My father gave me my first camera as a teenager. I started to make photographs of the things that were important to me. Its funny because I look back now and see that it really hasn’t changed that much, I was shooting trees and flowers and bees and weird still lives of dead flowers and self portraits. I also shot my friends for the year book and newspaper, its the common geeky photo story.
What inspires you? Is there a particular subject you enjoy shooting most?
Travel inspires me. I head to a market as soon as I touch down in a new place. I inevitably come away with fruits and flowers and spices and textiles and ceramics. I like travel because it encompasses all the things I love to photograph, food, still life, interiors, artisans, portraits and landscape. There are stories to tell everywhere and I find it easier if I get the lay of the land right away for me that starts with seeing what the the local market has to offer. Markets are the heart of any community.
Do you have other creative outlets?
I do have other creative outlets. I love to cook and sometimes share stories and recipes on my blog Hungry Ghost Food and Travel. I am interested in wild foods and indigenous edible plants, I try to bring those elements into my cooking whenever possible. I have pretty crazy larder full of witchy looking concoctions and dried mushrooms, chaga, honeys, sugars and salts from around the world. I love talking to people in other countries about wild food. Often they don’t even have a word for foraging because it is such an integral part of the way they live. I have a wild garden upstate where I have transplanted some wild edibles and lately I have been growing ginger and horseradish and turmeric in pots in my kitchen on Broome Street.
I make jewelry from time to time and have a travel charm line on the back burner. I have no shortage of other interests, my shortage is always time.
What advice would you offer to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to savor every moment of life, because as cliche as it as it sounds it goes by in a flash. I would tell my younger self to be kind to myself and love myself a little more.
What are you dreaming of?
I am dreaming of taking a trip around the world and hitting every continent. There are so many places to go and people to meet and beautiful stories to tell and lessons to learn. If I didn’t have to work I would leave tomorrow.
And lastly ...
I want to say this industry has been so generous. People have been so generous of time and talent and ideas and no one is an island. We do this together and have been extremely lucky to have worked with so many incredible creatives throughout the years. Each person we have worked with, be it assistant, stylist, creative director , artist, client or agent, has generously added to the DNA of my creativity.