MARIE MARTE FORSBERG - FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER AND HOME COOK
Marie Marte Forsberg is a Norwegian food photographer and passionate home cook who lives in a quaint 200-year-old English cottage in the middle of the Dorset countryside. After finishing her studies in San Francisco, Marie moved back to the remote Norwegian village she was born and raised in feeling lost as she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. Fast forward a decade and she is now a hugely successful food and lifestyle photographer, writing her first cookbook, regularly hosting food styling and photography workshops around the world, and living in a place she adores. I speak to Marie about how she ended up living in the English countryside, what she loves about it, how she forged a career in food and lifestyle photography, and her passion for cooking.
Marie has fond memories of growing up on the family farm in rural Norway, which was situated in an idyllic setting on the outskirts of a dense forest and a stone's throw from the ocean. She vividly remembers watching her mother knead dough, the comforting smells of her cooking and being mesmerised by steam from the boiling kettle as it wafted through the kitchen. “I think I was a photographer way before I picked up the camera. When I look back and think about my child hood it was very visually driven,” she says.
While both her parents loved and encouraged her, Marie’s mother in particular has been a huge inspiration in her life and has had a big influence on her love of food and nature. “My siblings are older and my father is a busy businessman so I spent a lot of time with my mum alone. My grandfather would take my mum into the woods when she was little and teach her about the plants and how to cook over an open fire. She loved it, and naturally passed that on to me. For instance, we would cut sprigs from pine trees and then she would show me how to make syrup from them. She would also talk to me about the plants and vegetables in her magnificent garden," Marie recalls.
After spending much of her twenties studying and travelling around the world, Marie decided to move home to the family farm in Norway. She soon realised that she was a different person to the young girl who had left fifteen years earlier and did not belong in the isolated village she had been brought up in. “I thought if I do not fit in here, where do I fit in!”, Marie exclaims. On a trip to the UK, it all became clear. She was scouring the internet looking for houses to rent in England when she stumbled across a charming little cottage in Dorset and knew as soon as she saw it that it was where she belonged. “What I probably wanted to type into google that day was what do I do now, what is the purpose of life, give me answer. But 12 pages into a search on houses to rent in England, I found this amazing cottage in Dorset, with a white picket fence and little garden. I knew immediately that it was my home, I just didn’t have the key yet. I didn’t ask questions like what do I do there or do I know anyone, I just moved,” she says.
Looking back, it was not easy transitioning to life in a sleepy English village; after all, Marie had spent most of the previous decade living in some of the world’s greatest cities. “When I first moved, it felt like I was at a party and someone had cut the music. But once the music has been cut you start hearing the birds, you start hearing your thoughts, you start slowing down and when you start slowing down it is really hard to go back to the city. I can always go and visit London to get inspired but I have to come back to the countryside to hear who I am,” Marie explains. She is now settled in Dorset and adores her cottage, which reminds her of her childhood home with its stone walls, exposed beams and open fire place. “Moving here was a leap of faith but I have seen that the move was so right for me; I am smitten with the English countryside because it reminds me so much of where and how I grew up. I love the rolling green hills, the lush fields, the local farmers that love what they do, and the vibrant food scene,” Marie tells me. She is kept company by her loyal companion Mr. Whiskey. “I have a very nice life with Mr. Whiskey. He is a rescue dog; when I first saw him and he sniffed my ear I knew we were going to be good friends,” Marie says.
Marie first became conscious of her passion for photography and food while she was studying Middle Eastern Studies in the United States. “I enrolled in a photography course while I was finishing my degree which made me realise how much I had missed being creative and, when I felt homesick, would comfort myself by cooking my mother’s traditional Norwegian recipes,” she says. But Marie never planned on becoming a food photographer, in fact, for a long time, she had no idea what she was going to do with her life. “I remember writing down food, travel and design on a piece of paper and bursting into tears. After two degrees that is all you can come up with, I thought. But it gave me an indication of what I wanted to do. So when I moved home to Norway I started photographing food and posting it on Instagram. I used Instagram to create a visual story of my life in the countryside and passion for food. That is how I got my first job. Instagram has opened up the world for me,” she explains.
No working day is ever the same for Marie. One day she might do a shoot for a local baker who is redesigning their website while the next she might have to go to Cannes to do a shoot for a major food brand for a few days. She also spends a lot of time planning for her food styling and photography workshops. “I hope that when people leave my retreats, they are inspired to continue to pursue their dreams and get a sense that it is possible to create a life that you want for yourself,” Marie explains. She has a very busy life but always finds time to go on a walk with Mr. Whiskey and stop for afternoon tea and cake.
Marie is just as passionate about making food as she is about photographing it. In her cosy cottage kitchen something is always bubbling away on the stove with Chet Baker or Aretha Franklin usually playing in the background. She particularly enjoys making comfort food, preferably with local, seasonal produce. “I think organic and sustainable food tastes better and is healthier. I also enjoy it when animals have had just as good a life as we have. At the local farm where I get eggs, the chickens are running around and that makes me happy because that is how I grew up and I think when animals have a happy life they produce better products. I am definitely inspired by seasons, and use a lot of seasonal vegetables. I have a soft spot for wild garlic and primroses that don't taste like much but look beautiful on cakes and pavlovas,” Marie tells me. She often mixes traditional Norwegian recipes with other cuisines she has experienced on her travels. “It is fascinating mixing British cuisine and influences from my experiences from abroad with traditional Norwegian recipes. I have taken a lot of inspiration for my cooking from France and Italy. The decadence of cooking with wine is stolen from the French, and the simplicity of cooking with a few quality ingredients, I learnt from the Italians,” Marie says. Her cookbook will be all about her food journey and include everyday recipes as well as traditional Norwegian family recipes and some that are influenced by travels.
It was not long ago that Marie was sitting on the floor of her parents’ home in Norway in tears because she felt she had no future. “I was writing my website in the bathroom because it was warm and the only quiet room in the house. I remember my brother coming in and saying what are you doing?! look at where your friends are and where you are,” Marie recalls. So I wonder if Marie has to pinch herself every morning when she looks in the mirror to check that she is not dreaming now she is a successful international food photographer. “I wouldn’t have thought or dreamed about this at all. You go through ups and downs in life and it is really amazing when you look back at what is achievable, what we really can do, and how many options we have but we may not think we have them. People think their dream is out of reach and they can’t do that but why not? Of course you can, it might take time and it might look different from what you thought it would look like,” Marie says.