Have you ever been served food that looked so good you almost couldn’t eat it? Maybe you took a photo and then devoured it? I admit, I have. There is a scrumptious career out there dedicated to capturing those drool factor moments called food photography. Until I met with one of Vancouver’s prominent food photographers, Tracey Kusiewicz, I had no idea what this world entailed.
After more than 10 years of work in Vancouver, you have likely seen Tracey’s work a few times in local papers, restaurants or cookbooks. Trained in Montreal, specialized in food & beverage, Tracey said, “I always knew that was what I wanted to do”.
In her south main studio, I joined Tracey for a small taste in the life of Foodie Photography. The radio played as I entered her studio, that is literally a kitchen with an open workspace attached, like a small dance floor. The windows are ceiling high, and let in as much or as little light needed. It’s the end of a full day, Tracey was wrapping up and loading her dishwasher as I found a seat, and my mind reeled with only a million questions…
What do you enjoy photographing most? Dessert (said instantly, I agreed).
What are some of your work highlights? The most interesting things that occur are learning about new cuisines. I’ve done a number of East Indian cookbooks and learning about foods I’m not necessarily familiar with… and learning more by doing cookbooks is really interesting.
What restaurants do you like now? I went to CornerSuite recently, which was nice to shoot.
What inspires you about your work? That it’s different all the time. That there is variety and you’re not stuck at a desk, even though I am quite often [with post-production work]. But its not in a typical office way. I get up really early and my office is in my home. Or I am here [at the studio] or on set somewhere. There is good variety, so you are not doing the same thing everyday.
What’s challenging about your job? It’s feast or famine. There are lulls and then you get crazy busy and you have to split yourself in 10 different ways.
What are you known for? What I think I’m respected for, I have a value added type of service. I do the food photography, some food styling and a lot of prop styling – mould that all together and I developed a style of my own. Clients like that.
Who do you follow in the industry? Its good to look at your competition but you have to be careful that you don’t shoot the same way they do. Images are very influential, and you may not realize it when you look at things you tend to emulate what people do when you like it. I respect my peers. I like what they do but I try not to look at it because I don’t want to subconsciously replicate what they’ve done.
Donna Hay is a food stylist. She is such an icon in the industry, she is Australian, and she has a whole series of cookbooks. She is always very current, and very trend setting with looks.
As I started to wrap up, we began to talk about what’s next. Tracey enjoys commercial photography and it is the staple of her client base. But she continued, “In 10-15 years… I’d like to take a more artistic approach. I’m almost reserving that side of me now. I am being artistic and creative, but I’m not taking full control because I have to satisfy my clients too.”
She crossed the room to find a post card for me, with an artistically photographed spoon of saffron, “I did win an award with applied arts [for this]. …I just did it for self promotion, self fulfillment, to feed my creative soul.” Her tone changed as she talked about the photo, it was genuine inspiration and calm. She is an artist through and through. I felt inspired myself. I’m going to display the photo in my kitchen, right next to the spice rack…