A La Carte. Leigh Beisch on Food

Author:  Rebecca Bedrossian

Think about food and the act of eating. It involves all the senses. Food, tastes, smells, and meals make memories and daydreams. It’s no wonder that food photography is sometimes playful or even provocative, but at all times it’s emotional.

Photographer Leigh Beisch has an eye for color and texture, and it shows in the delicious images she creates. A juicy piece of fruit or a decadent slice of cake expresses much through light and form. These are not picture-perfect, glossy photographs—these are real, delectable still-lifes.

“My clients come to me for a real, approachable look,” explains Leigh. “Authenticity is something I strive for in my work. It’s why I choose natural lighting and a studio that has a home-like setting.”  Leigh says her workspace helps shape her photography. It feels like home, so it’s easier to create shots that aren’t overly stylized. Leigh adds, “Fake food does not fly these days—real food, real moment, real mess!”

From fine art to food

Some say food is a fine art. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Leigh started out in fine art. Her studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and The Chicago Art Institute of Chicago earned her a BFA, not particularly unusual for photographers. But Leigh also paints. After graduating, she continued to shoot her abstract landscapes and produce paintings, all the while building the commercial side of her business.  A number of years ago, she discovered food as a subject and it changed the direction of her commercial work. “A client approached me to work on a new food catalog for Williams Sonoma, it was a turning point,” Leigh says. “I transitioned to food photography.”

Leigh realized that she could apply fine art principles to food. “Especially,” she says, “exploring the humanistic aspects of a subject and how I, as the artist, relate to it.” In layman terms, this means that Leigh found her sweet spot within commercial photography.

Needless to say, she brings this thoughtful approach to food. “How a person views and enjoys food are as much a reflection of themselves as a self-portrait,” she explains. “Food is sustenance, a point of gathering. It encompasses our primal instinct of sharing. It connects and nourishes us! It is a subject matter that goes beyond the material and therefore requires more that just being physically photographed—it needs to be captured in its entirety—emotions and all.”

Leigh’s philosophy on food is evident in her images: “It has a moment when it’s fresh, hot, or frosty cold that evokes an emotional response. Oftentimes, it needs to be shot swiftly and passionately.”

The Essence of Wine

For Vinography, Leigh set out to capture a timeless subject—the essence of wine. Swiftly and passionately don’t apply to a red or white vintage. We let wine breathe, and then we taste. It’s a mindful process.  “I approached these photos in a more studied and painterly way,” Leigh explains. “Not a quick moment, but something well considered and savored. Author Alder Yarrow’s prose reflected this as well, so I created photography that would be a perfect pairing.”  The result is a book that beautifully reveals wine’s fragrant elements and flavors—from pear, oak, berries, and more—in both words and pictures.

Ready, set, collaborate
Clients want real food. Leigh delivers this and more with the help of trusted stylists she’s worked with regularly. “I consider stylists team members. I choose them for their ‘style’ and vision based on the particular project,” she says. With trust comes an open mind. And Leigh wants her stylists to be part of the creative process. “I want to hear what they have to say and see how it works with what I had in mind—and what a client had in mind—for a particular shot. It’s all about collaboration.” Leigh’s found that not only do the stylists appreciate this collaborative, team environment, but clients do too. It’s all part of the effort to create amazing images.

“The stylists I choose to work with are very well-versed in current visual language,” continues Leigh. “If you show your client you trust your crew, they trust you. That’s all I ask—trust me and my team and we will rock this shoot!”

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