Nowadays, artful food pics are almost as commonplace as selfies. Whether it’s a famous chef you follow on Instagram, or just a friend who happens to collect photographic evidence of various tasty dinners, there’s no escaping the fact that food photography has officially entered the mainstream.
When I first found myself captivated by this emerging field, however, this was decidedly not the case.
I was in sixth grade when my dad bought me my first camera. My early excursions into photography were simple enough – I would take idle snapshots of family vacations, or profiles of my high school’s swim and dive team. Though I spent hours taking and developing photos, I never once thought of it as a potential career path. Throughout my young life, my passion for photography never really graduated beyond being just that – a passion, a hobby.
Not long after I graduated with a degree in Interior and Graphic Design, I found myself pulled by the gravitational force of San Francisco. In the city, I juggled a few different jobs working freelance in a big photography studio, at an interior design firm, at a fabric showroom and even as a Swatch Watch representative.
I was starting to run on fumes. My roommate and good friend was teaching fourth grade, and would tell me each night how much she loved her job and the kids in her classroom. I wanted to love my job that much. I kept telling myself, “There has to be more to life than working in a cubicle.”
When a friend of mine suggested that I look into photography classes at ArtCenter College of Design, I couldn’t help but think that they were out of their mind. I had just graduated from California State Sacramento with two degrees! What good was going back to school going to do me?
Nevertheless, I felt a deep, almost primal compulsion towards ArtCenter. It’s as though life was telling me that if I didn’t take the leap at that exact point, I never would.
I ended up cobbling together a makeshift darkroom in the laundry room of my San Francisco apartment building. It had all the basic elements needed for me to develop and print my work – a sink, a table, plus the enlarger that I had installed in that tiny room. All the while, I was taking classes at the local city college, never wavering in my stubborn determination to make it to ArtCenter.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had the first time I stepped foot in the ArtCenter parking lot and cast my eyes upon the campus. I knew at that very moment that ArtCenter would change my life forever.
Food photography was not “the thing” when I went to school. And yet, over time, I began to appreciate the aesthetics of food – the colors, the visual patterns, the sophistication of the plating. I began to study it, the way a painter would study his or her subject. I began to realize that true art is sometimes obscured in the most unassuming of places. Sometimes, you have to go looking for it.
One of the things I cherish the most about my ArtCenter experience is the time I get to spend with the school’s Supper Club. As with all beautiful things, the Supper Club highlights the communal aspects of dining, as well as combining the three things I love most (ArtCenter, photography, and yummy food) into one incredible whole. ArtCenter taught me to strive for the life I wanted to live, and surround myself with people who believe in a shared dream. Both times that I have sat down to enjoy a meal and an evening with the Supper Club, I am reminded of that – and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Vanessa Stump Photography
Instigator, ArtCenter Supper Club
BFA 2000 Photography