A Look at the Unique Art of Styling Fresh Food for the Camera

Food styling

Food stylist and creative director Anna Keville Joyce provides a glimpse into the intricate world of fresh food art and shares her vast experience from her time working on a large number of film and photography projects worldwide.

It’s More Than Just Arranging Food on Set

With a background in food styling, design, and anthropology, Joyce has offered her expertise to numerous global brands. But, when it comes to describing her profession, Joyce notes that “food styling” is just one way to label it, although likely the most marketable one.

“In the end, I would say it’s perhaps something more like ‘ephemeral conceptual art,'” Joyce tells PetaPixel. “I like to work with alive things and not dead things; things that constantly change. I often work with food because of its peculiar and overwhelming capacity to influence a human being.”

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In her work, Joyce injects humor and playfulness, and takes things out of their context and  their presumed use and space to open “the mind to new ways of seeing and understanding.” The constant fluidity of conceptual work is what keeps her from getting stuck in a rut.

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“I insist on this conceptual work because it keeps my mind from getting hard and dry,” she explains. “A personal self-care approach that also contributes to creating the type of world I want to live in.”

One such conceptual project was the recently featured campaign for German multinational retailer Lidl which was captured by photographer Dwight Eschliman.

The Soul and Energy of Food

During her career, Joyce has worked with a wide range of talented and creative photographers. To capture the essence and energy of food, it takes a “harmonic dance between the photography and the stylist,” she says.

Unlike people or products, food has a more limited lifespan, freshness, and energy. Once that is gone, “it loses its amazing magnetism.” For that reason, working with a food stylist can make or break a photoshoot concept.

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“Nothing can replace the sensitivity of a person who has spent countless hours with food,” Joyce explains.

But, if hiring an experienced food stylist is not an option, she recommends photographers turn to the phrase “Lo que no aporta, molesta” which translates to “that which doesn’t contribute, subtracts.” It is a line Joyce herself has turned to and used for many years in her successful career.

Food styling

“There’s nothing ‘neutral’ in photography (or life) — each choice has either a positive or negative influence on the compositions and final results,” she adds. “Be ruthless with your choices.”

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Between her client shoots, same as photographers and other artists, Joyce has also found the therapeutic effect of personal projects. One of them, “A Tribute to Budgie,” remains one of her favorite projects to date. It is a food illustration series consisting of five different bird types illustrated with nothing but food ingredients on plates.

A Tribute to Budgie

“It was a personal project and it was my artistic meditation and tangible mourning for a loss I experienced,” Joyce explains. “In that project, I was truly me.”

“It was a series of quiet moments and a process that taught me the difference between work and art, and the capacity of art to heal and to redeem,” she continues. “I believe that all experiences, even grief, can take shape and create something new and beautiful.”

More of Joyce’s work can be found on her website, Instagram, and Vimeo.

Image credits: Photos provided by Anna Keville Joyce.