The Real Foodie Photographer
by Darien Davies
Photos: Libby Volgyes
You might think that being a food photographer is all glamour. Who wouldn’t? You’re surrounded by food all day. But, that’s not entirely the case.
“The story of my husband’s life right now is being surrounded by gorgeous food that he’s rightfully suspicious of,” said Libby Volgyes, owner/photographer of LibbyVision. “He knows better than to try anything in our house without asking first. The food might be fake, dangerous or delicious, so at this point he sees something he wants and just walks away.”
But, for Libby, it’s all worth it. She is passionately driven to photograph food and make it something new, and to put another spin on it and make it her own.
Although there was no “ah hah!” moment for her starting her own business, which she did in 2012, she basically did what a lot of people think about doing, but don’t. She followed her passion.
“I just realized that I wanted to photograph food all day,” Libby said. “I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I was willing to try.”
And with that attitude and drive, she took it old-school and went door to door meeting chefs and restaurant owners with the simple “Hi, I’m Libby, and I shoot food” one-liner. Now, she is one of the most talented food photographers in South Florida, but she admits that her first photographs were terrible. However, since she recognized the growth in the industry, and was passionate about it, it was the perfect overlap, so she just kept on practicing.
While she’s not tired of the slow motion egg yolk waterfalling over a burger patty (am I the only one?), she does try to make it her own.
“You have to ask yourself what would excite you as a photographer. Then you show that,” Libby said. “Viewers are inundated with hundreds of food photos a day. It’s up to us as creators to give you something new.”
She does just that. If you look at her photos, you almost feel like you’re looking at an art book that happens to have food in it. There’s a certain feeling to each photo, as if it transports not only your stomach but also your mind to where it could be, what it could taste like, and how the hell do I get to eat it?
“The No. 1 rule is to create an element of movement, even though it’s not moving,” Libby said. “I try and tell stories with my food photographs. I try and tell about the chef, and the dish, and the restaurant.”
For her, the best part about being a business owner is, hands down, how she feels about work. She is excited for every day that she gets to go into work, and wholeheartedly looks forward to it. While she used to live for the weekends, now she lives for the days that she gets to shoot food.
“I work probably 20 hours per week more than I used to, but I am so grateful for that because I love what I do so incredibly much,” Libby said. “It’s the way I feel when I have work ahead of me. I am so grateful to have a job that I get to look forward to.”
In the midst of shutter speeds and apertures, she does still have self doubt, which, to her, is the only negative of being a business owner.
“You don’t get to self doubt on anyone else,” Libby said. “I go through periods where I want to take better pictures, and I always want my business to be busier. There’s no one you can put it on but you.”
However, that is part of her magic. She is constantly using her passion and drive to push her forward and to reinvent the next picture. Maybe it’s not even the delicious bowl of pasta that’s steaming in your face. It could be the reaction of the person across the table from you who is drooling over his perfectly charred steak and hasn’t blinked in minutes.
Even though she now has years of experience under her belt, there are still some foods that make her cringe. She will always consider the hamburger as the problem child, she hates having ice cream sprung on her, and she will always need her food stylist to help her get the perfect shot for the ribbon of cheese from the pizza slice. And, like her husband, she will come home hangry after a shoot because she either couldn’t or didn’t have time to enjoy the food she was staring at for hours. Much like a chef who pours his soul into his dishes and goes home to beer and pb&j sandwiches, Libby does the same.
“It kills your appetite to shoot food all day knowing that it’s cooked for the camera and not to be eaten,” Libby said. “Eating all day was the good ol’ days. Now it’s a granola bar.”
And she’s still forever hungry as a business owner, too.
“Unless Thomas Keller called tomorrow, I can’t imagine a situation where I’d want to work for someone else,” Libby said. “Figuring out how to run my own business gives me a lot of joy.”