I’ve been a food stylist for almost 40 years now. That’s right-food-not hair! That means I’ve been preparing food for photography. I know that people often think that the food they see in advertising, even cookbooks, looks too good to be real. I’ve often been asked if I work with plastic and paint. No. The food is real! But as a food stylist, a thorough knowledge of food, its flavours, textures, and its potential for preparation and consumption, has been as essential as creating its visual appeal. My career in food has led me to study cooking in some of the world’s most venerated culinary arenas: Bangkok, Paris, Burgundy, Provence, Tuscany, New York, San Francisco, Istanbul, and of course Toronto!

For me, food styling has been far more than a job, and a fabulous career. Often it’s art too: food is the medium used to create beauty-and it is edible beauty! The challenge is working within the limits presented by the product itself, the market, and the food fashion of the day.

Throughout time arbiters of fashion establish food trends and styles that impact markets and economies in much the same way as do fashions in clothes and cosmetics.

Food photography plays a vital role in not only reflecting “style” but also promoting it, and in turn, contributing to its relevance in culture. I work as part of a team involving a photographer, prop stylist, art director, client, and others-depending on the project. I’ve discovered that the photos of the food I’ve prepared over the past four decades provide an historical overview of these food fashions, as I, based in Toronto, have experienced them in popular media.

Over the years, I’ve kept copies of my work whenever I could. Although at times I wouldn’t even see the finished product of my work, and at other times packages with the pictures of food I had styled ended up in the fireplace or in the recycling bin, I nevertheless managed to accumulate a tad too many boxes filled to the max with the print stuff of my food styling life: magazines, calendars, pamphlets, brochures, tear sheets, film transparencies, polaroids, cookbooks, etc., etc., etc.. What to do?

Before running the risk of needing a local chapter of Hoarders Anonymous, I decided to join the digital age instead. Digitizing my archive of food photos, saved since the start of my food styling career, illuminates shifts in food styles from the 70’s to the present day.

While we’ve seen such radical changes since the 70’s in communication and photographic technology, much remains the same-namely our consuming interest in food as a product that provides much more than nutritional sustenance!

Because I am based in Toronto, I have had the privilege of working for many of Toronto’s major magazines: The CANADIAN Magazine, TODAY Magazine, City and Country Home, Canadian Living (Best of CL, FOOD), Chatelaine, Epicure, Homemakers, Readers Digest, Goodlife, Select Homes and Food, Home Décor, Toronto Life, LCBO Food and Drink, PC Magazine, and MW Magazine.  (You can already imagine the boxes accumulating!) Please note that the photographs in the entire magazine or cookbook are not necessarily mine; I will have worked on specific sections or articles. I have retained the image of the magazines, even if the cover isn’t mine, because of its historical and cultural significance.

In addition to magazines, I’ve had the great pleasure to work on cookbooks with chefs and food writers such as Anne Lindsay, Bonnie Stern, Elizabeth Baird, and Anita Stewart.

I have worked in advertising (packages, brochures, reports, billboards, etc..) for the national grocery stores IGA, Dominion, Loblaws, Sobeys, and Longos; and for the Marketing Boards of egg, beef, pork, turkey, and milk (Dairy Farmers of Ontario). Food companies such as Canada Packers, Schneiders, Maple Leaf Foods, Knorr, Kraft/General Foods, Campbells, E.D. Smith, Quaker, Liptons, McCains, and Cavendish, have also hired me to style their products. Consequently, after 40 years, I have a display of an evolution of favoured dining constants, such as turkeys and hamburgers. Who knew that our turkey dinners were transforming with the times?  Perhaps it’s that our food buying, marketing, styling, reflect our transformation with the progress of time: cultural, social, personal. For me this retrospective of food photos evokes stories and memories of events, relationships, colleagues, as well as sensations of flavours, aromas, even textures and temperatures of the food and times captured in these prints.

Thank-you to Bill and Evelyn Hullah and to Marg Fraser, who were with me from the start. Thank you to my friends and assistants and to all the photographers, agencies, authors, chefs, clients, and publishers who hired me over these many years.

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