by Liz Ream
Back in August, KFC launched KFC Eleven, a “fast casual” joint that puts a healthy spin on its famous fried chicken. Cincinnati-based photographer Teri Campbell photographed the restaurant, and I delved into the project soon after.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that food stylist Jackie Buckner, a member of the WM crew page, worked with Teri on this shoot. Jackie is an accomplished food stylist who has worked with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, as well as directors Elbert Budin, Bob Giraldi and Robert Rodriguez, and actors such as Colin Farrel, Al Pacino, Jason Alexander and Hugh Grant. Recently, I chatted with Jackie regarding the art of her profession, and what goes into such a job. Enjoy!
How did you get into food styling?
I studied art and film production in college – cooking and baking was a hobby back then. I was working as an art department production assistant on feature films when a producer asked me if I would be interested in working on a tv commercial shoot. When I arrived at the location (an apartment on Park Ave. / NYC) I was directed to go to the kitchen, where I was assigned to the Food Styling department. The key food stylist from that shoot liked working with me, so she continued to hire me on a regular basis. I loved working on food shoots right from the start, and pretty soon I was assisting the top food stylists in NYC.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’m never bored! I’m lucky to be able to style food for print as well as motion and for beauty tabletop studios as well as for companies shooting food on location, sometimes in very challenging places, and sometimes with very interesting talent and crew. I meet great people on every single job. I love the “first shoots”, when I fly to different cities to collaborate with people I’ve never met and I don’t know exactly what awaits me. Last minute problem solving and group effort goes into what appears to be the simplest image, and that experience bonds people. I travel to many interesting places, here and abroad, styling food and teaching about food styling. I’ve had the great fortune to work for some terrific clients over the years, resulting in some phenomenal personal as well as business experiences.
What goes into a successful shoot?
For my department, I think the most successful shoots always start with clear communication and extreme organization, combined with a reasonable budget for a shoot schedule that allows enough time for me to be as detail oriented as possible. A good budget also allows for at least one assistant for me, if not more. I had two excellent assistants on the KFC Eleven shoot, Nick and Lyndsay, and they were a vital part of the success of that job, supporting me in the kitchen as well as at camera. The photographer or director are also obviously key to the success of a shoot. They set the tone for the entire set, so a relaxed, supportive photographer will create a better atmosphere for a happy, comfortable collaboration between us and everyone else involved with the project. The results are obvious to me. When I’m rushed, or if the energy around the set is highly stressed, I always feel like the shots could have been better, even if the client is completely thrilled.
What did you enjoy most about the KFC shoot?
I was allowed to style the images very freely and very naturally. Although I can style food for a multitude of visual requirements, my personal preference is a very natural approach. As long as I kept true to the legal specs for the products, I basically had free range (no pun intended) with KFC Eleven. I was also working on this job with an uber-talented group of people from Creative Alliance and Teri Studios, who, in my experience, consistently turn out great results. The clients from KFC were very excited about the new concept and their enthusiasm was contagious.
Any challenges from the shoot?
The biggest challenge was also the most enjoyable – all the freedom I was given to style the new menu items, with none of the usual parameters or restrictions I generally have to work around – it felt like a larger than usual responsibility because there was no preconceived guideline of how anything should look. Technically speaking, I remember I had to really “baby” the Flatbread Wrap on set, very precisely with a steamer, keeping the bread supple so that it would retain its shape after cooling off, while still keeping the fresh ingredients safe from wilting. It was a bit like juggling.
Were you happy with the images?
Absolutely! I love the images! I was psyched to be involved with such a cool project, so I think my creative energy was pretty high and the shots flowed beautifully. I was able to give lots of input about props, backgrounds, food placement, etc. Although I can also honestly say that when I work with Teri Campbell, I’m usually very happy with the results of our efforts.