At the end of 2019, Los Angeles-based photographer Natasha Lee was contracted to shoot stills for Shape of Pasta, a show on the streaming platform Quibi that launched this April. The photographer captured several pasta-making processes, and their results in Chef Evan Funke’s Venice Los Angeles restaurant, which is called Felix.
I’ve been a fan of Chef Evan since his previous restaurant, Bucato, in Culver City, so getting to work with him on this almost felt surreal.
The photographer was given just one day to capture all of the photos from the shot list, and even that time was cut short by the kitchen’s need to prepare for the dinner service in the late afternoon. Besides the photo shoot’s time constraints, since the photographer was shooting food, she also had to capture each plate before any leaves began to wilt or sauces to congeal.
Since Chef Evan planned to style each dish himself, there was only one hero plate for each pasta type. Everything had to happen quickly but deliberately.
To capture the food in its prime, Natasha set up a designated food “studio” in the restaurant so that each plate of food would be photographed in exactly the same way. This set up allowed the photographer to work quickly and efficiently without compromising the quality of the photos.
One of the main poster concepts had an overhead view of the various pasta dishes. With that in mind, we mounted the camera so that all of the dishes would be shot from the exact same angle to make the composite seamless.
Since Natasha prefers to use more natural lighting rather than artificial, the food “studio” was set up by the restaurant’s front windows. This meant that the finished food plates were run from the climate-controlled area where they were made up to the front of the restaurant for each shot. With time being of the essence, the photographer set up any additional lighting for the food “studio” prior to the start of the shoot, but she was still able to make some adjustments on the fly.
We played with different reflectors and fill for each dish to bring out highlights in the sauce or oil, depending on the shape, color, and texture of the pasta, plateware, and the height of the dish.
Back in the kitchen, Natasha’s experience with food and editorial assignments came in handy. Almost as if in a dance, the photographer moved alongside the chef to capture the story behind each type of pasta in the small kitchen space.
Having navigated a variety of kitchens on editorial assignments, everything felt so instinctual. It was one of those shoots where I felt completely in flow and nothing else existed in those moments besides the artist, his pasta, and the camera.
Natasha’s photos are being used as marketing assets for Shape of Pasta, which aired on Quibi in April 2020.
See more of Natasha’s work at bynatasha.net.
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