GIA / Thelilstudio - The Visual Story Of Food
The first time I browsed Gia's photos on Instagram, it seemed that there was a swirling vortex that pulled me into it deeply. I often encourage myself to take profound and meaningful pictures, and let people curious about my photos, and want to discover more. Gia's photos make me feel the same.
Gourmet photography is not only about showing food clear, but also about creating various dining atmosphere (who, what, and where) . Gia has not only reached the level, yet her image quality is rare in Taiwan. From her published information on the internet, knowing that she came to Europe to join food photography and styling workshops a few years ago, and hoped to experience the lifestyle of the locals through a short-term living.
I visited Gia a while ago and had an interview with her. I would like to know more about the woman who shoots beautiful images. Moreover, I hope that our conversation will bring you more inspiration for food photography.
Knowing yourself and taking your advantage as the key to making decisions
When Gia was a child, she settled in New York for a while with her parents. Moreover, her mother is an English teacher. Gia has developed her bilingual proficiency since her childhood. Later, she majored in English at the university and then went to New York for further education.
"I was not a child who took exams well, so I chose the conditions that were beneficial to me; I applied successfully to the English Department at the university, and then went to study Media Studies in New York. Because I did not have any experience of filming, I did not join the major of Production. Instead, I took the Theory as my major. It was not only easier to connect the courses; it also allowed me to learn the professional knowledge and techniques of filming and editing films."
"The two majors (English and Media Studies) are quite ethereal." Gia made a joke. However, Gia, who is good at analyzing and studying results, puts this set of judgment into life. It seems that she is romantic and casual, but she has uncompromising perseverance and motivation for her goals.
After returning to Taiwan from New York, Gia started working at a public relations company. "I had no problem to get promoted at that time, but I looked at the director and tried to suppose about my future if I wanted to live in that position and to have a similar life as his. I realized that it is not the journal I wanted." Two years later, Gia decided to quit her job without a plan B. She worked as a copywriter and translator to support her living.
The exploration period was not short, and it took about two years. "At that time, I even went to the market to sell home-baked desserts or wanted to be a private chef. I thought about how to keep my income, but it had nothing to do with photography." Gia recalled her life; it seemed easy but stressful.
"I am blessed that my family has always been extremely supportive of my dreams and goals, especially my mother. She hopes that I do what I like and gives me a lot of freedom and encouragement." Because of her exploration, Gia had some opportunities and started taking photos.
While working as a copywriter, Gia started browsing a lot of blogs on different topics. At that time, it was the heyday of blogging; so Gia also began to try to write articles on different ideas. After a long time, she set the theme on food and started to share recipes; it was also the time she has started to take pictures.
When Gia started sharing recipes, she chose a character from a movie or book. Then take this role as the main idea to associate a dish. Sometimes it is based on the personality of the protagonist of the story, sometimes based on the emotions brought by the plot to associate and choose different creations (to find recipes and bake).
For example, when she watched the movie, Matilda, Gia was curious about the taste of the chocolate cake. When she discovered a new chocolate cake recipe, she would try it out, and then compare her cake with the flavor of her imagination (the taste that the film conveys visually).
"In this way, I am not the focus of sharing in the blog; moreover, I can express my emotions or thoughts through these images and tell my own story." Gia is not used to publicly telling her private stories. Baking and photography can express her opinions and ideas richly and appropriately. Her pictures and texts in her blog have slowly attracted readers' attention. Then she received an invitation to cooperate for workshops.
The partner hoped that Gia could host baking workshops, but she refused. "There are many baking teachers in the market." Gia knows that she has a significant advantage, that is, she can bake cakes, do food styling, then photography. In particular, the combination of food styling and photography is unique in Taiwan. So, Gia once again creates a unique opportunity with her advantage.
At the same time as the workshops began, Gia also started taking commercial photography. Gia prefers to shoot with natural light, but the market likes to shoot in artificial light. Comparing to natural light, the stability of shooting with artificial light is relatively high, which saves a lot of time waiting for the perfect light. However, in the dilemma of her insisting and customer preferences, Gia, who was a newcomer to the commercial photography, slowly lost confidence in her work, and images did not seem to meet her high standards.
Now, she has a better approach to artificial light. However, Gia believes that although she still prefers using natural light for shooting, learning to use artificial light is the basic common sense that all photographers should know. Whether to use this technique is a personal choice. At the same time, she also realized that the original intention of commercial photography is that a photographer helps brands to speak in his/her style; thus, she has a better balance between her style and the requirements of brands.
After hosting workshops and taking commercial images for a while, Gia gradually faced bottlenecks and hesitated to her photography. "Would I have to go out of my comfort zone to cater to the market? If I stick to my opinions, is there a way to survive?" Gia sat across from me seemed relaxed, but at that time, her struggle must have come from her passion for photography. It must be so tough to make up her mind.
At that time, Gia had the idea of going back to school, but she already had enough education; she needed the most practical techniques and exercises. And more importantly, to experience a different lifestyle. Therefore, Gia decided to join some photography workshops hosted by her favorite photographers to observe their techniques.
「那時候最想上的是Beth Kirby的工作坊（部落格：Local Milk），在確定了她的課表時程後，也一起安排了時間配合得來的攝影師課程，有Signe Bay（IG：signebay）、緊接著是Eva Kosmas Flores 的課（部落格：First We Eat）。Eva Kosmas Flores邀請了Linda Leomelino（部落格：Call Me Cupcake）以及Marta（部落格：What for breakfast）共同舉辦那次的工作坊，所以在差不多三、四個月時間內，我跑了三座城市上了三堂工作坊的課。甚至在課程結束後，有機會在Signe Bay的工作室擔任實習助手。」
Constantly learning and gradually changing in photography style.
If you analyze Gia's photography skills at different stages, you can roughly divide it into three periods before our interview. Of course, afterwards, each photographer will cast emotions on his/her images because of the developing of age, vision, experience and mood. It makes people look forward to the growth and process.
Before Gia started writing her blog, she had no idea about taking pictures. "I call it a folk style. I pressed the shutter when I saw things I like to capture. But this kind of method won't improve any skill because I had no idea what were my problems and how to improve." I fully agree with her because this is the first step that everyone will experience before they try to change.
Later, after she discovered different photo styles and photographers on the Internet, Gia began to have the target: "I want to take that kind of photos. I started researching and studying to see how my favorite photographers take photos.” During the booming days of blogging, she liked to study the comments and replies under the photographer's blog posts. There was a lot of information to learn from. At the same time, she also began to observe which photography workshops could participate.
"At that time, I wanted to participate in Beth Kirby's workshop (Blog: Local Milk). After confirming the schedule, I also arranged other photographer's courses at about the same period, with Signe Bay (IG: signebay), followed by Eva Kosmas Flores (Blog: First We Eat). Eva Kosmas Flores invited Linda Leomelino (Call Me Cupcake) and Marta (What for breakfast) to host the workshop together, so in almost three to four months, I followed three workshops in three cities. Even after the journey, I had the opportunity to work as an intern at Signe Bay's studio."
Before the workshops, Gia had some experience in photography skills, but there was still a lot to learn in food styling. The position and relationship of the objects appearing in the images taken by the photographers are all planned, and they are never put into the photos without any purpose. The seemingly random arrangement is the accumulation of experience, to present an effortless, pure and profound atmosphere.
What inspired Gia the most was the work and living environment of these photographers, she felt different lifestyles and learned different inspiration. It's not just to set up romantic and beautiful scenes for shooting, but realize the aesthetic sense into real life.
The effortless aesthetic sense comes from the accumulation of inspiration
After participating in these photography workshops, Gia began experimenting with new ingredients or try to bake existing recipes and then shooting images with different stylings that were different from the previous ones. "I have always been a vision-oriented person, so most of the time, I only take dessert to present my romantic themes and ideas. My inspiration often varies with life; for example, if I get pink tulips, I will first conceive suitable issues for pink tulips, and then find a proper recipe for shooting. If I have the opportunity to get new shooting props, it is even easier to generate new inspiration."
Coming back to Taiwan and hosting her workshops again, Gia planned different programs and let participants come to her home studio. They can experience Gia's lifestyle, and visit the scenes where she shoots beautiful pictures, which makes it easier to explain the course content.
"My inspiration comes from life; the participants can experience it directly at my studio. Everyone gathers together is like visiting a friend's house, exploring the lifestyle and atmosphere. As I went to workshops abroad, I saw the living situation and culture of those photographers. It makes me understand the original intention of their creation. I also understand how to combine suitable elements to create beautiful images."
Of course, as a photographer, I am envious of a large number of shooting props that Gia has collected. We all understand that beautiful things are accumulated in time. "For example, this old table, I waited for three or four years. After I found it, I quickly purchased it. People often cannot understand how important fermentation is." Gia said that the personal style is a choice of every photographer. In the process, we have to select what materials or inspiration to add in.
Gia always shares the way she collects inspiration; Pinterest is the app she uses most to view images.
"There is a way to browse pictures. Try to analyze one of your favorite images and appreciate the lights and shadows, the colors and composition. If you know how to read a picture, you can accumulate the sense. When I create a folder on Pinterest, I will divide it into two categories. One folder is dedicated to photos that can be used as references. The other folder is stored separately for images which may be challenging to implement in real life; such as shooting in a castle, it is not easy for us to achieve. However, if you search for inspiration and learn from it for a long time, all these beautiful ideas and details will become your database. When you take photos, you can integrate your style effortlessly. "
Travel as a photographer
Gia admits that she is a woman who likes to stay at home, but she can't resist travel. When she chooses a place to travel, she sometimes starts with a favorite lodging and then develops a route of visiting around. For example, the trip to Sweden in September 2018 was a special plan for the VIPP Shelter. The journey started from here. "I am a goal-oriented person. Once I find something I like, I will arrange it and follow the plan," Gia said.
Gia likes to purchase props while traveling. "I go abroad with empty suitcases, and then pack the purchased items home. I especially like the works of Japanese ceramics artists." It was interesting to listen to Gia how she uses different clothes and bubble pads to pack her purchased stuff. The method is impressive; it seems that I have to ask her to show the packaging process so that readers who like to buy props can also understand the knack.
After her first trip to Iceland in 2013, Iceland became Gia's current favorite country. It is vast and endless, with a completely different view of Taiwan. It is a place that matches her mood. She especially appreciates the friendly feelings of the local residents. The climate is mostly bad; therefore, everyone is close to each other and willing to help others. Gia hopes that she will have the opportunity to stay in Iceland longer and explore its aspects of beauty in the future.
The visual story of food
When I interviewed her, Gia was editing her upcoming book. In addition to writing, she had to rearrange the old photos and was very busy. She has a wealth of experience with self-study photography, and the skills learned from setbacks and failures are worth sharing. Now when I am writing this interview, Gia's new work, The visual story of food just published in Taiwan.
I am honored to be one of the recommenders of her book; I didn't even think that I could become a recommender when I interviewed her. With the deep impression of Gia and the understanding and inspiration that I felt when we met and chatted, I was delighted to smile when I flipped through the first draft documents she sent. I am not only happy about this easy-to-read and step-by-step book in the publishing market; I am more eager to make a friend who is kind and has a similar understanding.
It is a generation that everyone can take beautiful pictures. Therefore, we expect ourselves to shoot photos with a unique personal style. Through the composition of each photograph, we convey our belief in aesthetics. Gia, thank you for bringing us your beautiful images and inspiration.