If you have even the slightest interest in food – or even just plain good aesthetics – chances are you’ll have come across photographer and food stylist Dionna Lee‘s works on Instagram before. We enlisted Lee to whip up a custom creation for us in the July issue and the end result stayed true to her signature arty, humorous style.

Here, we speak to Lee on what goes behind the scenes for her work:

How would you describe your aesthetic approach when conceptualising/shooting? 

“The creative process is the best part of the work, and when we conceptualise for a project it can vary differently from personal to commercial assignments.

For a personal project, we usually like to explore new visual styles. For commercial projects we will need to put the client first and explore a treatment that benefits their direction. We would like to think that we are versatile and can morph quite easily as we constantly like to switch things up.”

What inspires your photos? For instance, we’ve seen you cite 17th century artists as inspiration, which  is rather unexpected for a food artist/stylist.

We are immensely influenced by both contemporary art and the Old Masters, film, travel and everyday forms of food & still-life. We love to look at art for inspiration, as it is often complex and (typically) possesses layers of hidden symbolic meanings behind each subject/component.

How would you say the food styling/photography has evolved in Singapore?

“People are getting more adventurous and investigative when shooting their food. They are exploring more action shots and video and are moving slowly away from the predictable flat lays. The current trend lies with excessive, overly styled sets that show manicured food, variety and quantity. I believe we will be seeing more deliciously ugly foods or styling with more story-telling intent.”

How did you get into food styling in the first place?

“Creating, styling food sets and photographing all started rather organically. To take the edge off from work, we started conceptualising and photographing during our free time. It has been an interesting 5 years and we have evolved from travel to food photography and then to product photography.”

What’s a typical day like at Studio Oooze (Lee’s creative agency)?

My partner Sean Ashley and I work together very closely on conceptualising the direction for every project together. A lot of pre-production prep goes into each shoot. For example, there is a treatment deck which we prepare and often if the set is elaborate, we will provide sketches for the project. Once that is approved by the client, we will prepare a prop list and begin sourcing or fabricating our sets. One day prior to the shoot day or a couple of hours before a shoot we will do a pre-lighting test. This enables us to test the lighting and ensure that the equipment we have is suitable for execution.

Depending on the day and project, Sean and I will decide together who will be the lead photographer as we often toggle between this role, while the other will act as the stylist/assistant. Most of the time however, these roles are often blurred and we usually have discussions on execution together during the shoot itself. It could take from anywhere between two to five weeks from conceptualisation to the final post.