When Antonio of Life & Thyme reached out about using our photo studio upstairs for an upcoming photo series featuring bad ass women in the LA food scene, the answer could only be YES! He partnered with Deepi Ahluwalia to create beautifully powerful portraits of these female leading forces, illustrating an amazing balance of grace and strength.
We were also a tiny bit stoked to see our usually light + airy photo studio transformed into a dark and moody backdrop for this series.
We caught up with Deepi for a quick interview about her process, the inspiration and what's coming next...
Why did you want to do this project with Life & Thyme?
After the election, the feeling of sadness and fear I was experiencing was pretty overwhelming. As my shock lifted, I really felt the urge to do something with my time and skill set. It was part self-therapy and part the need to fight for others, especially women. Since I have been working closely with Life & Thyme for several years, it felt natural to reach out to Antonio and Stef to express my feelings and to offer my services for any projects that could be empowering for women. They have the perfect platform to reach a wide audience and a deep connection with the Los Angeles culinary scene. Also, the Life & Thyme folks are wonderful collaborators which is exactly with this project is: a true collaboration.
How did you decide on the visual aesthetic of the shoot?
To be able to photograph so many accomplished culinary women in one shoot is a chance you only get so often, so I didn’t want this to be a missed opportunity. My goal was to elevate these portraits through the use of dramatic lighting coupled with an intimate set. The original wood floors in the Hedley & Bennett studio fit the aesthetic I had in mind perfectly. Adding in textural elements—vintage wood crates, metal stools and most importantly, the hand-painted Schmidli backdrop—completed the set. It was the perfect blend of warm and cool, feminine and masculine. I also requested the ladies wear neutral or jewel tones to keep the focus on them and to create cohesion in the series.
How did you go about capturing each woman in such a format that allowed their personalities to shine through?
Since we only had one set to work with and 14 women to shoot, we had to get creative with poses and the usage of props. Getting familiar with each culinary leader prior to the shoot was important in determining what would work with her speciality and personality. Before we began shooting, I asked each woman to convey confidence in her expression but she was free to express herself—and her femininity—through her body language. The only requisite was they all had to look directly into the camera. I wanted their commanding presence front and center in order for the viewer to connect with the subject. For some ladies, we had a specific shot in mind, such as Della and the flour or Eden-Marie and the coffee. For others, we tried many different poses but also let them let loose. That’s how we ended up with Ellen and her iconic jump!
Will you do a follow-up to this project?
We would love to do a follow-up to this project and will keep you posted on when that happens!
The photo series opened at the Ace Hotel downtown and proceeds went to benefit Planned Parenthood. Read more about it on L&T!