Syrup poured in a tan stream over a pink waffle. Chunks of dark chocolate next to cherries. A pair of magenta beets side-by-side.
Los Angeles photographer and recent Photography and Imaging alumna Tatijana Vasily (BFA 16) not only takes food photos that are colorful and vibrant, they also inspire a Thanksgiving-sized appetite. Her work is featured on packaging for chocolate products sold in national chains including Whole Foods, World Market and Macy’s.
“I love photographing all food, as long as I can make it look beautiful,” says Vasily. “I also have a big sweet tooth,” she adds, laughing.
I love photographing all food, as long as I can make it look beautiful.Tatijana Vasily
Born and raised in L.A., with Croatian as her first language, Vasily bought her first camera—a pink Fujifilm—in the sixth grade. After a high school teacher encouraged her to go to ArtCenter, she applied and was accepted. Her experience at the College catapulted her longtime hobby into a professional career.
“My dad was a successful fashion model back in the day in the U.S. and Europe, and he also took great photos, but not professionally. I grew up seeing his photos throughout the house,” says Vasily, whose Croatian mother immigrated to the U.S. after meeting her American-born Croatian father in Hercegovina. “I told my dad that if I couldn’t go to ArtCenter, I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” says Vasily.
Vasily decided to on focus on photographing food, sparked by a love of her mom’s Croatian cooking—including a beef, rice and cabbage specialty called sarma—and a Food Photography course taught by Photography alumnus Pornchai Mittongtare (BFA 97). Other noted food-centric Photography alumni include Peden+Munk’s Taylor Peden and Jen Munkvold (BFA 07), James Wojcik (BFA 81) and Vanessa Stump (BFA 00), who hosts an alumni Supper Club series.
Vasily went on to intern at Mittongtare’s downtown L.A. studio. She was inspired by the exquisiteness of his images, his props—from dishware to table tops—and his work ethic and business knowledge. Vasily began posting her own food photos to Instagram, which led to paid assignments while she was still a student.
“Social media is a great step in getting people’s attention,” she says. “You’re both exhibiting your work and reaching more people. Before, you had to mail out your photo book to New York City, and people would look at it, and send it back.”
Vasily also credits her business savvy to Photography alumna and mentor Ann Elliott Cutting (BFA 87). She adored Cutting’s course Photo Production, plus a later independent study with the instructor.
“Ann always pushed me to do exactly what I wanted to do, and was so supportive,” says Vasily. “She taught me how to put together estimates and bids, and which clients to reach out to. Ann has been my No. 1 helper since I graduated. Even if I text her at a random hour of the day, she texts me back.”
Recently Vasily worked with advertising agency 72andSunny on social media campaigns for dairy brand Tillamook, including shooting towering scoops—up to eight and nine—of dripping, melting ice-cream. She also does packaging and web content for energy bar company Quantum Squares.
And next year? Vasily aspires to collaborate with more top advertising firms and food stylists across L.A.
“My goal is to mix editorial and advertising photography,” she says. “I like doing work that’s clean enough to be advertising, but messy enough to be editorial.”