Cherry Li is a Food photographer based in Los Angeles & Hong Kong via Paris and Beijing.
Cherry Li is a food photographer and food video director. In 2006, after receiving her BFA in photography from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Cherry moved to Paris to chase her love of food. In 2012, Cherry’s passion for experiencing the depth of every Chinese cuisine propelled her to move to Beijing. She divides her time between her studios in Beijing and Hong Kong and traveling through mostly Asia on assignment.
How did you get into photography and when did you decide to choose it as a profession?
I went to a science camp for girls this summer before the eighth grade sponsored by the American Association of University Women.
Each dorm had a project.
Mine was making rockets out of Coke bottles, in which I had no interest but the dorm next-door converted their kitchen into a dark room and taught people how to make pinhole cameras out of oatmeal containers.
When I saw the trees I had just photographed emerge on the piece of paper soaking in the developer, it felt magical—I was in love; I wanted to witness this magic for as long as I could.
What do you like most about your job?
Eating. Enticing people to eat more. Showing people delicious things that they wouldn’t otherwise have eaten.
Her photography style put little details in high definition, letting spark the minimal and showing her passion for culinary
How did you develop your style as a food photographer?
Style is not something I deliberately cultivate; I trust it comes along with living life and adapting to personal and professional challenges.
What are the main difficulties for a food photographer in enhancing dishes and ingredients?
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Timing—cooking time, freezing time, defrosting time, resting time, the prime time for shooting is always a shorter window than for eating.
In her shoots, she captures the essence of the food, with presentations, colors, angles, and background, that give people strong memories
Are there any more or less photogenic foods than others?
I have a congenital aversion to chunky, sticky, saucy things such as miso, gojujang and mashed sweet potatoes.
Cherry Li is a Food photographer and video director available for advertising and editorial assignments
Do you have a favorite dish or type of food to shoot?
Cherry communicates best in images. Her second dearest language is food. She loves to play with it. She loves to light it, to style it and to eat it
Do you find differences between shooting Western food and Asian food?
Yes and no. I find differences between shooting every dish and ingredient, not more or less between dishes from different regions.
I read in your bio that you lived and worked in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris, and Beijing. Do you think your approach to photography and food has changed since you get in touch with different cultures?
Yes. But it’s hard to say whether place or time had a bigger influence on the changes. My visual and taste preferences have and continue to become less precious, heartier.
Her publications include Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller, GQ, Malaysia Airlines, Dragonair, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Wall Street Journal, Theme, Wallpaper, The Cleaver Quarterly, etc
Do you taste what you photograph?
What are the main differences you found in Chinese cuisine around the world (presentation, flavors, etc …)?
Every place has its own Chinese food. I can’t pretend to be an expert on diasporic cuisine but much of what accounts for the differences have to do not only with local preference but also from what regions the Chinese immigrant population settle.
Can you share with us a story behind one of your food photography shoot set?
For the shot of eggs flying against the dark barn wood background, I had bought about 200 eggs from different birds to get varying sizes and flying velocity. We only had the studio from 5 am to 9 am including clean up so we had to work really fast. Once we got the lights up, we only had about an hour to capture the action. One assistant was in charge of cracking eggs and grouping them in ramekins, another was in charge of throwing them in the air. We had one song on repeat to help us synchronize the egg toss with my click of the shutter. It was the most rhythmically choreographed freeze action shoot I’ve done. We got through all the eggs in under an hour, luckily, because the bit of eggs that spilled onto the floor took all the rest of the time to clean.
Photo courtesy of Cherry Food Photo