Jessica Legitimus

Jessica Legitimus is a French photographer based between Melbourne and Paris. Her work covers restaurants, bars, interior designers, events, fitness and sports, and commercial clients, and has appeared on Broadsheet amongst other places. She recently signed with an agent in Paris. Red Magpie interviewed Jessie about her start in photography and her ongoing passion project, ‘A Hint Of…’, which will feature 100 chefs interacting with their ‘go to’ ingredient.

Tell us about your background in photography.

Photography has always been part of me. As a child I remember taking my time and thinking about composition while snapping holiday pictures with those disposable cameras from the 90s. After I graduated from high school, my mum gave me a camera as a reward gift. I took me 10 years to realise I actually wanted to make a career of it. In 2012 I went on a 10-week workshop at the Los Angeles Centre of Photography where I learnt the basics. Then for two years I self-trained in composition – how to look at things by shooting friends, streets in Paris and Melbourne, concerts gigs, vacations, etc. Finally, I followed that with a one-year full time course at Melbourne Polytechnic where I trained in editing, studio lighting, and styling.

How did you get into food photography?

My life has always revolved around food. I’m someone who cooks massive dinners for people I love; food has something very comforting to me. My collection of magazines is filled with all things food. I get emotional when I see nice red tomatoes on glossy paper! Plus I have a hospitality background – so it came naturally that I’d shoot food. You always end up shooting the things you are passionate about.

Do you eat the food after you photograph it?

I wish I could! But there are two reasons why I don’t. The first is that the food gets touched a lot, and gets cold quickly on set. The second is that I find it unprofessional to eat while I shoot. Restaurants owner or chefs sometimes offer me to eat some of the food that has been use for the shoot, but I kindly decline.

You often use moody lighting in your photography; why is that?

I exclusively shoot my food with natural light. Moody lighting is a way to enhance the texture and colour of the subject. Food is emotion to me; I wouldn’t shoot it like a product, the way you can find in commercial photography. It has an emotional story that I try to translate.

Food is emotion to me; I wouldn’t shoot it like a product, the way you can find in commercial photography. It has an emotional story that I try to translate.

Tell us about the concept behind your photography series, ‘A Hint Of…’.

I wondered: what are the ingredients that chefs love most, and why? This project became the perfect excuse for me to mix my two favourite subjects to shoot: people and food. It also makes perfect sense with my career in hospitality and photography.

How many chefs are featured in the series, and how did you find them?

I’ve shot 50 chefs in Melbourne, and I am currently shooting in Paris. I simply get in touch with them via Instagram, email, or word of mouth. It’s amazing to receive such enthusiasm about the project. The series will be finished when I reach 100 chefs and ingredients.

The series shows a great sense of playful humour. Was this your aim?

I was very lucky to meet great, humble, and passionate people who actually came to have fun in the space where I shoot. I can’t speak for them, but I feel that talking about something you really love does the trick, getting people to unwind and get comfy in front of the camera.

You use a white background and bench top with simple, recurring props. Why did you pick these elements for the composition?

I wanted the viewer to focus on the main interest of this project: the food and the chef’s emotion. The repetition in props and the white background helps to avoid distraction.

Who is your favourite photographer – or who is inspiring you – currently?

As corny as it may sound, I find inspiration in people who believe in their dreams and work to turn them into reality. Everyday people who have a passion and set their mind to make a living from it: these people get me to keep on going at times when doubt tries to trick my mind.

Photography by Jessica Legitimus. Follow her Instagram here. Jessica’s portrait was photographed by Katherine Soutar, and styled by Tamara Leacock.