Today I’m introducing Elise Dumas, a Paris based food and lifestyle photographer also known as The Pineapple Chef. I recently had the opportunity to see a Instagram LIVE that Elise did with Sharon Santoni (My French Country Home) where they both styled their Easter in Isolation Project (floral arrangements featuring eggs they’d dyed using only ingredients they had around the home.)
Prior to the lockdown Elise was able to leave Paris with her loved ones and take shelter in the French countryside. During this time in isolation, Elise has continued to find inspiration creating beautiful florals arrangements and delicious recipes that she’s shared on her blog and Instagram feed (including one for Lilac syrup that I’m eager to try.)
In this interview, Elise shares about when she first fell in love with food and lifestyle photography, what she enjoys the most about working with brands and how she’s continued to be inspired during this time of isolation.
When did your love of food & lifestyle photography begin?
I think I have always been in love with food and lifestyle photography. When I first started, I was shooting with film and developing my own pictures, while collecting food recipes and lifestyle magazines from all over the world.
I was diagnosed with food intolerances in 2011 (wheat, egg white, dairy which are major bases for French food) and I had to change the way I ate (even though I come from a family where we eat high-quality, balanced and non processed food). I wanted to share my recipes on a blog and starting shooting them with a digital camera. All of the pieces of the puzzle were coming together for me.
Before settling down in Paris, you lived abroad in Africa, Holland, the US etc. What are some of the ways your travels have inspired you to create?
I lived abroad and had the travel bug for a long time like my parents. (I still have it, but can’t do it as much as I would like to.) All of those long stays and trips opened my eyes to different cultures and cuisines from around the world. I am very proud to be French and to be living in a country where food is such a passion, but I am also very proud to have been introduced to Asian, American or even African cuisines. When I had to reinvent my cooking, keeping my french roots, I could easily introduce foreign ingredients that were not common here 9 years ago.
How would you describe the signature style of your photography?
I think I could describe it as colorful and joyful, focusing on the beauty of simple things. I want to show beauty in a sardine can as in a magnificent flower bouquet, show savoir- faire, craftsmanship, seasons and simple lifestyle. I am fascinated by the Dutch painters of the 16th, 17th and 18th century where chiaroscuro was so beautiful. I love how the dark as well as the light reveal the beauty of things.
Who are some of the photographers from either the past or present day who inspire you?
Some of the eye-openers for me were: Donna Hay and her Australian food magazine when I was living there, a masterclass in London with @greenkitchenstories in 2012, workshops with @lindalomelino, @stemsandforks and @evakosmasflores, Irving Penn still life pictures, Martin Parr colorful England seaside pictures…
In December of 2019 you created a gorgeous hairstyle out of macarons on a piece of artwork for the Pierre Herme Tresor Caches Collection. Do you plan out the styling for your photoshoots in advance?
Yes, I do plan in advance. There is a lot of work beforehand. I plan the recipes and the ingredients depending on the season, I look for inspiration on social media, books, magazines and then I envision the picture in my head. I am very bad at drawing things, but because I have been a visual merchandiser in fashion for 15 years displaying things in boutiques, pop ups and windows, I do see the final result in my mind.
If I work for a client, I do prepare before the photoshoot by assessing the type of atmosphere, the number of pictures required, which formats to use, the do’s and don’ts so I can have my mind dedicated to creating during when I’m actually shooting the project.
What was one of the most intricate photographs you’ve ever styled?
Ice cream is tough in summer as it obviously melts quickly, wine or champagne bottles are tricky too because of the light reflections.
I shoot using natural light so winter days are also very tricky as the sun sets sometimes around 4PM so the days are quite intense.
Back in January you took a trip with Nespresso (France). What were some of the best experiences from the trip and what do you enjoy the most about working with brands?
I have already been to Italy and to Milan and Rome, but going there working for a brand is another experience. You are on a working trip not a personal one, so you are pretty much focusing on work all the time.
But some of the good things are definitely to be mentioned: Enjoying the travel experience with the brand you’re working with, I get to meet other influencers from other countries and I get to visit new places such as amazing local restaurants, cafés, a secret and closed to the public palazzo… and when it comes to Milan and Rome this means the highest level of chic and deliciousness!
Also in a more general sense, I enjoy taking a brand’s DNA and trying to offer suitable content for their own use, but with my style and my eye. I love digging into a brand’s history to develop some story-telling.
Prior to the lockdown you were able to leave Paris for the countryside with your family. Has confinement changed your subject matter/source of inspiration and how have you continued to find inspiration?
I have been so lucky to be living here during these troubled times. Some clients have kept sending me beautiful products or ordering digital or print content and I have access to ingredients here, so between few orders on the net and the supermarkets not far from here, I am ok to cook and shoot. I have been so lucky to be able to wander in the woods or in fields to cut flowers and foliage. Some neighbors have brought me wild flowers from their gardens so I could style a lot of flower bouquets.
I have found inspiration as usual (books, social media…) but also in the surroundings (flowers) and with other bloggers or brands, who have organizing Live chats on Instagram. You never know where 30 minutes of Live will take you. Brands who did not know me previously have now contacted me to work with them. I believe in trying to stay active during this time brings even more energy and good things.
What are some of your favorite dishes you’ve created and photographed recently?
I love seafood and cheese boards. Eggs in all shapes and of all kinds. Spring fruit like strawberries… and of course flowers.
You’ve previously taught food photography and styling workshops both in Paris and beyond. What were some of your most memorable workshops?
Oh, I love them all because each one is different. The are all memorable as will be the ones to come, I have so many ideas in my head and I cannot wait to start them again. They are a LOT of work but they leave unforgettable memories.
Keep up with Elise/The Pineapple Chef via her website and Instagram @thepineapplechef
All images in this post were provided by Elise Dumas.