Finding beauty on a plate

A food stylist and photographer join together to do what they love most: styling and photographing food.

DANYA WEINER (left) and Deanna Linder 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
DANYA WEINER (left) and Deanna Linder 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Deanna Linder freely admits she has “probably the most awesome job ever.” After all, she spends most of her days doing what mothers have for decades been chastising their children for doing: Playing with her food.
Linder and photographer Danya Weiner form an in-demand food stylist/food photographer team, collaborating on photo shoots for cookbooks, magazines and advertisements, as well as heading the popular Matkonation blog (matkon is Hebrew for recipe).
Each took her own path to the world of creating beautiful images of food.
Weiner was born in Los Angeles, but came to Israel when she was just a few months old. She struggled in school until she took a class in photography at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and “I just got hooked completely.”
It wasn’t until she was studying photography at Hadassah College and took a class in food photography that she dedicated herself to taking culinary photos.
“I always loved food,” she says, “and I realized I wanted to combine my two loves.”
Linder, who was also born in California, came to Israel in 2003, working in the field of counterterrorism research. After three years at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, she left to pursue her culinary dreams. She graduated from the Bishulim school in Tel Aviv and worked in various restaurants before she realized that being a chef wasn’t the life she wanted.
She had never heard of food styling before a friend suggested it as a potential career, but once she learned more about it, she was sold. After apprenticing for a year under one of the country’s most famous food stylists, Natasha Haimovich, Linder branched out with her own business.
“It’s not just making food look pretty,” she says of her work, “it’s more art direction.”
She keeps a large collection of props for posing photos, most of which she buys on trips to flea markets in California twice a year.
Shortly after Linder set out on her own, Weiner contacted her to collaborate on a cookbook, and their partnership was born.
Though both women say the field of food photography is growing in Israel, they’ve encountered plenty of surprised and confused reactions among people who ask what they do for a living.
“People are very surprised,” says Weiner. “It’s not something you hear about very often.... They ask, why do you just photograph food and not architecture or people?”
But even in the 10 years since she started in the field, she adds, “today there are more, many more, that are known for this speciality.”
As for Linder, whose job involves arranging both the food and its surroundings to best exhibit the recipe – dishes, textiles, backgrounds, props and utensils – even her own husband didn’t quite understand what she did. Until, after a particular shoot, the photographer sent over all the proofs, where the small changes she had made between photos were evident.
“You could see how I’d moved a spoon a little bit and everything,” she says, “and my husband said to me, ‘I finally get what you do!’”
The pair also encounter many misconceptions about about the world of food styling.
“People ask, do you use real food?” says Linder. “Yes, we eat what we make... if I don’t come home from a photo shoot with a box of food, my husband is disappointed.”
While they work with all sorts of clients, Weiner says she loves working with chefs “that have a creative view for themselves... that we work together and understand the image... the photographer, the chef and stylist; when we all work together it’s like a triangle, and every food can be photographed in a beautiful way.”
And while the two women make a living on photo shoots for magazines like Al Hashulhan (On the Table) and cookbooks like the newly published Hebrew-language Everything on the Grill (Penn Publishing), their creative inspiration is channeled in their blog. Weiner and Linder alternate posting on Matkonation several times a month, with recipes, photos and stories from their lives.
“I felt that I needed a place that would make me do my own stuff,” says Weiner. “I needed somewhere that my photography would be only mine. Sometimes it takes a lot of our time, but I think it pushes us to find new stuff and investigate food.”
“The blog started as a way for us to have creativity from start to finish,” adds Linder. And while they don’t make much income from the site, it has led to new assignments, as well as a series of courses they run out of Weiner’s Jaffa studio for people interested in studying food photography and styling.
“I really believe in the recipes we post,” says Linder. “Both of us are moms” – Linder of one and Weiner of soon-to-be three – “and it’s really important for us to cook at home, easy, tasty meals.”