Melanie Einzig, food52 Photographer

October  5, 2010

For the past 10 weeks, you've seen Melanie Einzig's beautiful photography all over food52 -- now learn more about her in the Q&A below!

Be sure to check out her event and street photography websites (like curated people-watching, without the threat of anyone realizing you're staring at them), and the gorgeous new book featuring her work called Street Photography Now.

Though we're thrilled to have our beloved photographer and friend Sarah Shatz back this week, we will miss Melanie's cheery presence at our Tuesday photo shoots.

  • Melanie Einzig  Istanbul
  • Melanie shooting in Istanbul (photo by S. Yalowitz); one of her shots of an Istanbul market

Q&A with Melanie Einzig

Shop the Story

How did you get into photography?
The question is probably how did photography get into me. I grew up with photos around me: family slideshows watched from the waterbed in the basement, sticky albums with torn plastic pages, the addictive excitement of Polaroids, trading class photos, America in the 1970s. When I was 15 I inherited my parent's metal body Canon AE1. I took it to Israel and made poetic slide shows about my journey. When I was 18 I went to India leaving the camera behind because I didn't want it to "interfere with my experience."

Originally, I wanted to be a poet or a sculptor but the camera kept coming back to me. When I was 23 I made a darkroom in the kitchen of my Houston Street loft ($700.00 a month rent). Even after finishing a Master's program at NYU/International Center of Photography, I spent a few years in denial that photography was my "thing". At about age 30 I worked for the Associated Press and then fully embraced my interest in photography. Now I don't go anywhere without a camera. It's an extension of my body.

Your background is in event and street photography, not food, correct?
Yes, my street photography and event work evolved from wanting to be a photojournalist to make a living. When I realized that it was a full time job (little time to make art on the side) I moved into events. I enjoy photographing people and love to be in the middle of peoples' lives intuitively telling the story of what is happening at weddings, Bar/Bat mitzvahs or anniversary parties. The organizations and institutions that I work for are usually ones whose work I care about and hope that my photography will support their efforts.

With street photography it is a free-for-all. I can wander aimlessly and free my mind from any conventional way of perceiving things, and it appeals to my innate sense of curiosity and adventure. Photographing food has been a surprise pleasure. I'm glad Sarah invited me to cover for her!

How does food photography compare to those forms?

Food photography, the little experience I have with it, is more like still life work. Usually there is some time to explore different angles and lighting and unless something is melting or wilting, it's not moving around in the frantic way people do. I love doing the ingredient shots and final shots but it is also fun to follow the action of Amanda and Merrill in the kitchen. I like to be in the flow of things. However, stopping and reflecting is a good thing and while photographing food you can get very close and quiet. Looking at most food is quite a sensuous and beautiful experience even without eating it.

  • Almond Ice with Glazed Cherries  Photo Wall
  • Almond Ice with Glazed Cherries, shot by Melanie; a wall in her workspace

What are some of your favorite food and/or cooking shots from your time at food52?
The cherries/almond thing... beautiful. The cherries looked like two lovers in a little bed of snow. The cauliflower... love the curves in the leaves, never noticed that before. That one chicken shot... I liked Kristen's read that it looked like from a Tuscan cookbook.

What have you shot lately (other than food)?
Last week I photographed a wedding in a helicopter hovering over Manhattan, a luncheon at Cipriani's space on 42nd Street, a panel discussion about Mexican drug policies, the president of Turkey and a boy playing two recorders with his nose in Union Square.

What photographers or artists do you most admire?
So many! Anish Kapoor and Yayoi Kusama are my favorite sculptors. Photographers: André Kertész, Saul Leiter, Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt , Raghubir Singh, Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank and Cristóbal Hara never grow old on me.

What is your idea of comfort food?
South Indian food but will settle for 6th Street Bangladeshi style.

What do you cook when you're home alone?
Some variation of greens, quinoa and salads. Rice cakes with almond butter. Hummus directly from the container. Maple syrup on vanilla ice cream.

What's your least favorite food?
Frog legs and lizard.

What's your desert island meal?
Loads of hummus, bread, a soft cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and enough red wine to last the whole stay. Hopefully there would be enough supply for my friends who would be there with me.


Kitchen B. November 13, 2010
Oh I missed this on my travels - I love your photography and style and I'm glad you finally admitted your true love to yourself. Well done - now off to look at your websites!
Kelsey B. October 6, 2010
I've really enjoyed your photography Melanie, best of luck with all of your future endeavors!
mrslarkin October 6, 2010
Wow! Your pictures are amazing, Melanie! Love the candid feel of all them. They really tell a story. Hope you can visit food52 again.
lapadia October 5, 2010
Thanks for taking time to share your talent here on Food52, Melanie! Best to you and your future photography work.
AntoniaJames October 5, 2010
Wonderful interview, wonderful photographer. How lucky we are to have had you in our midst these past few months, and to have gotten to know you a little better. ;o)
drbabs October 5, 2010
All the best to you, Melanie. Thank you for sharing your talents with Food52!