NEW YORK – Food stylist, photographer, floral designer and recipe developer Judy Kim is living her dream career, one impeccably composed image at a time. Combining her strong background in fashion, unbeatable sense of taste and balance, and naturally sharp eye, Kim is a lifestyle quadruple-threat whose talents have been put to use by Vogue, Canon, Williams Sonoma, Condé Nast Traveler and other top brands. Ahead of Luxe: The Art of the Table we spent an afternoon at Kim's home studio and asked her to style some of her favourite silver and ceramics from the sale with her signature flowers and irresistible treats. Read on to learn more about her process, inspiration and the objects she chose from the sale.
(LEFT) JUDY KIM. PHOTOGRAPHER: JULIAN CASSIDY.
As a food stylist, photographer, floral designer and recipe developer you wear a lot of hats. How has your career developed?
I had a long career in fashion merchandising and product development at companies such as Burberry, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. It created a great foundation in honing my eye. When it came time for a career change, I luckily met and started working for Grace Park, who owns The Kitchen Table. During my time there, my eyes were opened to many different professions in the food world such as food stylists, prop stylists and photographers. Being in the right place at the right time landed me small roles in various commercial and editorial shoots. Frankly just observing these pros working in their element was a huge learning experience. Grace watched my interests and skills grow and made many introductions that helped get me involved in cool projects that often led to commercial work or even direct commercial clients. She really believed in me. Many of the things I do now have been spinoffs of things I learned from the past. If there were table settings, being in fashion I was always around textiles and looking at how things work together in terms of shape, texture, colour and height.
PHOTOGRAPHER: JUDY KIM.
Do you find that your different passions feed into or build off of each other creatively?
They do, and until recently I fought that because I was worried I was going in too many directions. My first love is styling, but photography has become such a part of me, they feel interconnected. Some of my commercial jobs request my styling and photography services because they are looking for a particular outcome in terms of style. Those services might include florals or an element of interior design as well. I’m learning to enjoy all the opportunities that come with each job, I’ve decided why not try it. Who else is going to give me a chance to do all that?
How did you begin taking your own pictures?
I have been using a camera as a hobby since I was a kid, and remember dreaming of being a photographer, having the ability to see things in a unique way and capture it. I loved taking pictures, especially when I was traveling internationally six to eight months of the year for my fashion job. But looking back, the photos were pretty lame. I didn’t have a point of view when I hit the shutter. Focusing on food really helped me become passionate about photography. So much so that I took photos every day for nearly a year when I started getting serious. Since then, I’ve been able to expand my range within photography to areas such as still-life and travel. Travel photography highlights have been Mount Kilimanjaro and Patagonia. I don’t use my camera daily now, but it literally sits on my dining table. When it’s stowed my camera bag, I find my creativity dives a bit. I love that photography continues to help develop my skills as a stylist.
How does your taste as a stylist and photographer relate to your taste in design?
I think it’s actually the other way around. My design background affects my taste as a stylist and a photographer. Even if I don’t realize it I often pull from a catalogue of experience kept in my mind. Days spent in fashion concept meetings, selecting colour palettes as a colourist, painting, drawing, messy floral shops or ceramic studios and travel all lead to my future. I think my varied background only strengthens my abilities to do my job now. I’m glad I don’t have a conventional background. Often decisions I make now for a client are based on a combination of all of those days. I envision the big picture and work backwards to the minutiae. While working on the Sotheby’s shoot I built concepts for each vignette based on certain silver or ceramics, the food and floral selections came naturally.
PHOTOGRAPHER: JUDY KIM.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Do you have any favourite sources?
In the past, coming from fashion, I would use tear sheets. But you don’t need to do that anymore with so many social apps out there. Instead I think about the images I see on Pinterest and Instagram. I also love collecting items when I travel, and look through my prop closet before a shoot to see if there’s something I want to pull, whether it’s a basket from France or my favourite ceramic artist here in New York, Jono Pandolfi. He makes great, grounding pieces that I use the most consistently. I even used his product in the Sotheby’s shoot.
How do the Sotheby’s objects you picked reflect your aesthetic?
I picked objects that have a modern component, like the silver salts and robin’s egg blue sèvres service. I knew I wanted to mix my own pieces in as well, so the vignettes were a reflection of how I would use these items on a regular basis. I broke them into four primary scenes – the bookcase, the farm-to-table salad, the cocktail party and the Marie Antoinette tea set. I also shot the champagne bucket and the flower arrangement in the urn, which were a little more traditional and grand. The designs of these objects are timeless.
To see Kim's full shoot and learn more about the property featured, click below.
For a behind the scenes look at the photo shoot, click below.