Kyle Dreier Gives Food Photography a Graphic Edge

December 3, 2013

By Jacqui Palumbo

© Kyle Dreier

Tomato soup dish from Dreier's Cubism series.

Kyle Dreier is a food photographer. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He won’t eat raw oysters, and he loves chocolate and cheesecake (but not together!). He loves to bake pies, thanks to his grandmother’s tendency to bake “test pies” before every holiday “just to make sure she still had the touch.” He tries to not be the guy who pulls out his iPhone to take pictures of his meal. His first camera was a Kodak Instamatic at eight years old. His first roll of film included Rome, Athens and Cairo. His second roll of film included Kenya, Durban and Rio. Eight-year old Kyle was very conservative with his film.
Since then, Dreier has been a student, paste-up artist, stat-camera operator, art director, graphic designer, illustrator, marketing director, closet mathematician, and for the past six years, a commercial photographer. “My somewhat varied past all seems to culminate in my current photography work,” he says. “I love integrating typography when possible, I love composing images from a graphic point of view.” He adds, jokingly, “I often end up art directing our shoots when the art director is either overworked or too busy updating their Facebook profile.”
All images © Kyle Dreier
Dreier has stuck with photography because he enjoys the challenge of problem solving. “I enjoy puzzles and photography isn’t just one puzzle, but a series of puzzles,” he explains. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction in delivering results after managing all the variables.”
Along with his highly conceptual and eclectic themes, adapting his aesthetic as a graphic designer gives Dreier’s work a sense of order and precision that elevates his imagery beyond simple food photography. He often places two dissimilar visuals together, which echoes the years when he worked on conceptual logos and posters in a similar manner. He also enjoys making references to and basing some of his series on art history movements, most notably his Jackson Pollock series and his Cubism series.
Dreier’s Pollock-inspired images were a way for him to let loose from his normal compulsion to keep everything neat and precise, calling the process “therapeutic.” He worked with food stylist Whitney Kemp and first assistant Rory White, using actual canvas with ketchup, mustard and ice cream toppings to create the painterly effect. Contrastingly, the Cubism series, which he collaborated on with Kemp, White, and food stylist Teresa Blackburn, is more typical of his carefully crafted attention to detail. Dreier created the base art for them to build each composition upon, and lit the scene with a simple set up of one Profoto light and a fill card. He shot both series with an Arca Swiss Monolith with a PhaseOne 40+ back.
Dreier says he can’t live without creating things with his hands, and he says the Cubism series was “an excuse to saw plates in half” and to hand-paint type in his compositions. “I often tell my crew there’s no better day than one where I get to use an X-Acto knife,” he says. “Sometimes I miss my former days of hand-kerning 10-point type and cutting amberlith masks.” He laughs, “No one under 40 years old is going to have clue what I just said.”

Kyle Dreier’s recent clients include Ruby Tuesday, Cracker Barrel, Chinet and Planet Smoothie. For more of his work, visit his website.