Photographer and Creative, Christy Strever has been making Instagram more fun with her “food selfies” since 2017. She’s been covered in everything from spaghetti to sprinkles, all in the name of creating uplifting, vibrant portraits from items from her pantry, earning herself the title of “Food Selfie Queen” by her ever-growing following (that includes world-renowned Chef, Gordon Ramsey). We chatted to Christy about her photography, current projects and plans for the future.
How did your food selfie photography start?
Being a corporate photographer full time, you have to be careful that you don’t kill your passion for photography. I was becoming a bit fed up with events and was going through a very rough time in my life. A close friend of mine passed away suddenly, I had no money and being in that negative state of mind I wasn’t attracting clients. Feeling so low I had come across a picture of a woman with a pineapple on her head, it looked like such a fun and uplifting photo and I wanted that for myself. I went out, got a pineapple and the food selfie journey began. I was working with watercolour paints as I had no money to buy proper face paint and make–up, then I was enhancing it in photoshop to make the colour pop more. Once work started to come in again the first thing I went and got was proper vegan make–up for editorial photography.
What has been your most memorable photo to shoot?
This is a very tricky question to answer. The first selfie I was very proud of was the whiskey shoot, the glass painted on my face was painted using watercolours which isn’t designed for sitting on your skin properly and I was working in a mirror. To go from never using make up or doing any form of face painting to challenging yourself like that. I was very happy with the final pic.
My other one is with the sliced tomatoes, I used chicken wire to make the back piece and tied tomatoes on using string. I had a shaved head so it looked very ‘Wakanda’ like. It just came out so well and I got a bronze award in the Creative category for the Admired in Africa Awards.
The finished product looks beautiful and flawless, what goes into creating a perfect shot?
Shjo. The ones that are simple to do take around 45 minutes…the messier the photo and the more props I have the longer it takes for me to put it together. I have been stuck with condensed milk on my skin, covered in pink sprinkles and then not having water to shower…everywhere I walked in the house condensed milk and sprinkles trailed behind me. I have been burnt, cut fingers with chicken wire, scissors, blades. I’ve had a teaspoon of paint powder in my eye…all to try to get the perfect shot. I always have a bottle of Bostik craft glue (non-toxic) and use that to stick everything to my face
You’ve got a growing following that includes Gordon Ramsey, won an award and worked on an advertising campaign that made it into a UK magazine, is there something else you’d like to achieve with your food selfie photography?
My Africa Spice picture made it to a magazine in the UK which was amazing! My other projects have all been local. I have worked with Salsa Mexican Grill for their fruit flavoured tequilas, for Africa Spice we went all out. We used different models, I made spice bras, fans and jewellery. Gordon Ramsay started following me before I had 500 followers, I do check on the odd occasion that he still follows me…Haha.
My dream is to work with Gordon one day! I would love to collaborate with him. Closer to home I would love to work with a variety of people…namely Siya & Rachel Kolisi & Dineo Ranaka-Pesha…I met her once and she is just the loveliest human. There are a few projects in the pipeline but the majority of them are to raise funds and awareness for Cupcakes of Hope (Cupcakes for kids with cancer) They are true little heroes and need all the help they can get.
You’ve also started the Trees for SA project, what is that about?
My Trees for SA project is very small, I started it 3 years ago and I will be ready for my first plant this spring which is very exciting! I collect tree seeds (non-invasive and mostly indigenous), plant them and raise them like children only to send them out into the world to be planted in public spaces in South Africa. It will be tricky because I must work with the municipalities and make sure that the trees will still get love for their first year alone…I don’t want to grow them just for them to die! Global warming was a big wakeup call…the fires in the amazon and across the world. Wiping out forests and wildlife. You can never have too many trees, at the moment I have close to 300.
You’ve been involved with a number of exciting projects linked to charity like putting together the IgerBook, what was that experience like?
The IgerBook was a monster project of mine. In my spare time I always need to be doing something that is charitable. I shaved my hair off for CANSA to donate it as a wig and raise funds when I was 30. Once I did that it was like a bug had bitten.
Charitable work just makes you feel really good! So, when I moved to JHB I started an Instagram page called @iheartjoburg. Through that page, there were so many stunning images of Joburg that were taken with cell phones by everyday people. I knew the chances of these pics being published were next to none. So, I created a hashtag for people to submit photos for the IgerBook that showcased Jozi in the most beautiful light! Once I put the book together, I went to Liberty and they immediately said yes to backing this project. All money raised was given to Birdlife South Africa. I had the Cape Town book finished but it would’ve cost more than Joburg so I never went ahead to publish as I never had the sponsor, but the funds from that book would’ve gone towards their water situation at the time during the drought. I only raised around R80,000. I was hoping to raise R2 million – hahaha big dreams but that didn’t happen and I learned a lot along the way.