7 questions with award winning food photographer Jennifer Silverberg


Photo courtesy of Jennifer Silverberg

Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Jennifer Silverberg is one of the premier food photographers in the United States. The Jewish St. Louisan won first place in the national American Photographic Artists food photography competition last year. She was also named one of Lurzer’s Archive 200 Best Advertising Photographers in the world for 2021/2022.

Eva Klingenberg, education events manager for the International Photography Hall of Fame in St. Louis, said Silverberg’s photos stand out because “the composition of her work is wonderfully creative. Jennifer captures food in an excitingly unique way through her playful use of color, motion and texture.”

Silverberg, 51, has a client list that includes a number of major brands, such as McDonald’s, Oberweis, Purina, Caleres, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Jewish Light sat down with Silverberg to learn some of the tricks of the food photography trade.

Were the recent awards unexpected?

I’ve entered for years and never won anything. And then last year was a big surprise when I got two. The first place in the APA National was especially exciting. The people who I beat out, I’m still in awe of, and it sort of blew my mind. 

One of the winning photos was a creatively lighted fish on a bed of ice. How did that come about?

We shipped in a whole bunch of seafood from South Street Seaport in New York. It was pompano, which was my request because I really like pompano, and you get to consume it afterward.

You frequently make creative use of textures and lighting in your work. Does that define your style?

I still have a hard time articulating what my style is. I have intent in composition and design. I think I have a strong sense of design. I love building layers of textures, and I love the shine of the fish skin and scale versus the crispness of the ice cubes and then the way they can hold light.

Everybody posts memorable meals on social media. If you just have a smartphone and you’re eating a really cool looking meal at a restaurant, how can you get a good shot?

Sit by a window with natural light and turn off the flash, because the flash is going to do nothing but burn it out.

You photograph animals, too, including cows, pigs, horses and chickens. Does that require a special skill set?

Patience. That is probably the one skill you need most, is when you’re photographing things you can’t control. I love it. I like the horses when they nibble on my hair. My cat actually sits on command. One of my clients, a pet food brand, has requested Claire, my cat, to be the model.

When you were a kid growing up in New York, did you ever think you’d be tromping around at farms photographing livestock and chickens?

Oh, no. I think that’s why I loved it so much when I was first attracted to it, because it was so foreign. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. Obviously, it’s our greatest necessity other than water. I think that’s one of the things that attracted me so much to St. Louis in general was that I could drive basically an hour in any direction and be in rural America.

As a home cook and food photographer, do you pay attention to the look of the food you’re preparing?

Yeah, I’m very deliberate. Even when I just have friends over for dinner, it has to look good. I’m not ornate, but things are well designed in place. It’s just making a composition. When you’re presenting someone with a beautiful plate of food, it assaults your senses in the best way ever.