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Darcy Folsom Combines Design and Food for Compelling Photos

How the stylist draws viewers into her projects with shape, color and texture

four cocktails overhead

Austin food stylist Darcy Folsom’s sumptuous photos of food — featured in cookbooks and advertising campaigns — certainly make you hungry. But Folsom explains that there’s a lot more going on in her work.

“When we see photos of food, we are attracted to them, usually because they fill a void. We’re hungry and they make us want to eat … and to get to THAT particular hamburger as fast as we can,” she tells me. “But that is a mere smidgen of the story we hope is present at that table. There is transformation that occurs when we choose to engage with a particular product or service that is invisible to us in a photo, and yet so incredibly rewarding to me as a stylist. Drawing people in is what I love.”

Photo by Kimberly Davis Photography

After studying Home Economics in San Luis Obispo, California, Folsom moved to Austin, Texas, where she began working for Neiman Marcus and “Bon Appétit.” Now the mother of three adult sons, Folsom styles food for cookbooks, magazines and clients as diverse as Pillsbury, Deep Eddy Vodka and Miiller’s Meat Market in Llano, Texas.

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Folsom begins her process by speaking to her client at length, sussing out who their audience is, making a “storyboard” that includes rough sketches of what they’re trying to say, the environment the food will be placed in and honing in on the story the project will tell. After developing the strategy to engage a specific audience, Darcy then considers shape, color and texture to build the creative integration of food that will bridge her initial client conversation to the desired results.

A tempting selection from Bay Kitchens Catering. Photos by Kelly Serfoss.

Darcy enjoys the process of drawing people into a story, by portraying the natural beauty of food in its best light. Whether in natural light, on location or in the studio, Darcy brings her joy of working with food and the creative industry to the areas of packaging, advertising, film, social media campaigns, cookbooks, catalogs and editorial work, as she engages loyalties that build new outcomes.

“It’s kind of like planning a party and you’re thinking about your invitation or your guest list and how that informs the invitation that you create and the theme of the invitation. Then we consider props and lighting and color and texture, and all of those things come into play.”

Photo by Kimberly Davis Photography

“The right environment is key,” she says. “It puts us in the mood to be there, to want what’s being offered.”

A simple hamburger, explains Darcy, can tell many different stories.

“Is it stacked between a traditional sesame seed bun, or positioned in an artisanal brioche with accents of brie and roasted eggplant, or simply wrapped in a fresh leaf of the best butter lettuce, with a thick juicy garden tomato accenting the wavy texture of the wrap? These things matter! Because they each attract a different audience. How we are drawn to certain tables tells a beautiful story that I hope will be read far beyond the scope of a beautifully styled burger.”

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My favorite works of Darcy’s are her magical images of “Sweets and Sips,” which take me to a bright and celebratory place. I find myself gazing at them, and looking forward to summer.

Beautiful styling for Tea Embassy. Photo by Nitya Jain.

“Every single call that I get from a client is a different invitation,” says Darcy. “I love developing intrigue to a particular group of people that will benefit from coming together and doing life together … celebrating something that may have been a normal thing, but now it’s been put into a new light. I find my greatest rewards, bringing things that are true and good and beautiful into a new light.”