Q&A with Christine Dong: Culinary Photographer & Food Stylist

Christine Dong Portait

In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, we’re spotlighting our incredible friends and colleagues in Portland, OR, by sharing their experiences and amplifying their achievements.

As the old saying goes, you eat with your eyes first. And if you keep up with the many delicious independent restaurants in Portland, OR, chances are, Christine Dong’s food photography has made your mouth water, convinced you to make a reservation, or place a takeout order more than once.

Christine—who was part of the culinary industry and community in Portland, even before her career in photography—has become renowned and well-respected for her unique ability to document the many shapes of the human experience through food, family and culture.

Christine’s art is a careful balance of lighting, composition, and placement, paired with her eye for capturing irreplaceable unscripted moments. Christine’s work balances an understanding of how to best represent a restaurant’s branding, the emotion behind the dishes—and most importantly, how to document the people and food who make up a restaurant.

We caught up with Christine to learn more about her process, how she prepares for a shoot, and what sparked her passion for photography.

MISE: What is your “mise en place” like for your photo shoots?

CD: “Besides the general prep, like charging batteries, formatting cards, cleaning lenses, studying shot lists and packing all the gear into their traveling packs—I like to try and get a workout in the evening before a shoot because it helps relieve the anxiety and prepares me for a healthier mindset the day of.”

MISE: When you’re not photographing beautiful restaurants around Portland, where are you eating?

CD: “You’ll most likely catch me grubbing somewhere on 82nd. Pho Kim, Pho Oregon, Pho Van, and Teo’s are my favorites. If I’m leaving 82nd, I guess Paadee is cool, too.”

Christine Dong food photography

MISE: What inspired you to start photographing food and those who create it?

CD: “Back when I worked in the service industry, almost always my co-workers would feel like family. I started bringing my camera into work to capture candid moments of them before and after work. It was simply me wanting to document the people I loved. Eventually the owner (Earl Ninsom) of one of the restaurants I worked at gave me the opportunity of being an in-house photographer. My food photography really began at Paadee.”

MISE: Has your heritage or upbringing inspired your career in photography?

CD: “Oh, for sure, growing up, my dad was always documenting our family. No matter how small or big the occasion was—he always had a camera with him. He gave me my first camera (s/o Nikon Coolpix 950) when I was 10 and I’ve been in love with making photos ever since.”

MISE footwear

MISE: Who are some AAPI creators you want our community to celebrate?

CD: “Oh gosh, I don’t think I have enough word count to name them all. Celeste Noche, Fran Bittakis, Jacqi Ko, Alberta Poon, Summer Luu, Zoe Ching, Annie Tonsiengsom, Stormy Brady, Amy Lam, Cay Horiuchi, Janey Wong, Vy Pham, Emmeline Eao—just to name a few!”

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