Portland photographer Isabella Cassini loves food.
“If we look at how much we talk about and photograph and video food in our culture, we love food. I think photographing it and just having a lot of fun and playing with it showcases that even more and especially doing exceptionally fun things with it,” she said.
Cassini also embraces the chaos of life.
“I don’t like to shy away from the ugly parts of life, the painful parts. And oftentimes those can mean chaos,” she said. “Not that I would want to invite it in!”
Cassini combines her love of food and tolerance of chaos into her latest photography project, “Splashes, Crashes, and Smashes.”
In her studio, Cassini takes foods that we normally don’t think go well together, like raw eggs and macaroons, and smashes them against each other.
The result? A beautiful mess.
“I’d like to think that it also invites other people to explore the chaos for themselves. Everything isn’t always pretty and really, we’re just all giant messes on the inside, just like a cracked egg yolk,” she said.
To achieve this, Cassini built two ramps out of wood and plexiglass, and faced them so that when she dropped the food, they would smash together in the middle.
Meanwhile, she has her digital camera set up right in the middle to in an attempt to capture the exact moment the two foods crash together.
“It was a lot of trial and error and the whole idea behind them was to be able to throw two different food items, liquid whatever it may be down them and into each other. And so that they would crash in the middle and create something explosive and exciting and unexpected,” she said.
For 15 years, Cassini worked as a commercial food photographer, creating the perfect image of our favorite food and drink. But during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, she started “Splashes, Crashes and Smashes” to explore her artistic and fine arts side.
Cassini’s love of food and photography as an art came at a young age. Her father was a filmmaker and gave Cassini her first camera.
“Photography just really allowed me to articulate myself in a way that was just very accessible and as I started diving more into it, there were just so many subjects to explore and the way I could express myself artistically with lighting uh choosing subjects,” she said.
She became drawn to food photography in 2008 which allowed her to express her creativity.
“I think food visually was just very exciting. I was really able to teach myself about lighting and composition and it allowed me to explore, it’s just a very versatile subject.”
She further explores her love of food with her “Kaleidoscope” series.
“My ‘Kaleidoscope’ series was one of the first portfolios I started doing and that inspiration really came from, I think a lot of ethnic markets in Los Angeles,” she said.
Like “Splashes, Crashes and Smashes,” Cassini photographs food in unique and interesting ways. But unlike the chaos, she focuses on order, and pattern.
“They’re not kaleidoscopes in the sense that they’re a repeating pattern. There is a lot of precision and perfection that goes into placing every little thing where I want it to be,” she said.
Cassini said the kaleidoscope and the smashes projects are different representations of her creative process.
“One is leading more into the chaos and letting things happen as they happen. The other is I want this to look a specific way. "
“I think that’s part of why I love ‘Kaleidoscope’ so much because it really is about seeing how they are all going to fit together and it’s almost as if they have a perfect place, but I just haven’t figured it out yet,” she said.
Through her projects like “Splashes, Crashes and Smashes,” Cassini hopes people embrace the not-so-perfect sides of themselves.
“Sometimes I do feel like I’m here to let people know like they’re OK, just the way they are, perfectly imperfect,” she said.