Making the Cover

Linda Long Brings Vegan Food and Photography to An NYC High School

Linda Long is a New York city-based writer and photographer who has been involved with The Vegetarian Resource Group for many years. In 2005, she started putting her talents to work for The VRG when she began preparing and photographing the dish(es) for each cover of Vegetarian Journal. Linda has also written and done the photographs for her own cookbook, Great Chefs Cook Vegan: 25 of the Nation's Top Chefs Apply Their Talents to Plant Foods.

Recently, Linda served as one of five judges for the Cool School Food Contest, which the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food sponsored at the James Beard House. One student began looking at her cookbook and mentioned that he wished that he knew how to photograph the food he prepares. This comment inspired Linda to offer the two high schools present the opportunity to help her with the cover of an upcoming issue of Vegetarian Journal.

The first school to take Linda up on her offer was the Food and Finance High School, located west of the theater district in midtown Manhattan. Students from throughout New York City come to this public high school to take a full range of academic courses as well as a three-year sequence in cooking and baking. When they graduate, they receive both a Regents diploma and food industry certifications.

Here are some comments from the students and others involved in the shoot for this issue's cover photo:

"I packed eight cases of equipment and props and took them to the high school. Then, I read the assignment parameters for the photo to the students, showed them the last three covers so they would not choose a similar background, and had them look at the food that their classmate, Lazarus, had prepared. They looked at color and texture to consider the right dish or bowl."

- Linda Long

"Working with Linda was such an awesome experience because she has such a keen eye for a variety of ways that food can be placed on different color plates, bowls, and backgrounds. I tend to present food on classic, modern white plates. However, when I saw all of the different color plates, placemats, and napkins, I was completely blown away at how they can add an aesthetic appeal and revive the natural look of the food on the plate."

- Lazarus Lynch

"Once all decisions were made, the lights and table set up, and the background cloths ironed, each student started taking some shots and looking at each photo on the nearby TV. The camera was tethered to the TV so that all the students could see what was shot and how to improve it."

- Linda Long

"I thought the shoot was fun and exciting, and it was a way for me not to worry too much about the cooking but more about the beauty of the food. The technical part of the shoot that stuck in my mind was using the reflectors to bounce off the mirrors and the food at the most perfect and beautiful spots. It was amazing to me what just a little light can do."

- Tihelia James

"Since everyone had turns with the camera, there is no way to know whose shot is on the cover now! I am sure that each student will think it is his or hers!"

- Linda Long

"The students loved being a part of a professional food photo shoot. Aside from Linda's high-tech camera, they thought it was great to see how basic it really was- some interesting plates, some fabric, and a light reflector. It really demystified an aspect of the publishing industry. Kids are often under the impression that things that appear in the media are somehow magic and otherworldly. This helped to show them otherwise."

- Chef Instructor Grant Springer

"Not too many chefs in the culinary industry use plantbased dishes unless it is a vegetarian restaurant or a chef feels the need to have one or two vegetarian meals on the menu. The dishes are not only delicious, but they are affordable and healthy. I will definitely use this knowledge to my advantage because I am an aspiring chef."

- Tihelia James

"I never suspected how rewarding the experience wasgoing to be for me."

- Linda Long