The Still Life Photos of Urban Koi


All images by Urban Koi. Used with permission

Urban Koi’s photos exhibit a unique, calming and pleasing aesthetic that isn’t like very much that we’ve seen before. Koi’s shoots still lifes: and most focuses on food and other objects. But she does food in a totally different way. She has been honing her photographic eye from a very young ago and had encouraging parents who encouraged her art development. Today, they are on her Tumblr page: Urban Koi.

As an aspiring physician from New York, Koi’s hobby and first love is photography. She held her first camera and baked her first blueberry muffins at the mere age of 4–which explains her love of food. Since then, she has pursued a passion of photography and cooking together on her endeavor to become a doctor.


Phoblographer:How did you get your start in photography?

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Koi: I remember distinctively how often I would beg my father for a toy camera as a child, so off I went to sleep-away camp one summer with a Kodak film disposable—I photographed the cabin, mountains, and food. My parents noted how eager I was about cameras and soon passed down their old Ricoh and Konica film cameras to me. Being an ardent and inquisitive scientist—as I am also an aspiring physician—I dissected the camera and immersed myself in its essence; I became truly mesmerized by the mechanization and began carrying a camera everywhere I went. What started as a hobby expanded to more professional work.

Phoblographer: What attracts you to still life, food and products?

Koi: Photography is my catharsis—I see the quiescent beauty around me and I aspire to capture the transient moments to show others that there is elegance everywhere, even in the ordinary. Through my photos, I aim to portray that azoic objects like food and still life have character and spirit. I have also been baking and cooking since I was four, so it seemed only natural that I started to photograph and document the dishes and cakes that I created. It is a surreal feeling going through my archive and seeing how much I have grown.

My best friend and I are absolute foodies as well—we love to explore different restaurants immersing ourselves in a profusion of different flavors and getting lost in new places that we have never been to before. Capturing our adventures contributed to my fondness of food and still life.

Phoblographer: In your eyes, mind and creative vision, what makes for a superb still life/food/product photo?

Koi: Lighting, framing, and composition are the key rudiments. Less is more. Centralizing the focus on the main subject is important as well, however this does not mean the object must be in the direct center of the frame. Creating a unique story or perspective from your inner self also makes the photo more meaningful, especially if it transudes beyond the print or screen and can evoke emotions.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about your lighting, it seems very on point and specific.

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Koi: I actually use all natural light in my photos!

“Photography is my catharsis—I see the quiescent beauty around me and I aspire to capture the transient moments to show others that there is elegance everywhere, even in the ordinary.”

Phoblographer: You like to work with a lot of blues and desaturated tones. Tell us about how you feel this gets across the feeling that you’re trying to convey in the images.

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Koi: I find the color blue to be soothing and there is a certain tranquil feeling that is exuded when I am surrounded by quiet colors. The hues of the sky at the beginning of twilight, the cerulean reflection that is illuminated from water, the ambience and mystifying essence of blueness in nature captivate me. These elements and tones tend to percolate into my work. When people come across my photography, I hope they can feel at peace.

Phoblographer: What kind of gear do you use?


Koi: For my Instagram, I use an iPhone 5s. For other platforms, I shoot with my Nikon or Canon DSLR, and Nikomat film camera.

Phoblographer: What about tumblr and that community attracts you to it and tell us about what it holds for photographers.

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Koi: Tumblr is actually the first platform I started posting my photography on. It definitely is a dynamic community with a multiplicity of artists and creatives. I have discovered that there are many others who feel the same as I do or have similar experiences as I do despite living on the other side of the world—it is intriguing to see a beautiful aggregate of images alongside prose and essentially more private thoughts. It is engaging and deeply personal.

Phoblographer: Where does most of your inspiration come from?

Koi: I am inspired when I travel and am exposed to other cultures. I am intensely moved by writing and I am continuously enlightened by music, poetry, and prose, especially those that embody the tenuous nature of existence or are emotionally driven. I am enticed by wistfulness, minimalism, and idiosyncrasies—the harmony of symmetry and asymmetry in life are fascinating. I am also enamored by the humble conversations that I have with strangers—you see angles and views unlike your own.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.