52 Times: A Year in 52 Chef Dinners

Robertas Daskevičius is a freelance food photographer, based in Lithuania. This year he has started his personal non commercial project called 52 times, which recently has been named the best blog in Lithuania. The idea of the project is to make different food photoshoots with different chefs every week of the year, revealing the various possibilities of food photography.

We have interviewed him to know more about this project and the chefs involved.

What is 52 times and when did it begin?
52 times is my personal food photography project and blog. How did it begin? One sunny evening during my last summer vacation in Italy we sat in a terrace with my wife and the idea of “52 times” came to my mind. I wanted to create something not ordinary in food photography and when the idea of the project that will continue throughout the year and will consist of recipes for 52 delicious dinners with friends, 52 talented chefs and 52 exquisite food photography sessions, came to my mind, I knew I have to do it and decided to start with the beginning of 2017.

What does the name signify?
There are 52 weeks in a year, hence, 52 weekends as well. It means that there are 52 splendid occasions to spend some time with your beloved, dear friends. In order to inspire people to meet more often each week I create different food photoshoots with different chefs and they offer their recipes for such dinners with friends.

What made you embark on this project?
First of all, as food photography is my passion, I want to show various possibilities of it and to surprise my followers with new ideas and delicious food photoshoots. Second, it’s a challenge to myself, when every week I have to create something new, something special - this makes me learn new things and thus I accumulate huge experience in food photography. And last but not least, I want to encourage professional chefs to share their recipes, to reveal them to ordinary people, so that they could get some ideas, inspiration, try new tastes. In this way I can contribute to increasing food culture in my country to new levels.

How do you select the chefs?
There are different criteria - some of the chefs I already know and work with, there also some, with whom I would like to create something interesting - the ones, whose ideas, philosophy seems appealing to me. Some chefs also address me themselves. In general, I want that the chefs, who join this project, would not be simply working as chefs. I aim to choose the ones, who literally live in their kitchens, have a a great passion for food and always seek for the best result.

Which were the best collaborations? Can you give us some examples? 
Each week and each photoshoot is very special to me, because every time I create something new, I challenge myself and I am forced to get out of my comfort zone. Still, if to distinguish some photoshoots, I would name these:
#1 time was created with one of the best pastry chefs in Lithuania, Ali Gadžijevas, where we tastefully combined food and fashion in a beautiful way to tell the story about dinner with friends through one person. Every dish was presented in unique pop-style surroundings alongside clothes and accessories superbly crafted by talented Lithuanian designers. This has all been presented amongst aesthetic minimalist Scandinavian interior design details and decorations.
#8 time was created specially for Pancake Day with one famous Lithuanian dessert studio owner Laura Donelė. During this cosy photo shoot, I tried to create a warm home atmosphere where the appealing dishes are already served on the table and await the happy families to roll in loudly for the festive dinner. This food photography style is not very characteristic to me and that’s why it was interesting to try it.
#11 time was created with chef Dmitrij Berman and let my to combine my passion for pictures on water and food photography. Water is one of those substances which allows one to play, experiment and which surprises one with unexpected images you cannot repeat. So we splashed the plates and the result was a fresh, brisk and most importantly, a spring-inspired photo session.
#15 time was I created specially for Easter with chef Ronaldas Nagrockis - a photo shoot which aims inspire you with a novel idea on how to celebrate Easter with your family or friends. This time the photoshoot took place up on the roof. Creating my project, I also want to inspire people to explore new boundaries and arrange parties for friends or a family in unusual places. The roof of a building is one example of a non-standard party-place, therefore I liked this photoshoot so much.
#18 time was created with the multiple winner of international culinary competitions chef Liucija Makovska just before the Mother’s Day weekend, during it I tried a different style of food photography. I took pictures amongst the fresh spring flowers. It was a new and interesting challenge to compose meals amongst the blossoms as it is one thing to have an idea and quite another to fulfill it the way you had imagined.
#21 time was created with chef Matas Paulinas. I had the idea to connect together both flavors and colours, using the food and colour pencils. As the basis of this photo shoot we chose the main colors of the RGB colour model – red, green, blue and white. Then we matched the dishes. In this way my new, graphic, colourful and unexpected photo session with dramatic lighting was born.
#25 time was created with chef Anna Baranova, this photoshoot also became editorial for one famous Lithuanian women magazine. This photoshoot is about the sweet moment of the holiday, good food, style, bright sun and the pool, where the reality plays along with the fantasy and the things which are real, suddenly become something which actually do not exist.
[Enjoy these pictures in the gallery at the top of the page!]

52 times has been named as the best blog in Lithuania. What do you think makes the blog stand out from the crowd? 
I think that becoming the best blog in Lithuania only confirms the old truth that content is the king. I think people like the original idea and unique content, the different food photoshoots I present each week. Also, it’s pretty useful - when a weekend is approaching, you get a full package of recipes you can use making dinner for friends or family or at least get some culinary inspiration.

What do you see for the future of this project? 
First of all I want to finish it and keep my promise to deliver 52 different food photoshoots till the end of the year. I already reached half-way, it wasn’t easy, but I really enjoy this journey. So I want to continue it till the end, to fulfill the ideas I have and make better and better photoshoots each week. When the year is over - let’s see what the future will bring. I have a dream to create such a project with best world chefs on international level one day, so who knows?