A genuine ray of light wherever she goes, it feels like destiny that Nataly Lee came to a profession that allows her to use the prism of her own eyes to make the world a more beautiful place for all of us.
Nataly’s photography is defined by her mission to present what she sees in its most honest form, a living embodiment of the belief that “beauty is truth, truth is beauty”. So when we were choosing who we wanted to create one of the most important elements of our brand and image, she was hands down the obvious choice.
Though born in Battambang, Nataly was less than a year old when her family moved to Australia. She didn’t see her natal-home again until almost 20 years later on a visit with her family. For someone who had grown up knowing little of where she came from, she says the trip was quite an eye-opener. But, some years later she started making an annual pilgrimage together with her husband. But it didn’t cross her mind to settle here permanently until 2011 when she realised that this is where she really needed to be.
She made the move the day after graduating from a graphic design course back in Australia, and originally started working as a producer and designer for a film production company. A few years later, she set up her own blog to document the things she saw in Cambodia, to reveal their beauty to others as they had revealed their beauty to her. Of course she needed a camera for that, and so in 2014 her photographic journey began, almost by accident.
“Photography for me was always a way to share and highlight all the things I saw around me. I believe there is so much beauty, even in the smallest things, and the reason I take photos and share them is with the hope that, through my eyes, others are able to see and appreciate some of those things.”
Naturally in tune with people and the environment around her, Nataly also appreciates the opportunity that photography in particular gives to connect even more deeply with a subject, a person or a place. On assignment, she digs in to find out who her client is, what their story and values are and how she can create something that really resonates with them. “My approach is one that is based on empathy and understanding and what matters most to me are the people and the processes. I believe that if we focus on the right things, the results will always be meaningful,” she says.
Nataly’s natural, simple and authentic style lends itself especially well to food photography though, and that is in fact her favourite subject and the one she finds easiest, though many photographers say they find food photography to be more challenging. As she was growing up, the fabric of Nataly’s world was defined by food—bother her parents are cooks—and she still loves getting in behind the scenes of the whole process so she can sit down with chefs and restauranteurs to find out what makes them tick.
Her approach from there is straightforward: “I believe that my camera is just an extension of my eye. I never shoot with the intention of doing lots of retouching or editing. I shoot it (and edit it) the way I see it. Food will never look better than the way it is presented to you at the table, so my approach, really, is to capture food in its most honest form.”
And it’s easy to see the results. So much of what you see on the social media channels for Khéma and Topaz is the result of Nataly’s work, images that are infused with light, elegance and beauty.
Like food photographers, the rest of us often find food photography challenging too, even with all of the apps and editing tools available to us. To help create images that breathe life, Nataly has the following suggestion: “Always shoot in natural light, and think about the composition. You don’t always have to zoom in to see every detail of the dish and every ingredient. The background and the composition of the entire image is just as important as the food itself.”
We’re very glad she picked up that camera eight years ago.