Hello! My name is Caylena Cahill - pleasure to meet you!
In case you haven't figured this out by now, I am an independent food and lifestyle photographer, storyteller and all-around creative person.
Though this site is focused on photography, my skills include other creative areas, such as design, websites and writing.
Currently I am based in the Mid-Hudson Valley of NY.
Most frequently, I work in the Ulster (Highland, New Paltz, Kingston), Dutchess (Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Beacon) and Orange (Newburgh, Middletown) County areas, however I also regularly serve the Capital District (Albany, Saratoga, etc.), all of the Hudson Valley region (Catskills, Rockland, Putman and Westchester Counties), New York City and the Washington, D.C. metro area.
For those that need it, I have teams and resources at the ready for larger production shoots, such as food/prop stylists on call, studio/equipment rentals, etc.
My professional background is quite varied, but in terms of photography, I've worked with various regional publications and agencies, either independently or organizing productions to create editorial, advertising and marketing photography.
Some clients I've worked for include MediaVision Advertising, Chronogram, Upstater, Newsday Westchester, the Times Herald-Record, Washington Business Journal, Raine Magazine, Organic Hudson Valley, as well as small to large companies and organizations, such as SUNY New Paltz, La Délégation Générale de l'Alliance Française, Hugh O'Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership and other various small businesses, non-profits and entrepreneurs.
My personal creative and travel work has been featured in several photo exhibits in the Hudson Valley, NYC, Ithaca and in France.
I'm a current member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, American Society of Media Photographers, the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce and a corporate sponsor of the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce.
I studied and received a Bachelors in Photography and French from Ithaca College. I minored in journalism. I've attended various workshops and conferences in photography, business and so forth.
I have a working/professional fluency in French.
Resume & CV
Why do I do photography?
I know it probably sounds cliché, but photography really brings meaning to my life.
I first noticed this feeling back in my college's dark room (yes, the dark room) when I was confronted with boredom in the coursework of my initial major. I knew, deep down, I was meant to be a "freelance photographer" - whatever that meant.
I was driven by the desire to make pictures that matter.
At the time, I was inspired by the "Photos of the Day" section on the BBC website and wanted to find my work featured there someday.
Since then, I've come to realize that making pictures "that matter" has a much broader meaning. It means, that in addition to the other reasons I do photography, that I do photography to serve. I aim to create work that is purposeful and functional. I aim to make work that transcends - that is part of something larger than myself - work that helps people, work that inspires, work that creates impact.
Why food photography?
The first time I photographed food, I didn't think much of it.
I was sent to a restaurant for an assignment for an online newspaper and I approached it the way I would any other, at the time. So, I arrived and made the best photos I could, trying to capture the spirit of the place and the food - the story.
Then, I found myself capturing more and more food photos - and not to brag about my food to friends on Instagram. I made these images through my travels, sure, but also on assignment, at events and for clients. And now, I do so with intention.
So, why, other than a happy accident am I devoting my life to food photography?
Well, the more I've thought about it, the more I think it makes sense that I should "fall" into food photography - in spite of not being a trained chef (or even remotely skilled in the kitchen).
Food is really the convergence of some of the major areas of my life - health/diet, curiosity, travel/culture and creativity.
In the art world, they tell us to look inside, find our struggles or inner tensions and focus on those areas in our work. Well, food has been a major influence in my life - and not just to feed myself, but to get healthy and come into my own.
You see, growing up, I was always overweight. Food didn't play a very interesting or useful role in my life - it merely kept me going. Food was also a source of self-indulgence. Between soccer practice, dance classes, play practice, Girl Scouts and school, I ate McDonald's, pasta, bagels, pierogies and ice cream like it was my job. To say my palate was limited is an understatement. To say I was healthy, well that's simply false.
Foreign Living and "La Politesse" - AKA Step 1 of My "Food Awakening."
It wasn't until I studied abroad in Paris, living in a home-stay, that I started to have the first part of my food awakening. Living in that environment, I started to explore different foods. I started to understand and appreciate food as a representation of culture. I started to learn about flavor and experience foods that I'd never have tried at home. I learned the value of trying new things and how to eat foods I didn't like. You see, as a child, I was allowed to eat unhealthy foods, and these foods were often made specially for me when I didn't want to eat the main option being offered... but in the home-stay... it's not so easy to say, "hey, can you make me something else."
Health Journey - Lifestyle Change and Losing Weight
After studying abroad during college, and then after teaching English in France for 9 months, I came home. A few things happened which inspired me to take a hard look in the mirror and embark on a personal journey to a healthier body.
As part of the process of losing weight, and in my true nature, I researched and studied nutrition. I counted calories. I recorded my foods. I experimented with new foods, and explored different areas of the grocery store. I learned new ways to prepare foods. And so, food was a major part of the journey - as was exercise. In the beginning, I went to the gym daily. Afterwards, I built a habit of working out regularly and started distance running.
Health, Food & Photography
This doesn't necessarily relate directly to photography, I know. But, when I think about it, it's obvious to me that I would then start to photograph food and food related subjects. For me, the camera has always been a way to explore, learn, connect, observe and share. I have always wanted my work to be about more than myself - I hope to inspire people, as a general desire in life.
I photograph food so that I can better understand my own relationship to food, our cultural relationship to food, where food comes from, how it affects our lives, and the creative/cultural side of it, what food actually is and the ins and outs of nutrition - and then of course, to share all that with the hope to inspire thought, empathy and action.
In my personal work I'm inspired because of my personal relationship to obesity/overweight and it's overwhelming impact on our country.
I'm very passionate about health, nutrition and fitness. I'm still tracking my foods and exercise. And, I'm continually researching nutrition, health science and learning what's new. I am participating in the broader conversations about health and aim to inspire people to find what works for them. I aim to spread useful information and help get the word out about what is healthy and inspire people to make better choices and be aware of what they are eating.
That said, if you're still reading this, and you are in the business of health and nutrition, alternative diets or fitness, let's connect and see how we can collaborate to make a healthier world.
I've been dancing since the age of three and currently do tap dance!
I have lived in France and speak fluent French.
My favorite assignment was covering a hot air balloon festival, flying in the sky.