By Carly Yoshida-Butryn
If photographer Liz Wolfe never sees another Peep again, it would probably be too soon. The squishy, animal-shaped marshmallows were her obedient subjects in one of her more commercial projects: a cookbook entirely devoted to the candy.
“It was really sticky,” said the 35-year-old Ryerson alumnus of the glucose-infused photo shoot that took place in her apartment where she photographed creations such as “Peep-inatas” and frosty “Peep-sicles.”
“There were Peeps everywhere. It was totally insane. But it was the perfect sort of project for me, playing with food.”
Wolfe works from her apartment in Toronto where she lives with her boyfriend and year-and-a-half-old son, Josh.
She has an agent in the U.S., and from Taiwan to Australia, from Chronogram in the States, to the good old CBC, publications and magazines in the know have used her images on their covers.
Not to mention the attention she gets on countless trendy design blogs. After getting a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University, Wolfe studied photography at Ryerson’s school of Image Arts for two years.
She speaks highly of the Image Arts program, saying it taught her the basics she needed to start her career. “I knew I wouldn’t go longer than two years,” she said of her time at Ryerson.
“It was great for the technical aspect, but the creative aspect, no one can teach you that.”
Wolfe first got into photography as a teenager back in her hometown of Saskatoon where she developed her own photos in a darkroom in her parents’ basement.
She says most of her early work involved shooting her friends dressing up or other “prairie stuff.”
But even though her hometown holds such a special place in her heart, Wolfe realized she had to leave in order to make a name for herself.
“I hate to dis Saskatchewan. I love it. My sense of self is so tied to it,” she said. “But you have to leave Saskatoon.”
So she jetted off at 17 to spend a year in living in England and travelling in Europe before returning to Canada for school.
Wolfe had no aspirations of making photography her full-time job. Even though she’d always enjoyed it, the practical side of her never thought it would be a stable career.
But her love for the medium pushed her to pursue it as a job. “Photography is about so much more than making money,” she said.
“There are so many things that haven’t been touched on in that medium that I want to explore.”
Her images certainly tell a story. While her work is glossy and commercial-looking on the surface, it has darker undertones and a deeper message. The photos are often what she describes as “ultra-contrived” and “artificial,” using bright colours and combining objects in unconventional ways. Some photos include shots of a doll wearing an octopus on its head and a human hand “pierced” with a candy cane.
Her son’s favourite photo is of a plastic baby doll surrounded by fish heads.
After Josh was born, Wolfe became a master of multitasking.
She would often sit in coffee shops breast-feeding him while working.
“I just can’t wait for him to become my assistant. I give it eight more months,” she said jokingly.
While having Josh may have changed her timetable, she says it hasn’t changed her design aesthetic.
“I really don’t think I’ll lose my edge,” she says. “I’m passionate and into so many things, but photography is something I can see myself doing forever.” Check her out at lizwolfe.com.