Timothy Pakron a.k.a. the Mississippi Vegan has been turning heads with some of the most beautiful food photography on all of vegan Instagram for so long, it feels like he’s basically furniture at this point. His art (and that’s what his food photography undoubtedly is), has constantly been with us, in our feeds and in form of his first, beautiful cookbook in our kitchens.
“Pink mushrooms grow from the dark like in an oil painting.”
A vegan for over 15 years, Timothy’s life has been shaped by his love for the animal kingdom, which he credited once to his childhood in Mississippi — where scaling Magnolia trees, sampling wild Loquats and roaming the great outside felt natural, a given. And it shows in his work, where beautiful, pink mushrooms grow from the dark, captured like they were a Dutch Master oil painting.
Timothy Pakron a.k.a. the Mississippi Vegan
We originally met in New York City, for a full-length feature on both Timothy’s photography and art outside of food creation and photography, as well as his main body of work. Much has happened since then.
For the launch of Antagonist, Timothy was on our list of people we wanted to highlight and be a part of the page from the very start. But an update to our original full-length feature was more than in order, as issue 4 with Timothy’s interview and portfolio originally came out in 2016. So, we sat down with the man and asked a couple update questions.
Hi Tim. Last time we worked on an article together, you were still in NYC. When did you move and why?
“I moved from NYC back to my home state of Mississippi in November of 2016. I had just gotten my cookbook deal with Avery of Penguin Random House and I was moving back to write the cookbook and also take a break from the hustle of the city.
Once the book was finished, I decided to move to New Orleans where I could create my home base and garden.“
Ever regretted the decision or best thing ever? Or something in between?
“No way! It was the best decision I could have made. It was the perfect place to work on such a big project like a cookbook.
“I needed space, time, no distractions.”
I needed space, time, and no distractions so it was ideal. It was also important for me to meet local farmers and use their produce in the book. If you look at the front cover, all of those veggies were grown in Mississippi!”
Last time we talked, you already had a big following, but it was before your cookbook and you identified just as much as artist as you did as chef — not saying cooking is not artistic in and of itself, of course.
How would you describe yourself today, how do you self-identify so to say?
“I identify as an artist first and foremost. Expressing my creativity is something that I have to do. It’s in my blood. Being a cookbook author and food blogger are extensions of that creativity.
“Expressing my creativity is something I have to do. It’s in my blood.”
The term ‘food blogger’ is a great term because it represents so much of what I do: recipe developer, food stylist, writer, website owner, and influencer on social media. It’s one big package.“
Your photography background definitely shows in the quality of the imagery in your feed. What do you think, is the aesthetic you have a major driver of the success you’ve been having on the gram?
“Absolutely. I went to college for studio art and I spend a lot of time learning and practicing photography. When I started my Instagram, I just applied everything I had ever learned about taking a beautiful photo to my recipes. Once I started exploring food styling and tightening that up, my account really took off.
I always tell people, if you want to do well on Instagram you need to learn how to take pretty pictures. That’s what people want to see.”
What inspires your photography work?
“Earlier on, I definitely was inspired by different artists and bloggers, especially when I was new to Instagram and food styling. But these days, I have my own style and I am most inspired by my garden.
“Growing ingredients has intensified my relationship with plants.”
Growing ingredients has intensified my relationship with plants and I think it shows in my recipes and photography.”
What do you think are the main ingredients to a really good food photo?
“Beautiful light and shadows, strong composition, and interesting textures. When a picture makes the viewer feel something — that’s when you know it’s a good photo.“
Okay, photo-nerd question: What’s your setup? Are you shooting digital, toying in film here and there (I remember your Hasselblad portraits we featured back in the day), or shooting on your phone?
“I still use my Hasselblad camera for commissions which are pretty rare, but I still enjoy the process. As for my food photography, it’s all digital. I’ve used a Canon 5D Mark III for over 8 years and it hasn’t failed me yet!”
What’s the lighting setup like? Does a lot go into the ‘different’ look you have going, the shadows, the darker tones?
“I use north-facing window light most of the time and I sometimes will use direct light. I have a great kitchen with many windows, and I will often just move around until I get exactly what I want. “
How did the pandemic impact your work and your output?
“I honestly had one of the best years of my life. I focused on my work and built my garden. I also started to dedicate a lot of my garden space to attract butterflies and other wildlife which has been incredibly rewarding.
I think it’s easy to assume that I am a very social person because I am good at social media, but I’m truly an introvert. I need a lot of time by myself to recharge and think and this year was a great way for me to do that. “
What’s your take, how has veganism and the way people look at it developed since you’ve started sharing your recipes?
“I think people are more open and excited about vegan food than ever before. I think people now realize that vegan food can be incredibly delicious and beautiful — big shoutout to Instagram for that. I’m really proud of how veganism has grown. “
“I have dedicated my career to celebrating veganism.”
Do you think we managed to make it more accessible and more aspirational — and this is something you actually worked towards?
“I think so. I have dedicated my whole career to celebrating veganism in the most beautiful way possible.
I have people tell me all the time that they are not vegan but they still make my recipes. That’s pure gold to me. “
What are your plans for the year? Anything cooking, literally or figuratively?
“At the moment, I am still working on new food content but my main concern is planting host plants and nectar sources for butterflies. They have become more important to me than ever before and they need our help.
I am dedicated to teaching people about them and helping them to flourish. It brings me great joy.”
Thank you so much for your time and for the beautiful photos and recipes, Tim!