By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether you’re a peach or a person, consider yourself lucky to be on the other side of Eliesa Johnson’s lens.

“I think photographs have always been important. I think there’s a greater need for them, more than ever,” said Johnson, the owner of her own Twin Cities photography studio.

Johnson has spent 15 years taking incredible photos. At first, they were mostly of people, like this shoot for a Minnesota bridal designer or this shoot of the musician Dessa for a local magazine.

But over the last five years, her focus has largely been on things we eat.

“It actually started with Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine,” she said, when they asked her to photograph a cover story on burgers.

It was 20 pages of 17 different burgers in 2013. She also took countless photos of me having lunch with interesting people, for my old MSP Magcolumn.

According to Johnson, the pivot to food has been good for her personally — and good for business.

“Food sells. Food sells magazines, food sells books, food sells,” she said.

Johnson recently spent a month in Nashville shooting pictures of peaches for The Peach Truck Cookbook.

“From the get go, I was enchanted by this peach farm and being out there with the pickers and the farmers,” she said.

Jessica and Stephen Rose, the owners of Nashville-based The Peach Truck, hired Johnson after she took pictures of them for Food and Wine Magazine.

“Peaches are pretty,” Johnson said. “They’re super sexy, they’re perfect for summer.”

Her photos aren’t like those of some commercial food photographers, because she’s trying to capture the food and the people behind the food from a journalistic perspective.

“There [are] no food photography tricks,” Johnson said. “We cooked it how a home cook would make it, it’s really attainable.”

Her goal is to find the heart and soul, the humanity behind the beautiful photos of food. She and her company were honored as tops in the world by the PDN Taste Awards.

She won three categories: editorial for a magazine spread on sushi restaurant Kado No Mise; commercial for work on Minneapolis restaurant Martina; and personal work for some extremely fun pictures at the Minnesota State Fair.

“We’re not taking photos that are overly commercialized, have photo studio tricks, everything is real,” she said. “It’s still beautiful, still telling the story.”

“The Peach Truck Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for All Things Peach” comes out on June 25.

Jason DeRusha