Photographer and stylist with a thing for food — and love, of course
Words: Soraia Martins / Photography: Nathalie Márquez Courtney
My friend and photography crush has been carving out her path through beautiful, clean, minimal-driven photography and working her ass off to get where she is now. Let us meet her.
Being homesick and enduring that feeling for years on end is not for the faint of heart. It requires strength, grit, nerve even.
For Sanda Vuckovic, leaving her big family and her country, former Yugoslavia, currently Bosnia and Herzegovina, was something that came into play when she went to study to the Faculty of Mathematics, at the University of Belgrade, and it never ceased.
Yes, one of the most skilful and lovely photographers of today is a math nerd, and there is nothing wrong with it, au contraire. There is probably something inherited from that sharp-edged attention span that comes to fruition every time she holds a camera and does her thing, like the eye of an eagle. As she was finishing school, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia happened in Belgrade, urging her to return home and leaving just the final exams for a later time when going to Belgrade would be less of a threat, although there really was not any ease of mind during those times of hardship.
After working for NGOs in Bosnia, Sanda found herself working with IT consulting companies, where she met her now ex-husband, in a meeting in Sofia. This was when love finally brought her to us in Lisbon.
She continued working as an IT consultant for big telecommunication companies in Lisbon, but when her kids were born, Hana and André, she felt there was something not right. She did not master the language and Portuguese work schedules were not something she was used to. In Yugoslavia, people start earlier and get off work earlier as well.
“It definitely took me a while to get used to everything. I also found Portuguese people to be super friendly, and I still do, but there is a barrier that is rather hard to overcome, where you stop being just acquaintances and start being friends. In the beginning, my friends were all foreign”.
Life changed a lot for me since I moved here. I grew up quite a lot. Some of my tastes have changed, too. There are certain things that come with age. We learn a lot about ourselves.
After a couple of years working on IT and living the work life she did not want to live, Sanda started doing something just for fun: baking cakes. We’re talking full certified organic cakes, of course, as she already consumed organic ingredients at home, so why change her habits? ‘Little Upside Down Cake’ was thus born. She needed a platform, a blog, to showcase her beautiful cakes, so there it was.
The story behind the name is quite a treat, as well. ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ (1941) showed us a “gentle dragon who would rather recite poetry than be ferocious”, which got Sanda’s attention since she was little and later became her inspiration for her blog’s name.
But she also needed nice photos, yet she did not know anything about photography. After a couple of courses and workshops, both in Portugal and abroad, she was in love, and photography started winning her heart over baking — professionally speaking of course, she still enjoys baking fabulous cakes for friends and family. Her blog was definitely her starting point to get photography jobs here and there.
“It started really slow. Then I was nominated from Best Food Blog Photography 2016 by Saveur and word got out and it got me some momentum, mainly outside of the country”.
“Sweet little upside-down cake / Cares and woes, you've got'em / Poor little upside-down cake / Your top is on your bottom / Alas, little upside-down cake / Your troubles never stop / Because, little upside-down cake / Your bottom's on your top.”
“It all started happening very naturally, mainly by word-of-mouth and recommendations”. Now, Sanda — and her ‘Little Upside Down Cake’ — is working for wonderful brands like Minois Paris, Revol, SUL, Inês Telles Jewelry, Margarida Fabrica, São Lourenço do Barrocal, and major publications, like Pathport, Monocle or Cereal, always doing what she loves and not getting tangled in projects she does not believe in.
Her admiration for sustainable, eco-friendly, local brands, as well as food and gathering friends around a table, made her launch A’Migalhada, a special event usually held at a clean, creative space, which can be a friend’s house, and a myriad of brands that come together for a charming day, workshops or even lunch or early dinner prepared by people she admires.
"Sometimes, I really have to stand up for my own photography style."
Her identity is, for the most part, her best feature — her smile, though, does not remain in the shadows for too long — and what makes us go back to her instagram page and delve into her sleek, graceful, messy-in-a-good-way world. Her organic trait is her ally and what keeps her working how she works.
“Sometimes, I really have to stand up for my own photography style. There are clients that hire me, but they are not looking for what I do, they want me to do it their own way. But then I show them how I would do it, and that is what it takes for them to realize they need to trust me. Life changed a lot for me since I moved here. I grew up quite a lot.”
“Some of my tastes have changed, too. There are certain things that come with age. We learn a lot about ourselves. We know what we want and do not want. I am not scared of saying what I do not want anymore”.
And if you are looking for a chance to learn with Sanda, now you can: in addition to the Food & Lifestyle Photography and Mindfulness Retreat, in late April to early May, and the Cooking Photography Workshop, in May as well, you can sign in into a one-on-one with her at A Sociedade.
“The one-on-one is totally devoted to just that person. Before the workshop, which lasts for two days, I usually ask for what the person likes, what are they doing creatively right now, where do they want to go from here, that kind of things”.
“I really enjoy seeing people learning from this. I wish I could have had the same when I was starting out”.
We bet you ended up just as good or even better, Sanda.