Beth Kirby of Local Milk


We are very honored and excited to have this cool lady on the blog today. She's a talented photographer, stylist, writer, and cook who inspires us to no end with her simple & beautiful approach to life, creativity, and small gatherings. We had the pleasure of talking with her about her work, recent travels, and what her last meal would be. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a photographer, stylist, writer, and recipe developer based out of Tennessee. I'm a homebody with wanderlust, equally addicted to travel as I am to nesting. I have a deep, abiding affection for mysticism, shadows, imperfection, metaphor, and the South. Those things are, in one way or another, in everything I do.

How did you get your start in food styling & photography?

I got my start by starting. One day, I decided it was something I was interested in pursuing as a career. So I started doing it: practicing, reading, teaching myself, and eventually blogging. I figured if I could teach myself to produce good work, the jobs would come. Work speaks for itself.

What is your creative process from conceptualizing/testing a recipe, to styling, to shooting?

Aesthetically, I'm constantly inspired by the random detritus of being. Everything inspires me—nothing is too high or too low. My mysticism & background in philosophy are big sources of inspiration for me. Music, painting, and the work of crafts people also inspire me. That said, less abstractly, the region & the season of where ever I'm cooking coupled with my roots in the American South are the dominant factors when we're talking food. The recipe usually just comes to me as a result of those three things; I crave it. I am also, naturally, greatly inspired by my fellow cooks and their food & recipes as well as the work of the chefs I love. Once I have an idea, I test it, taste it, develop it—always keeping in mind textural and flavor balance. On the day I want to shoot, I pull props that evoke the mood, the narrative of the food, that I want to convey. I find the light, create the light. Light is everything. Then I compose the shot. I think a lot about lines, movement, shadows, and negative space when composing. Then I cook the food and plug it in to the shot I styled. Then I change, destroy, and let it evolve as I see it through the lens. Then there's the shot. It's usually either the first or the last. Everything in between is rubbish.

Do you have any upcoming projects you are especially excited about?

So many! Yes. I'm particularly excited about the retreats I'm hosting will fellow creatives all over the world in the coming year. We have plans every where from Japan to Australia to Italy to Portugal to France and a handful, of course, here back home in the U.S. The idea of the retreats is to take the idea of slow living as it's embodied in a small gathering and extend that moment over the course of a few days. They are inspirational escapes in which local food & shared meals meet travel and learning. In them, we explore the creative process, and I teach practical skills like photography, styling, and the art of sharing via social media. We like to pair that with practicums that focus on "slow living" skills like baking, weaving, foraging, natural fabric dye, and floral arranging. They are about actually living the content you want to create, about transforming moments of life into art. We like to acknowledge that daily life isn't always that way—not for me, not for anyone. That's why we have these retreats, so we can carve out moments and learn to integrate slow living into the insane pace of the majority of modern lives. I want to craft immersive experiences for my guests, the sort of experiences you never forget & that leave you with a wealth of creative inspiration as well as lasting relationships with like-minded people. That's the goal. There's more information about upcoming retreats & gatherings, past events, and a mailing list people can join to hear about new adventures when they're announced at the site I just launched, tentatively called Local Milk Retreats

One of the things we love about your work is how it is intertwined with the desire to see people slowing down and gathering with one another. What inspired this philosophy in your own life?

It's simple. When I'm cooking a meal for a small group of people I love, I'm happiest. The most vital relationships in my life have been forged around tables. There is something alchemical that happens when you gather around food. It's sustenance in all of its forms: spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual. Those moments are the reason for being at all. They are both the end and the means. Relational moments are everything, and they're the life blood of creativity. I can't live without it. I wouldn't want to.

What is your favorite moment when you sit down at the table with friends?

The inevitable moment at which we completely dissolve into hysterics over some inane joke.

You recently did some work in Sydney. What was your most memorable meal you had while you were there?

Easy one. This crazy kid by the name of Aaron Teece (okay, he's an internationally acclaimed chef that's cooked for the likes of the Queen & Kate Moss—he was really slumming it with me!) threw together an informal dinner for myself and some friends in his underground restaurant/event space, Studio Neon. I ate sous vide kangaroo (he shot it himself.) That definitely, without a second thought, gets most memorable meal status for myriad compelling reasons. His was a table I won't forget.

Tell us about life in Nashville. What do you love most about the city?

I actually live south of the city in Chattanooga, TN. I'm a bit of a known recluse, and I spend most of my time working—styling, shooting, and developing recipes or traveling for work. But when I am in Nashville my favorite part is the amazing family of creative friends I have there. Rebekka, Lisa, Ruthie, Hannah, Emily, Dan, James, and too many others to name are what I love most about Nashville. It's a brilliant little city with so much going on, but it remains warm & relatively devoid of pretension. That's what I love most about it. 

Say we’re visiting for the weekend, where are you taking us?

I'm keen on Barista Parlour, but then again everyone is. I'd start there for a perfectly pulled cortado and a fancy pop tart or one of their killer biscuits. Then Mas Tacos for lunch (the eloté is clutch) on day one, Marché day two. Shopping at Wheat & Co., Peter Nappi, Imogene & Willie, White's Mercantile, Billy Reid, Hey Rooster General Store, and, if we were lucky, the Nashville Flea Market. A swing by the studio for a visit with Lisa Garcia & Rebekka Seale. Some back yard drinks with Ruthie Lindsey (because she & her little home are on the must see list), and then dinner at Rolf & Daughters night one and then last night at Pinewood Social for some of the best food in Nashville coupled with bowling. Yes, bowling.

What would you want your last meal on earth to be?

Barbecued octopus in some incarnation (preferably with plenty of olive oil, parsley, sea salt, garlic, spice, and citrus). It has to be tender with lots of char. And a generous side of raw oysters on the half shell. Cold water. With a great mignonette. Followed by a very sophisticated dessert of an entire bag of Haribo gummies & a Violet Crumble bar or six.

Portraits of Beth taken by Lydia Toll 

You can see more of Beth at any of the following: Website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest