Dana Hursey knows food. As a successful commercial photographer, he regularly works with food stylists for restaurants and food brands. So when he was approached by an advertising agency to work on a campaign for a global food conglomerate, he was excited to get started. But things don’t always go as planned.

“At the 11th hour, the Creative Director swooped in and said he wanted to use a friend for the project instead,” Dana recalls. But the project didn’t end there. Dana liked the idea so much, he kept working on it with a new food stylist, who sourced a wide variety of options. Eventually they decided to create an entire alphabet out of food, using things like dumplings, quiche or zucchini, to form the shape of the letters. They shot the project over two days. To cut down on the repetition that would come from using the alphabet for words or phrases, they created variations for popular letters, like A, E, R and S.

Of all the letters, ‘x’ proved to be the biggest challenge. “While there are a few international foods that start with ‘x’, they’re pretty obscure,” said Dana. “We opted for crossed wooden spoons to keep with a cooking theme.”

Without a paying client, Dana ended up using his food alphabet for self-promotion. And about 8 months after they finished the project, Dana was once again showing his work back at that same agency. “One of the creatives whispered they had seen my alphabet and said it had turned out significantly better than what they had produced for the campaign.”