A self-taught designer battling imposter syndrome to finding his place in the NYC design scene: Meet Peter of Plated
Peter Bagi is a Food Photographer and Designer in NYC
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born in Budapest Hungary and when I was 6 years old we moved to Vancouver BC in Canada. Not having any command at all of the English language was challenging but thinking back it helped build character, resilience and persistence. In fact most of my time in grade school and high school was filled with challenges. Whether that be not fitting in or having a strange last name or any other quality that stands out as being different.
One of those different qualities was my ability to see the world in a unique way. Which we all know during your teenage years can ostracize you. The funny thing is that I didn’t feel like it was unique since I imagined all people see the world the same way. Everything was fascinating and everything was worth exploring. Nothing was off limits which definitely got me into trouble. Flashback a 7 year old me standing on a ledge of an open window on the 10th floor of an apartment throwing legos to see how long it would take to reach the ground. I was also very gregarious and outgoing and willing to make a fool of myself. So I’m sure that made others feel uncomfortable haha. Anyway, I came through it all relatively unscathed and look at me now…living in NYC and following my dreams.
How did you get started as a designer and photographer?
This curiosity and willingness to question and view the world differently naturally guided me towards the creative fields. Although I work in the creative field now I didn’t actually go to school for it. I went to school for Hotel Management and ended up working on cruise ships and traveling the world. After many nomadic years and feeling disenfranchised about the hospitality industry I changed gears and set on a creative path. I would say that photography was my first love. I was passionate about design but at the time graphic design was still very much something you did after formal training and web design was almost non existant. I got my first design job when my brother ( who used to be a front end developer) needed help on a project and I jumped at the chance. I was hooked and I spent most of my time learning the craft of design on my own terms. This was also true of photography and since food culture was very important in my European family it made sense that I would focus on food as a subject. I felt like I had to try 200 times harder at anything I did because I didn’t have credentials or schooling. And I had to fight through perceptions which made my wins that much more satisfying.
What was a defining moment in your life?
One very defining moment of my life came when I first moved to NYC back in 2013. A fantastic, small branding agency called Love and War reached out to me to see if I was interested in collaborating on photography work. I met up with the owner and creative director Eng San. I was really nervous since I definitely felt like a small fish in a GIANT pond. The first thing I noticed at their studio was that my photography was being used in their mood boards which made me feel pretty good. Eng San then showed me this pile of mailers he got from other photographers and said that my work stands out above all of them. They were starting to get more and more food clients so we talked about working together in the future. I left that meeting on cloud 9. I never imagined that I would have a meeting like that. Although we didn’t end up working together then (timing issues) that moment helped me really believe that I can make it in NYC. It helped me feel confident enough to land some great freelance gigs and eventually work at some world renown agencies. Fast forward a few years and I reached out to Eng San to show my gratitude for believing in me and now we’re working together on some great new projects and we’ve become good friends.
What fears or resistance did you face in that process?
Mainly imposter syndrome. What am I doing here? How did I get here? You know, the usual!
Is there a favorite quote or mantra that gave (or gives) you inspiration? Or did you have a power song?
I have many!
There’s no way I was born to just pay bills and die
Although difficult, change is always possible. What holds us back from making the changes we desire are our own limiting thoughts and actions.
Don’t allow someone else’s limiting beliefs to become your limiting beliefs.
I don’t really have a power song since music for me is very much based on my current mood and place in life. But I’ll say that I have a strange draw to melancholic music. Haha. My wife is always asking me to put something less depressing on but the way I see it is it’s very cathartic and helps me see all that I have to be grateful for.
How do you define bravery?
I define bravery as anyone who is willing to be true to themselves in the face of criticism and alienation. Every day I strive to be that person.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone facing a challenge?
Surround yourself with people who believe in you and limit the self defeating dialogue in your brain. Know that EVERYONE is or has gone through their own challenges. You’re not alone and you’re braver, smarter and more capable than you will EVER know. End of story!