Photographer Lois Bielefeld has spent years documenting people's weeknight rituals, gathering intimate insight into a diverse range of lives.

Photographer Lois Bielefeld has spent years documenting people's weeknight rituals, gathering intimate insight into a diverse range of lives.

Growing up in Milwaukee, one of Lois Bielefeld’s chores was to make a weekend lunch for her family. It could be anything she wanted – as long as she stuck to a recipe and wrote out the ingredients for her parents.

This was the kind of household where the family always ate dinner together and you had to ask to be excused before leaving the table.

Although Lois has little memory of those meal times now, the photographer wonders whether those experiences inspired her to start Weeknight Dinners: a series of 78 portraits documenting people’s dinner rituals in all their idiosyncratic glory.

Wednesday: Natalia and Maryann.

Wednesday: Natalia and Maryann.


Wednesday: Ernesto.

Wednesday: Ernesto.


It started in 2013 as a sort of unscientific sociological study: a way of understanding people by observing their food choices, where they eat and how.

“I’ve always craved going into people’s homes,” says Lois. “It’s inspiring, curious and gives so many subtle – sometimes blatant – insights into someone.

“I’m super nosy about others’ habits and I ask a lot of questions, which I find helps put people at ease while a camera is aimed at them.”

Tuesday: Alden and Alan.

Tuesday: Alden and Alan.


Tuesday: Matt and Ruth.

Tuesday: Matt and Ruth.


Beginning with people she knew personally, Lois grew her network of subjects through word-of-mouth, online forums and chance encounters.

The only rule was that it had to take place between Mondays and Thursdays, when people’s habits are shaped by the weeknight crunch.

Lois would arrive about an hour in advance, setting up as subjects prepared their meal, before peppering them with questions.

Who cooks? Why did they choose a particular spot in the house? Do they always eat together? Who does the shopping? How do they plan around busy schedules?

Wednesday: Emilio, Rhonda, Benedetto, Skylrae, Jacomo.

Wednesday: Emilio, Rhonda, Benedetto, Skylrae, Jacomo.


Wednesday: Nik.

Wednesday: Nik.


“I can’t control how people want to present themselves,” she says. “Occasionally I’d show up and there would be this elaborate meal of a Cornish game hen and fancy bowls with raspberries in it!

“But that’s part of the series and just as interesting – how people want to be perceived as opposed to their true reality and normal habits.”

The project stretched across states like Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, with every permutation accounted for: tray tables pulled up to armchairs, kids sprawled across couches and floors, plates next to computers, diners in pairs or sitting in solitude, table tops in various states of order or disarray.

Wednesday: Brandy and John.

Wednesday: Brandy and John.


Monday: Steven and Jomo.

Monday: Steven and Jomo.


“I think people are incredibly complex and I really try never to judge anyone – in fact, I’m very protective of my subjects,” says Lois, when asked if there were any scenarios she simply couldn’t relate to.

“That being said, I was quite surprised to see a few families using paper plates rather than dishes. I’m keenly aware of my culture’s extreme wastefulness and have tried to make efforts to reduce my footprint, which is why I probably was more aware of it.”

As a kid, Lois and her best friend would do ‘photo shoots’ together by dressing up and performing in front of a camera.

Monday: David, Felix, & Dani.

Monday: David, Felix, & Dani.


Monday: Zoe, Dave, Emma, and Karen.

Monday: Zoe, Dave, Emma, and Karen.


Those experiences led to taking a photography class in high school where, despite being an A-student, Lois received her first C grade.

“I don’t know if I saw that as some sort of challenge but something stuck,” she says.

“The darkroom hooked me. I loved black and white, making prints and the magic of chemistry and light. My parents were encouraging and even helped me set up a very basic darkroom in our basement.”

Wednesday: Bruce, Heather and Wyatt.

Wednesday: Bruce, Heather and Wyatt.


Tuesday: Alex, Sophia, Kathy, David, Claudia, Eva & Ana.

Tuesday: Alex, Sophia, Kathy, David, Claudia, Eva & Ana.


Later, during a pre-college course at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, a professor pulled Lois aside and made it clear that photography could be more than a hobby. It’s been her career ever since.

Along the way, her best projects have been personally driven (Androgyny was inspired by her wife being continuously misgendered, All In: Shorewood Girls Cross Country was about her daughter’s high school cross-country team) and fuelled by an insatiable curiosity.

Wednesday: Colin and Makeal.

Wednesday: Colin and Makeal.


Wednesday: Willie Mae. "This was the second time I photographed Willie Mae. The first, for my project The Bedroom series, saw her photo run in the local newspaper and she got a lot of local attention about it. When I went back and photographed her for Weeknight Dinners, she looked at me and said, “Make me famous!” I think she was joking. To me, the power of this photograph is that she has become an extension of her space that she has so carefully curated."

Wednesday: Willie Mae. “This was the second time I photographed Willie Mae. The first, for my project The Bedroom series, saw her photo run in the local newspaper and she got a lot of local attention about it. When I went back and photographed her for Weeknight Dinners, she looked at me and said, “Make me famous!” I think she was joking. To me, the power of this photograph is that she has become an extension of her space that she has so carefully curated.”


“I’m constantly learning about myself and how complex the world is,” says Lois. “Photography, video, audio and installation have been doorways into understanding people. It gives me access and therefore gives others access when seeing the work.

“That being said, there is the fallacy of photography being truth. I’m interested in two things: what is happening in the photographs but also how the viewer projects their own narrative onto the image. That dichotomy is really interesting to me.”

Wednesday: DannO and Amelia.

Wednesday: DannO and Amelia.


Wednesday: Nathaniel.

Wednesday: Nathaniel.


Lois Bielefeld is represented by Portrait Society Gallery. Check out her photography portfolio or follow Lois on Instagram.

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