The Art of Dining – ‘Say Cheese’ The World of Martin Parr in 5 courses

While food photography has been influenced by a number of external factors (take my last post on food photography and politics for example!) I recently attended an event where food photography turned a dining experience into an art form. ‘Say Cheese – The World of Martin Parr in 5 courses‘ was the latest in a series of pop up events created by The Art of Dining Team – Set Designer Alice Hodge and Chef Ellen Parr.

While Martin Parr is not usually considered a traditional food photographer, his photographs of food have a unique style that most might call ‘unappetising’ but nonetheless are interesting to compare to the ‘perfect’ food seen in advertising and food packaging. “Martin Parr takes this glossy magazine perfection and punctures it, and thus reminds us that our food, along with ourselves, is not always so glamorous.” (Kurkoski, 2013 [online]) The food and decor at the event was spot on and made you feel like you’d be transported into a 1970’s time warp!

The Art of Dining have run a number of pop up events, combining food, art and design, all taking influence from food in either photography, painting or television. One pop up I would have loved to have attended was inspired by 16th and 17th century still life paintings – ‘Vanitas‘ was hosted in a 16th century Tudor House, exhibiting modern artists’ interpretations of these paintings, whilst a Tudor feast was served. Another event was inspired by TV Dinners, with 3 courses served on one plate, eaten from a tray on your lap whilst surrounded by TV inspired art projects. I look forward to seeing what inspires this creative team next!

Here’s a great video of The Art of Dining talking about the Martin Parr themed event they hosted in Tokyo last year:

Say Cheese! The World of Martin Parr in 5 Courses from GOLIGA on Vimeo.


Food photography and the political climate

We’ve seen that many factors influence food photographers and their work but what about influence from politics? I recently came across a radio show called The Food Seen on the Heritage Radio Network (based in Brooklyn, NY) which discusses just that.

In this particular show, prop stylist, Francine Matalon-Degni’s talks about a piece she contributed to Gastronomica magazine (Summer 2010 Volume 10 No3) which discusses trends she encountered in food photography from the 1980’s to recent times. She’s noticed a natural correlation between food photography and political regime and touches on the US political climate and considers how this has affected the aesthetics seen in food magazines. She recalls at around the time of the Bush administration, composition of the food images was very unsettling; objects were juxtaposed and you couldn’t actually see the food. There was a tendency for the sets to be over-propped and Francine suggests that this is because in politics, the US was “not able to see the truth in the matter” with regards to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

She compared this to food photography of the 1980’s – early 1990’s when Ronald Regan then George H. W. Bush was president. At this time it was all about setting the mood. Props were almost like ‘toys’. She recalls sourcing suitcases to put cookies in and crotchet mallets and ribbons to decorate the tables. Each set was like a lavish fantasy-land and she thinks this reflected on the US economic climate. Things were expensive so the food photography mirrored that.

They then discuss the beginning of the Presidency of Barack Obama where Francine found that everything was being propped with yellow items as this is widely considered as the colour of ‘Hope’. Her and food stylist Rick Ellis recall a Bon Appetit cover that year that used the same style cake and props as they had done a few years previously. Trying to appeal to both a young audience and their established reader base, Rick argues that there was confusion about what to put on the December cover as this reflected on the fact things were very confusing in political climate.

The show goes on further to discuss trends in food styling that Rick Ellis has come across as well as Donna Hay’s influence on food photography, elements of which I’ve touched upon in previous blog posts.

The full recording can be heard here. The Food Seen is a weekly show (with an extensive back catalog of episodes) that covers many areas of food and culture so it’s definitely worth a browse and a listen!


Meals interrupted

So we’ve looked at food scanned, we’ve looked at it cut in half, we’ve looked at it as a theatrical dreamlike landscape but what about food as a meal interrupted? Shot from above (like Carl Kleiner’s baking book and the What To Cook and How To Cook It Cookbook by Jane Hornby) photographer Davide Luciano and food stylist Claudia Ficca teamed up to create this series of images of meals disrupted halfway through. Each scene shows each meal unexpectedly ended due to a swarm of bees, rain shower or school lunch food fight.

What is interesting about this series is that while the scene is very messy, something quite non-traditional in food photography, there’s something beautiful about them. There’s a sense of eeriness in the meal destroyed by fire – it begs you to look closer to try and identify the charred remains. It’s a great contrast from contemporary images by food photographers like Jonathan Gregson and Gareth Morgans, whose images, similarly styled, are regularly seen in supermarket magazines and advertisements.


Famous works of art reimagined using sausages – Karsten Wegener

Photographers influenced by still life paintings often take certain elements of these paintings and introduce them into their own work. This is exactly what Berlin-based photographer Karsten Wegener has done….with sausages! Rather than exactly imitate the artworks with sausages in place of the true subject matter, Wegener has either connected sausages to the artwork by replicating the appearance of the objects or has experimented with a combination of different meats, the packaging or a play on the name of a dish. I recently interviewed him for Feature Shoot and you can see the article here…

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Cut-away cross sections of food by photographer Beth Galton

The cut away cross-sections of food in ‘The Photography of Modernist Cuisine‘ have also been experimented with by photographer Beth Galton and influenced her series ‘Cut Food‘.

Beth Galton-Cut Food-I_03-70-71_120328-Cut-Foods-36433 Beth Galton-Cut Food-I_05-82-83_120328-Cut-Foods-36254_New Beth Galton-Cut Food-I_02-68_120328-Cut-Foods-37184 From eggs to popcorn to a thoroughly stuffed turkey, I think this process is a really interesting way to photograph food as it’s completely different from anything you would naturally see. I found this Ted Talk of Nathan Myhrvold talking about the process, combining food and science to create images like these.


Seeing Food Differently – Jon Feinstein’s Fast Food

With the launch of the book on The Photography of Modernist Cuisine showing a whole new perspective to food photography, it’s interesting to look at how other photographers are taking alternative approaches to creating images of food. Using flatbed scanners as a photographic method seems to be a keen favourite (I have experimented with this too myself) and Jon Feinstein’s series ‘Fast Food’ highlights this perfectly.

This work statement from Jon Feinstein’s website explains the project: “These photographs investigate the love/hate relationship that many Americans have with fast food, and, like many other aspects of popular culture, its ability to be simultaneously seductive and repulsive. Hamburgers, French fries, chicken nuggets and “specialty” sandwiches are scanned on stark black backgrounds, isolated from their branded context, without name recognition, nearly floating in space. Under austere, uniform lighting; stripped of branding, packaging and iconography, the food takes on a scientific, yet ethereal quality that is at times both revolting and mouthwatering.” The images make for an interesting series – the piece of fried chicken looks like a heart, while the the french fries look limp and a bit sad. The detail picked up from using the flatbed scanner, makes for quite eerie-looking images that are not necessarily appetising.


The Photography of Modernist Cuisine

With Heston Blumenthal being awarded another Michelin star for his restaurant, it seems like there’s no better time for art, food and science. This month sees the release of ‘The Photography of Modernist Cuisine‘ by Nathan Myhrvold, the author’s 3rd book, which looks at the art and science of cooking.

Taking photographs of a meal using Instagram is a far cry from these cross-sections of the insides of pressure cookers and saucepans and macro shots of fruits and fish. What I think is great about this book is the mere size of the photographs. Each double page spread measures at 26″ x 16.3″, much bigger than any lavish cookbook or Donna Hay magazine.

The close up images remind me of Edward Quigley’s six peas in a pod or Irving Penn’s Still Lives for Vogue, where the images are art photographs with food as the subject, observing the beauty and form of each item. Like Carl Warner doing creative things with food by building landscapes, this book uses food in a different, yet exciting way; the cut away pans are something new altogether! The perspective is completely different to anything seen before, especially in food photography. Advancements in food science and technology have allowed the photographer to capture what is happening inside a boiling hot saucepan – this definitely isn’t something we’d have seen in an 18th century still life painting.


The Foodie bugle – Interview with Food Photographer Gareth Morgans

I recently interviewed food photographer Gareth Morgans for The Foodie Bugle on his views on the changing face of food photography and his thoughts about the future of the medium. Here’s a few snaps of the article in print. You can buy Reveille 2 of the Foodie Bugle here to see the article in full (as well as many other fantastic pieces of food writing!)

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Carl Warner’s Foodscapes

I’ve always loved Carl Warner’s Foodscapes ever since I saw them on the Richard and Judy show years ago!

Carl Warner - Breadford & CheesedaleThe images remind me of Erro’s Food Landscape which I wrote about a few posts back, although Warner’s images speak quite an opposite message to Erro’s.

Carl Warner - Cart-BalloonsIn Warner’s images, the food is used to create a beautiful landscape, rather then mirroring the goods in a supermarket. There is repetition and crowding of food stuffs like Erro’s Food Landscape but the food looks naturally perfect and carefully selected (as described in some of Warner’s making of’s), rather than insinuating any sort of industrial production process.

Carl Warner - Brocolli-Forest