Food styling in 1960’s…

The aesthetics of the food images at this time are interesting to consider. Ice cream was substituted with mash potatoes and papier-mâché mock-ups were sometimes used instead of real poultry. (Plimmer, C, 1988)  These substitutions were a result of hot studio lamps but as cameras and film speed and sensitivity improved, more genuine food products were introduced. (I will go more into food styling in the upcoming blog posts as there is so much to cover on this subject alone!)
“You can find out more – and more quickly- about the history and culture of a nation by looking at its food than in any other way. Food is a direct expression of a country’s spirit” (Tessa Traeger in Plimmer, C, 1988). It is clear that food trends were reflected in current trends in society, particularly by the rise of cookbooks in the mid 20th century. 
There were radical changes in colour photography in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. It was transformed by Japanese colour printing which gave a much better clarity of colour to the images. (Shakely, L. n.d. [online]) 

Cookbooks of 1950’s-60’s

The price of colour reproductions greatly affected how many colour pictures there were in cookbooks and magazines. It was much cheaper and easier to produce line drawings rather than colour photographs. At the start of the 1950’s cookbooks tended to have illustrations and black and white photographs.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

The 1953, sixth printing, first edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook contained black and white photographs on nearly every single page of the 400-page cookbook, with only a full colour photograph at the start of every chapter.   

The Modern Family Cookbook

Similarly, The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given, published the same year, contains only 36 colour photographs to over 1000 recipes. There is a very low ratio of pictures to text or recipes. (Sullivan, H. 2010) Cookbook collectors have found these sorts of cookbooks hard to get hold of now, yet many cherish the food photographs in them.

Page from Mrs Beeton’s All about Cookery

In the 1960’s, colour photographs seem to be more prevalent, Mrs Beeton’s All about Cookery, fourth impression, published in 1964, has colour photographs throughout, which was not seen in older versions of the book. Other significant cookbooks of the time were Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks

With thanks again to Amy Alessio for her knowledge of vintage cookbooks


George De Gennaro on Food Photography

George De Gennaro, pasta photograph in Eastman's Kodak's Applied Photography, 1963

George De Gennaro, pasta photograph in Eastman’s Kodak’s Applied Photography, 1963

Photographer George De Gennaro began photographing food in the 1950s. Upon reflection he commented that “In those days, the pictures looked as though they were taken from the top of a ladder, six or eight food away. And the food was so artificially doctored up that it gave the profession a horrible name” (Plimmer, C, 1988, p52) Perhaps it is these technical aspects that meant food photography of this period was not taken seriously as an art genre. Directly influenced by still life painters and a regular contributor to Better Homes and Garden magazine in the 1970’s, he chose to capture food from a different angle, coming in close and capturing movement. A pasta photograph, published in Eastman Kodak’s Applied Photography shot in 1963, shows this technique of freezing motion. Shooting in one day, using 10 large format exposures, Gennaro used one 3200 watt/seconds flash, reflecting the light back in using reflectors. It was shot at f32 at 1/50 of a second using Kodak Ektachrome 64 film. What is significant about this image is that it demonstrates the same painterly skill of 17th century still life, and is clearly influenced by the effects of lighting used by impressionist painters of the 19th century.