Not quite food photography but brilliant nonetheless, I spotted this cookbook ‘How to boil an egg‘ that uses illustrations of food that look just like photographs. The detail in them is outstanding – what an interesting concept! Artist Fiona Strickland illustrated each recipe from photographs of the recipes, taking around 3 weeks each of drawing then painting in watercolour. You can read more about the process here…
Following on from my previous post a few weeks ago, another example painting from the Pop Art movement and how it highlighted mass consumption and consumerism is ‘Food landscape’, painted by Erro in 1964. His painting focuses on repetition and obsessive crowding of foodstuffs. It represents the supermarket consumer society and how food is not imperfect or naturally beautiful anymore but part of a standardized, industrial production process. (Malaguzzi, S. (2008) p59) The way the food is crowded together mirrors the display of goods in a supermarket.
It’s back! The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2014 is open for entries. What is great about this competition is how it celebrates the art of food photography worldwide and for its third year they anticipate even more entries! The category I’m most looking forward to seeing submissions for is ‘Food Bloggers’. This new category welcomes images that complement a blog and bring the written word to life. With food photography being used to illustrate recipes, now more so online, I hope this category will receive a range of excellent entries, making it very hard for the judges; which this year includes David Loftus and Donna Hay.
As still life paintings, black and white photographs and retro cookbooks can influence food photographs today, I’ve also been writing short excerpts on the history of food photography for the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year blog, which you can read here.
When looking at food as a subject in photography, it’s interesting to consider that still life painters in the 20th century continued to paint food objects, despite photography becoming more popular as a creative medium. In particular, Paul Cezanne focussed his attention on the artistic possibilities in the still life genre.
A switch from realist paintings, the subject of the painting did not necessarily have to resemble anything that actually existed. The general approach to still life painting of the time “tried to probe the potential of the painting medium by experimenting with form and colour, flattening three-dimensional perspective and simplifying composition” (Malaguzzi, S. 2008, p57) Later in the 20th century, food in still life paintings was depicted as a symbol of consumer society. “The industrialized production of food and its display in supermarkets are seen as tangible signs of the violence of capitalism.” (Malaguzzi, S. 2008, p57) Rather than focus on the ingredients like previous still life paintings, packaging and brand labels featured heavily. In particular, the Pop art movement in the 1960s in the United States “denounced the excesses of consumerism, and ironically, celebrated industrially produced food as a primary expression of mass goods whose consumption is obsessively encouraged by advertising.” (Malaguzzi, S. (2008) p57) This can be seen in the well-known work of Andy Warhol, in his depiction of Campbell’s soup cans.
I’ve recently been in contact with Mark Menjivar, a US based food photographer, who documented everything he ate for a whole year and thought I’d share an interview I did with him.
With lots of people taking food photos at their tables, it was interesting to find a project that is purely documented in words, rather than pictures, taking away from the immediacy of “#foodstagrams” and actually considering food and diet in a much more thoughtful way.
Mark’s photographic project “You are what you eat” reveals the inside of people’s fridges. I like this project (and Peter Menzel’s Hungry Planet showing how much the world’s groceries cost) as visually, it shows people food in a way that it is familiar to them – would it take on a different meaning if displayed as a Spanish still life or graphically arranged ingredients like images in the Ikea Baking Book?
Here’s what Mark had to say about his work….
HGVT: What made you want to document everything you ate?
MM: One night I was talking to a dietician friend of mine and she suggested that I write down everything I eat for a few days and think about it. After three days I was really surprised and decided to try it for a week. After I week, I was totally hooked and decided to go for 365 days. From doing that there were two things that really shifted my life. The first was realizing that I was eating fast food way more than I thought. If you had asked me how many times I ate fast food a month, I would have said 3, maybe 4 times. I realized that I was eating it like 3 times a week–which is way more than I wanted. I was traveling a ton during those years! Second, it helped my wife Rachel and I recommit ourselves to growing food at home. Each season since we have maintained a good size garden.
HGVT: Are there images of every meal?
MM: I did not photograph my meals because I wanted to think about food in a different way. Who is growing the food? Preparing it? Where is it coming from? Is it food? What are the social implications of eating this? Is it good for me? Pleasurable? etc… The act of writing it down seemed to be a better way to enter into that.
HGVT: On your website the project ‘You are what you eat’, shows photographs of the inside lots of different peoples fridges. Does your ‘365 Days’ directly link to this project?
MM: It does! I don’t think I would have done this if I had not been immersed in that project. When I am working on a long term project I pretty much go full in. I talk to people about related issues, write down thoughts, experiment, try new things, interview people (formally and informally), read books, etc. I also try to explore the edges. Writing down everything I ate for 365 days was one of those explorations. Another was making audio recordings of people eating their favorite foods!
HGVT: Wow, that’s a very in-depth exploration of how people consume food! How do you think food photography can be used to portray social statements about diet?
MM: The hope that I always had for my project was that the pictures of the fridges would be a launching place for the imagination to explore our relationship with food and to ask some of the questions I shared above. I think we have passed that tipping point in society where food is regularly discussed and there are great places to have in depth conversation about food issues. I am definitely in the camp of ‘the more the merrier’ and think that thoughtful photography around food issues can definitely add to that conversation.
HGVT: I noticed on your website you published a ‘food journal’ – what was the thinking behind this?
MM: A European magazine contacted me about publishing some images from You Are What You Eat in their magazine and it turned out really bad. They cropped the photos, changed the captions, layered text over the images–and they were months late in sending payment! To turn that experience into something good, I took the money and created the food journal in collaboration with Kate Bingaman-Burt.
We released it in conjunction with a show I had at Ampersand in Portland, OR. All the money made from the sales went to an agricultural organization working with inner-city youth.
What a fantastic project! You can see more of Mark’s food projects on his website….
There’s a lot of interesting things going on in food photography at the moment. With the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year just completing it’s second year and planning the third, food photography has really started to catch the attention of the masses. For some, taking a quick snap of your meal is becoming commonplace, so much so that in New York, some restaurants have banned people from taking pictures of their food in restaurants (Schroeder, S. 2013) Instagram is popular and using it to share photos of food seems to be one of the main things it’s good for (Lloyd, S. 2013) , with twitter and other social networking sites flooded with “#foodstagram”.
With food photography becoming so fashionable, the Observer Food Monthly Awards have added a new category this year; best food photography, urging eager food photography enthusiasts to enter; “We’d like to see your best work, whether you’re showing off a home-cooked meal, documenting a visit to a great restaurant or capturing the finest produce at your local farmer’s market.” (Grundy, G. 2013) It’s exciting to see where this will lead with all these recent developments adding to the history of food photography. Perhaps now, more than ever, we will be looking at whether any past trends and techniques reappear.
I recently came across this blog Great Food Photos which has some really beautiful food photography. One of the interviews caught my eye as the photographer, Anna Williams, uses the ‘Chiaroscuro’ style I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog post.
‘The Pilgrims Feast’ series was recently nominated for the US National Magazine Awards. The images were shot for Martha Stewart Living magazine last November. The opening image on Anna Williams’ website really reminds me of George Lance’s ‘Fruit (The Autumn Gift)
What a fantastic exhibition, showcasing the current best in food photography. Here’s a selection of my favourites from the show. You can see all the category winners, finalists and commended images on the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year website
Some great entries in the under 17’s category:
And congratulations to the overall winner Alexandrina Padureta, for her wonderful image of her grandfather eating an apple…
I’ve recently contributed some submissions on food and still life photography to Feature Shoot. You can read a couple of my articles here:
The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Exhibition 2013 opens at the Mall Galleries this week. I’m really looking forward to see the range of fantastic food photography on display at such a great venue, especially what the ‘Food Portraiture’ category will have to offer. Best of luck to all the entrants!