Food has always been a much-photographed and consumed subject, offering a testing ground for creative experimentation and a way for artists to hone their skills.
But even the most representative images of food have rarely been straightforward or objective. Food as the subject matter is rich in symbolic meaning and across the history of art, has allowed artists to explore a particular emotion, viewpoint or theme and express a range of aspirations and social constructs.
With social media now playing a large part, interest in food photography (“foodporn” being a popular hashtag) has become widespread with the taking and sharing of images becoming an integral part of the dining experience itself.
Jo Ann Callis Untitled, 1994; from the series Forbidden Pleasures © Jo Ann Callis Courtesy the artist and Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, California
You can take a look at this rich history of food photography in Feast for the Eyes, an upcoming exhibition being dished up at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. It brings together a broad range of artists including Stephen Shore, Man Ray, Weegee, Martin Parr, Nan Goldin, Nobuyoshi Araki and Cindy Sherman, all of whom harness the history and popularity of food photography to express wider themes.
The works on show evoke deep-seated questions and anxieties about issues such as wealth, poverty, consumption, appetite, tradition, gender, race, desire, pleasure, revulsion and domesticity.
Photographer unknown ‘New Recipes for Good Eating’ Crisco, Proctor and Gamble, Cincinnati, 1949
The exhibition is arranged around three key themes: Still Life traces food photography’s relationship to one of the most popular genres in painting and features work that is both inspired by the tradition and how it has changed in the course of time.
Around the Table looks at the rituals that take place around the consumption of food and the cultural identities reflected through the food we eat and people we eat with.
Finally, Playing with Food shows what happens when food photography is infused with humour, fun and irony. The exhibition will also feature a number of magazines and cookbooks which provide an additional visual and social history of food photography.
Daniel Gordon Pineapple and Shadow, 2011 © Daniel Gordon Courtesy the artist and James Fuentes Gallery, New York
Feast For The Eyes, The Story Of Food In Photography, will be on display at The Photographers’ Gallery, London from the 18 October 2019.
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