While reading December’s issue of the British Journal of Photography, I made notes and afterwards I collected some images of food from our Saturday’s Yorkshire Post magazine. The YP always has food related articles, primarily using soft focus ‘lifestyle’ images of nicely presented food for advertising particular restaurants or recipes.
My reading of the Journal showed me many other ways in which food is photographed. The articles varied from images of supermarket shelves stacked with produce, to people eating food, making art with food, making a political statement and creating portraits without faces.
Martin Parr’s images of ordinary people shopping and eating show the everyday, unglamorous side of people’s relationship with food. His Real Food collection of photographs shows the everyday reality, in contrast to the highly stylised and creative images that make up ‘posh’ (Parr’s word) representations of food. Parr says ‘junk food looks good…it’s more photogenic than posh food… my work is food as you find it for real, rather then the alluring perfection normally displayed in adverts.’ (BJP p52)
Tanya Houghton, in her collection A Migrant’s Tale, used food in her photography as a way of producing a portrait of her subject without directly showing the person. Houghton interviewed people and turned the responses into a collection of objects including food, which she then photographed as a kind of shrine, to act as a portrait of the interviewee. Her motivation came from a desire to challenge traditional media views of migrants. She says: ‘I wanted to produce a body of work that shows migration in a positive light, that humanises us again, and shows the similarities between us – the memories of home we all create and share, whether we have migrated globally or locally.’ (BJP p31)
Bobby Doherty’s food images, taken for a New York magazine, are of stacked supermarket shelves. He ‘capture(d) foods available in local grocery stores that are either unsustainable, contain hidden, unsavoury ingredients, or are damaging to the planet.’ (BJP p24). His image of stacks of tomatoes (BJP p26) is, to me, quite repulsive in its excess and commercialism.
Susan Bright’s research focusses on the history of food in photography and the ways in which women’s relationship with food has been portrayed and manipulated and challenged. She says: ‘In art, food has long been a subject for investigation for feminists…For so long the preparation and cooking of food has been women’s work’. The representation of women is a particular interest, one that I should like to research further.
Inspired by the British Journal of Photography’s theme, I wanted to attempt to tell a story about food in the form of a simple personal account: a visual documentation of part of an individual’s experience with food. My reflection is focussed on documenting ordinary food consumption and preparation and is also something of a personal portrait and a political message:
British Journal of Photography (December 2016) The Food Issue