Seeing Food in a New Way

New Houston Center for Photography exhibition explores the photographic possibilities of what we eat.

By Nick Panzarella December 16, 2013

Jody Horton (Austin, TX). Oyster Pickers 1, 2013. From the series Oyster Picking. 24 x 30 inches. Inkjet print.

See Food: Fine Photography and Gastronomic Anthropology
Houston Center for Photography
1441 W. Alabama
Through Jan 12

With our culture's current obsession with food and posting images online (particularly of current meals), it comes as no surprise that the Houston Center for Photography is currently hosting an exhibition on food photography. "See Food: Contemporary Photography and the Ways We Eat" is both an intriguing display of artistic prowess as well as a sign of the growing non-culinary interest in food.

The exhibit is split into two rooms, the first a take on the consumption of modern comestibles, and the second a display of food production. Mark Menjivar's "You Are What You Eat" is a series of photographs of the insides of fridges labeling the year and profession of the fridge's owner. The photos provide a glimpse of changing food habits; keep an eye open for the appearance of kombucha and craft beer in fridges in 2013 that were missing in 2008.

Andrzej Maciejewski's "Garden of Eden" is a collection of still lifes of modern produce replicating sixteenth-century Flemish paintings, but with the PLU stickers prominently displayed on the fruits. The pictures are beautiful, but their implications leave one with a hollow feeling inside. Stepping into the adjacent room, the images are less experimental and abstract, focusing on fishing and farming. 

Almost documentary in style, these photos delve into the source of our food, giving a glimpse into that elusive realm so many farmers market patrons search for.

Corey Arnold's photos of fishing off of Alaska and Europe in his "Fish Work" series are a clear standout, and most definitely where the exhibit takes its punny name.

 Despite the gore display of the ensnared fish and sharks, there is an upbeat vibrancy in the images, capturing the feeling that the work involved in procuring our daily meals isn't all negative and destructive.  

Located in Montrose, the Houston Center for Photography offers free admission to all exhibits, as well as access to the John Cleary Library dedicated to photography, complete with access to editing software on their computers. It's surprising how few Houstonians have visited this spot, and I highly suggest it for those looking to go on an inexpensive date, and for all of those Instagrammers that want to take their craft to the next level.

Artistic displays such as this reflect our culture's deepening interest in food. Where once reading cook books and being a home chef was the extent of a food obsession, creativity regarding food now exceeds the bounds of simply cooking. In Houston alone, we have efforts dedicated to creative documentation of food traditions and history with The Gulf Coast Food Porject, Texas Foodways, and The Shrimp Boat Project, as well as a magazine, Sugar & Rice, focused entirely on creative writing and imagery related to local food. One might call this the evolution of the foodie, but a more accurate term would be the development of the new gastronome. For those yet to be made aware of this development, head to the Houston Center for Photography for a chance to see food in a new light.

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