'Feast for the Eyes' is a delightful history of food in photography

What we eat, and how we consume it, is directly linked to photography’s evolution. 

Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography By Susan Bright Aperture 304 pp.

If you are interested in – or share – the compulsion to post photos of food on Instagram, you’ll love a new offering from Aperture Books. Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography is a fascinating exploration of the genre. British photography curator Susan Bright deftly navigates her complex subject.

This thoughtful tome is organized chronologically by decade, concisely encapsulating the salient points of each photo’s genesis. What we eat, and how we consume it, is directly linked to photography’s evolution.  

Since the camera’s invention, images of food and consumption have remained touchstones for identity and power. “The Modern Farmer, 1909,” by William H. Martin, emphasized the agricultural dominance of the United States, according to Bright. The whimsical photomontage of a rural family hauling a harvest of giant peaches appeared as a “tall tale” image at the height of postcards’ popularity.

Technology furthered photographic possibilities on the subject. In 1957, Harold Edgerton’s newly invented strobe light captured the coronet of a milk drop falling into a red pan with stunning precision and beauty.

Along with the proliferation of vivid color photography in the 1960s came lush food photographs marketed to the busy homemaker. Those same products became props for later artists commenting on artifice and reality, as in Sandy Skoglund’s “Peas on a Plate, 1978.”

Food is fundamental to our existence and rich as a visual metaphor for desire, hope, abundance, and scarcity, says Bright. In “Feast for the Eyes,” photography and food are a perfect pairing.

Joanne Ciccarello is a former Monitor photo editor.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.