Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Eating With Our Eyes

Long before I became obsessed with visually documenting the world of food, I was a young adult who desperately needed to learn how to cook. In my early culinary education I gravitated to the cookbooks and food magazines with the most elegant illustrations and the most beautiful photography. Undoubtedly, this was fueled by my needs as an artist and visual learner, but these images and illustrations touched me much deeper than mere learning aids. There was, and still remains, something magical, almost intoxicating in food images. I would sit for hours with these books visually consuming each image, rereading the recipe, all the while constructing the dish in my head to look just as delicious as it did on the printed page. These images inspired me to create, urged me to try my hand at the recipe and pushed me to be a better, more thoughtful cook. The images clearly spoke to me in a deep subconscious way. While it could be said that all visual images tap into our subconscious memories and associations; food imagery triggers not only our memories, but also sparks and engages associations with tastes, olfactory and tactile sensations. And perhaps even more deeply rooted is the primal connection between seeing and understanding food and our very survival.

Today food images are more important to me than ever. I still obsessively collect beautiful cook books and food magazines. I have become friends with many dedicated people in the food industry who care deeply for the visual as well as the tastes of their foods. I continue to cook nearly every day with presentation in mind and for special occasions we often seek out beautifully designed restaurants. Out of all of this has grown the great pleasure of personally visually documenting this fascinating world of food. As a foodie and an artist I am continually fascinated with the colors, textures, presentations, personalities, faces, designs, utensils, machinery, places, and packaging of the food world. For the past several years I have had the unique opportunity to explore, to go behind the scenes, to meet amazing artisans and to share the visual experience with others. The artistic achievements I hold most dear are the times when I manage to capture an image which honors these artisans and celebrates the beauty and vitality of the food. Every photograph, drawing, print, or foodie project that I create is for me a celebration – a gesture that binds me closer to the joy of experiencing, cooking and eating great food. Just as the beautiful food nourishes my body, these images and projects nourish my soul.

Each post will include more of my “Foodie” imagery and more can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/lanceduffin In the spirit of such greats as NPR’s Story Core, The Kitchen Sisters, and The Splendid Table, I would like to invite you to join the conversation and become part of the Foodie Project community. In response to “Eating with our eyes” please share your favorite food image by emailing me at lwdphoto@hotmail.com and I will select some to share on the Foodie Project.

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