I have a broken relationship with food; I love and hate it, by turns. I've watched my father waste away because he consumed the wrong food for the wrong reasons. He ate to soothe his restlessness, to ease the pain of life and to punctuate every high. His consumption was like bringing food to the altar of a false and unsatisfiable god. Despite how it abused his life, my father kept returning to that altar, and he brought me there, too, as a little child. I have fought every day since then to unlearn what I learned at it's feet.
But I also love food. Not in a gluttonous, self-satisfying way. No. Because it is color, texture and smell; comfort, nourishment, and joy. Something profound happens when we come to the table. Barriers are broken along with our bread. There is a reason why communion happened at a table - because to share a meal with another is a sacred thing. It is to share life.
From the time I was 15 or so, my favorite thing was Gourmet magazine. Full of glossy images and beautiful words, I used to eagerly wait for each month's issue. When it came, I made time to sit in my favorite spot with a hot cup of coffee. I drowned myself in every page. My endearment to an issue was multiplied by tens and twenties if there was an article by Francis Lam, a favorite contributor of mine. I even read the letter from the editor, since it was Ruth Reichl, who is nothing if not a genius with stories and words and food. I would read the issue once for the words and then a second time for the pictures.
Gourmet was about food, yes, but it was also about life. Each page was filled with food that was rich, rustic, honest and pure, but what struck me most were the stories about the people the food came from. How, often the adjectives which described those people's lives matched the adjectives which described the food they made. I don't know what came first, the good food or the good life, but reverently turning each page, I just wanted to be a part of those rituals. I wanted to tell those stories, like they were told on those pages. And I wanted my story to be like that, too.
For years, I thought Oh, if only I could write and make pictures for publications about food and travel and life. That would be everything. But I reached a point where my broken relationship with food began to make it difficult for me to love those rituals like I once had. For a time I struggled, feeling as though if I were going to ever break free of the altar of false food, that I had to withhold my attention and admiration from food altogether. And yet...who can entirely disdain it? I've spent years coping and hopefully growing; learning how not to fall on either side of the extreme. I still find that some days are kinder than others.
This dichotomy of my love-hate relationship with food has been thrown into stark relief recently for me, with the latest project I've undertaken. Suddenly, I have an opportunity to make pictures like the ones I loved, ones that surround the rituals and beauty of nourishment. I've been working with an incredibly talented and lovely dietician, chef and spokesperson, doing photography of the nutritious recipes she creates. I'm rather keen on the arrangement, really. She cooks, I shoot and the music plays.
And it's impossible to hate this food. It has such great character. It is lovely and nourishing. It's like a woman who is breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe you assume she must be vapid and narcissistic, but you meet her and find she is humble and honest, entirely generous and kind and you can't help but enjoy her company. You find, perhaps, that relationships like this change your expectation. And I suspect that spending time working with this food is changing mine, a bit as well. I sort of have this subliminal feeling that taking pictures of this healthy, beautiful food is therapy for me. It's teaching me that just because I don't want to kneel at the altar, it doesn't mean I can't sit at the table.
I'll be posting collections of my work, which includes a new shoot every week. I hope you enjoy and I hope that perhaps these images nourish you in their own way.