Phagomania: Edible Still Life

Hey you! Amateur food-snapper! Put down your fancy phone and get off Instagram for a moment; you might just learn a thing or two from photographer Henry Hargreaves

Feature by Lewis MacDonald` | 01 Apr 2014

We don't have our own photographer here at Phagomania, but if we did, they would probably be a bit like Henry Hargreaves. A man after our own heart, you'd think he'd settle for sticking to his day job shooting for a range of high-flying fashion labels, magazines and design firms in New York. But no. "In my spare time I do the shoots I wish I was being hired to do," reveals Henry. "I still feel there is a ton more stuff to explore in this genre." No prizes for guessing what genre that is.

We looked at Henry's work a couple of years back to marvel at his deep fried gadgets (yep, iPhones in batter), bacon alphabet and rainbow-coloured food. Looking at what he's been up to since then, he deserves to be the first return visit for this column. Taking a highly methodical approach, each project is painstakingly crafted by Henry’s fair hand.

Jelly becomes a series of American presidential portraits as Henry's tribute to the most recent US elections. "I liked the play of it being such a childish thing but being used to tell this presidential story," the New Zealander explains. "From what I understand a couple of the ex-presidents have also seen the series and dug it."

Flaming cake-based models of fast food glimmering against foil become a satirical piece on America's food culture, entitled Burning Calories. "We drenched them in lighter fluid," Henry says. "The original paper backdrop went on fire so metal foil was both a stylistic and logical choice."

Humble maps become food artworks as their outlines are constructed from their most noted culinary stereotypes. France made out of bread and cheese? Australia made out of shrimp? Britain made out of biscuits? It’s a fair cop, we can't argue with that. You quickly start to wonder about the logistics behind some of these shots, and Henry admits to regularly being “on a race with time” before his props start stinking the place out.

But, saving the best for last, dessert comes in the form of Henry's Gingerbread and Candy Art Galleries. A project so good, it was almost too good. Henry says, "A lot of people who came to the show thought they were just architectural shots and took a bit of convincing to get them to look closer and think again."

For Miami's heavyweight annual art show, Art Basel, Henry and his partner-in-crime, food artist Caitlin Levin, crafted reconstructions of iconic art galleries. Elegantly shot in black and white, the results are a subversive play on his approach to date that might have been too artful for their own good. "We felt like we had bitten off too much with that," grants Henry, "and weren't going to be able to do the idea justice and we did; that was really satisfying." 

So fair to say the creative collaboration brought something extra to the table? "I think collaborations are a really good way to work and by having someone else to work with you can more successfully critique something as it's not exclusively yours."

So there we are – the bar has been set, the tips dispensed, the flaming backdrops extinguished. Over to you, your phone, and your dinner, to see just what you can make of it.