The lowest common denominator.

Spaghetti and Meatballs. © Ryan Schierling

Recently, I decided to revisit a project I started a few years ago called "Ugly Food."

Originally, the concept was a lowbrow response to overly fastidious food and equally fussy food photography. I mean, I cook like mad but I can only look at so many shallow depth of field photos of roast rack of rabbit with ramps and radicchio. It's an easy way to shoot pretty food (and I've done it too) but, I mean, it's the same kind of formula as using a 400mm f/2.8 lens for shooting sports – you open it up to get the nice background blur, point it in the right direction and lean on the shutter. 

So, I shot a series that had to do with some of the messiest food ever – barbecue – and believe me, none of it was pretty. Let's just say that Saveur and Bon Appetit and some of the other glossy food porn magazines weren't breaking my door down to get those nasty shots. (Although NAMPLA* (the North American Man Pork Love Association) keeps inviting me back to their annual barbecue year after year...)

This time around, since the economy is a little, shall we say, depressed, I wanted to focus on photographing bargain basement super-cheap fare – specifically, pre-processed, packaged comestibles and fast food that anyone can eat for one single solitary dollar. Which, almost by virtue of being inexpensive and incredibly low quality, are ugly. Not pretty food. No way.

The first series of large prints are tv dinners, the kind you probably used to love as a kid but wouldn't be caught dead buying nowadays. 

They don't exactly look like the pictures on the fronts of the boxes. 

But, that's the idea – to frame them as aseptic and nearly flavorless (albeit colorful) combinations of miscellaneous protein, starch and vegetable that are deceptively plumped with saturated fat, have ridiculous levels of sodium and are chock-full of chemical additives and preservatives, and yet, are still considered a "value."

More soon.

*As far as I know, there is no such organization. But there should be.

Glamour shots. © Ryan Schierling

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