You've likely heard the phrase 'food as art' before? For photographer Henry Hargreaves and chef-food stylist Caitlin Levin it's especially true. The pair have collaborated on "Food Scans," a series which explored the beauty of fruits and vegetables by putting them on a scanner and creating mirrored images, and "Deep Fried Gadgets," which, well, was a series of deep-fried tech gadgets.
Of all their creations, perhaps the most visually captivating and symbolic projects is their new Food Maps, stunning maps crafted entirely out of food. From a masterful depiction of China crafted of noodles to a rendition of Australia created with shrimp, Hargreaves and Levin have created pieces that tap into their love for food and travel while at the same time representing the role that food has played in shaping cultures around the world. Here, Levin explains how the series came about, why different foods were chosen for the project, and why an original plan to include a world map made out of sugar (yum!) had to be scrapped.
How did you first get into creating art with food?
We both made the transition from working in fashion at the same time, and we both had an affinity for the world of food so it was a bit of a natural progression. We also loved the idea that we could shoot any day of the week with a tiny budget, and we didn't need to pull clothes or have a crew and model. It was just the two of us getting creative -- and then getting to eat what was leftover.
What inspired you to do a food map series?
Its was inspired by our mutual love of food and travel. We have both traveled extensively and found that all of our most favorite memories revolved around the food of each place. Finding the best food, trying new things in new places, and most importantly the stories shared with new and old friends over a meal.
A few of these are continents and some are individual countries. How did you guys choose what to cover?
We picked the countries and continents based on ingredients that we were interested in along with the historical significance that some of these ingredients played in the history of each place.
(GET: our easy Indian recipes)
Were there any countries that you were considering doing that you decided not to? If so, why did you choose not to do it?
We attempted to make a world map out of sugar. It's one of the most universal foods, not to mention one of the most interesting from an anthropological standpoint. Nevertheless, it was the middle of summer and didn't go so well â€“ it got way too sticky! We should definitely revisit the idea.
How did you pick the foods for each map? Was about food origin or something else?
Many of the ingredients were chosen as they have become synonymous with that place, like Australia and shrimp. Some of the others, like Italy, we chose because we were interested in the idea that the country and its cuisine have become known for an ingredient that was not native to the place yet it transformed the entire food culture.
How long did it take to create the different maps?
Each map took about a day to make.
What would you say the hardest part was?
The most difficult part of creating the maps was working on our hands and knees for hours in the summer heat!
(COOK: one of our deliciously simple shrimp recipes)
Was there one of the maps that was especially hard to make?
I don't think one was more difficult than the rest, but the shrimp certainly got gross after sitting in the heat.
Do either of you have a favorite map from the ones you’ve created?
We love them all. Henry being a Kiwi loves the New Zealand map, and I have a fondness for the map of China.
A big inspiration for you is your love for travel and this idea of getting to explore new places through food. What's one of the most memorable meals that you remember having while traveling?
Oh, there are so many good ones. I remember when I was seven eating the most amazing, freshly-made papaya salad on a tiny island in the middle of a monsoon rainstorm.
What do you hope people will take away from seeing the maps?
I think we would love for people to think a little more about the history of food and where things came from. Ingredients have crossed oceans and transformed the culture and place where they landed -- what's more fascinating than that?!
(SEE: the ingredients our test kitchen can't live without)