Food for thought

If this is Art

Cotton's first chapter dives straight into the scenario of photographers devising strategies, performances and happenings especially for the camera. The same image-making intentions that other artists have also apply to this section of photographers. 

Similarly to a painter, the photographer has mentally constructed an image long before the picture is painted, or photograph taken. Cotton (2011, p. 8) considers this as "The object chosen and presented as the work of art, not merely a document, trace or by-product of an action that has now passed." It always seems perfectly acceptable for an artist to create an abstract, or fictional piece of work. However, the ability of the camera to replicate a true likeness of what is in front of it, makes the viewer associate the photograph with reality and truth.

After all, we all take photographs of everyday, normal occurrences. It's what we experience and expect from photographs. So to be confronted with an image that has been entirely constructed can often be seen as bizarre and irrelevant to people. 

Examples of this constructed image making includes Sophie Calle's The Chromatic Diet, 1998, depicting her diet of eating food of a single colour for six days. The act of eating food of a single colour had no other significance other than being intended to create a final image of each dish. We don't even know if Calle actually ate the food that has been artistically arranged for the benefit of the final image. There are no other images of Calle eating the food. However, by knowing that she ate this restricted diet for six days does connect the audience with her narrative. 

Sophie Calle. The Chromatic Diet, 1998. 

Sophie Calle. The Chromatic Diet, 1998. 

Sophie Calle's book, Double Game, informs us of her colourful menu of the week. For example Monday was orange and she consumed:

Purée of carrots

Boiled prawns

Cantaloupe melon

Orange juice

The availability and accessibility to food makes it a convenient subject to photography in this way. A much more recent example is The Happy Meal Project by Sally Davies. At first glance it would appear as though Sally Davies has bought a McDonalds Happy Meal every day and photographed it. It's not until closer inspection that you realise the fries are positioned in the same way and the hamburger is positioned identically to the previous image, that you realise it is the same McDonalds Happy Meal that she is photographing. At first there is some relief that she hasn't been eating a Happy Meal every day, then you begin to wonder how it has maintained its appearance. In fact after six months the meal appears to be indestructible! On its own, a photograph of a McDonalds Happy Meal, but the same meal photographed daily creates a body of work that raises questions about the nutritional value of fast food. 

For every incredible story on the web, you will find an article discrediting it. Some people found it too difficult to digest the Happy Meal Project without some scepticism. It was impossible for the fast food to not show signs of decomposition, unless it had been modified in some way. With art comes controversy, which in effect adds to the narrative and increases it's exposure. 


Calle, S, (.    ) Double Gamer

Cotton, C. (2011). The photograph as contemporary art. New Edition. London: Thames and Hudson.