Once in a while a really unique project comes along. I was commissioned by a large food service company to produce original artwork for their new corporate HQ. When I was approached lots of ideas were thrown out, like darts to a board. One of the leading client ideas was to shoot macro photography of food. I felt strongly we should do something more original.
The artwork was going to be installed at large scale, about 20 feet in length. I thought, what if we took a bunch of their food products and collaged them as if they were an abstract painting? An image that would consist of many of the foods that represent the company and, if we were smart, it could have duality thanks to the large scale. When a viewer is approaching it can appear as color, art, patterns…abstract art. As the viewer gets close, they’ll realize it’s actually the product of the company creating this experience.
After some back and forth we went to a meeting with all the players to present the concept. My client was curious how I would be able to explain this to the team. Everyone wants to see what they’re getting before it’s created these days, and that can be a challenge when trying to create something original. Stock photography wouldn’t help, what I wanted to create did not exist. A sketch couldn’t convey enough emotion. So…I went shopping. I gathered a muted palette of root vegetables to create my canvas. Then some beautiful pops of color with fruits and vegetables. I went to my meeting determined to create a miniature version of what we would do. I explained the concept, but as expected words alone would not push this through. I rolled in my shopping cart and right there in the middle of the conference table I created a neutral canvas of my muted ingredients. Next I started dropping the pops of color on top, as if splattering paint upon the canvas. Laughs. Smiles. They loved it. Green light.
This would be quite the production; creating a 20 foot collage of food meant a lot of organization. To start, I went to a food show and took photos of nearly every product they had, hundreds if not thousands of images. I sorted them and picked favorites. We decided to target some groups of color, select some favorites, and organize them into three groups.
Next I needed to figure out how much to order, we don’t want to waste any food we don’t need. I also didn't want to run out while creating this on such a grand scale. I calculated the square feet of our final artwork, and then googled the size of each element I was using. Every ingredient has an approximate size. I thought about whether the art should have an even amount of ingredients, or if I should emphasize some colors and shapes and not others. Give more weight to certain textures. In the end I preferred asymmetry. So some ingredients got about 5%, some 10%, some 20%, some 30%. I converted those percentages to square inches and calculated how many of each ingredient we’d need. How many radishes, croissants, tomatoes, pineapples, peppers, and apples it would take, plus a 5-10% buffer in case of any surprises.
Keeping the food fresh while we constructed these was going to be important. The food should look fresh when photographed, and that can’t happen until the artwork is created. That meant a refrigerated semi-truck outside the front door storing 3 days worth of our ingredients. The plan was to create one unique final each day from start to finish, with the food looking beautiful for capture at the end of the day. We kept the studio extremely cold. My A-team was created with a mix of artists, stylists, food lovers, and collaborative clients.
Passion was embraced when making these. During a lunch we were serenaded by an incredible local accordionist. We surrounded ourselves in a nurturing environment conducive to creating something wonderful. And this is what we did.