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Carl Warner’s Foodscapes

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Remember your mother telling you not to play with your food? London-based photographer Carl Warner doesn’t just play with food, he makes art with it. Carl’s foodscapes are intricately detailed photographs that beg to be examined and occasionally trick the eye (“That’s cheese? Those are carrots?” you’ll ask).

We closed the April/May 2010 issue of Fine Cooking with a “Food for Thought” feature on Carl where I got to ask him about his approach to making foodscapes; my interview follows below.

Read the Interview:

Fine Cooking: How would you explain what it is that you do?
Warner: I’m a photographer; I think artist is too grand a title. I make foodscapes and photograph them.

FC: Where do you get your ideas?
Warner:
I go to the fruit and veg market with a camera and take photos, then come back and make drawings. Then I go back to buy the produce, which can take me a while. I pick over a lot of potatoes to find the one that looks just like the rock I need.

FC:
How did the foodscaping idea come to you?
Warner: I had been a photographer for a decade and was looking to do something unusual; I wanted to get my work noticed. I started with mushrooms, experimenting with them as trees. Those first few images were quite surreal.

FC: Does your work make you hungry?
Warner: I’m around food all day, but it’s not about eating. I’ll have something like 20 food stylists and model makers working with me, and we spend days gluing things and sticking pins in them. We made this ocean out of salmon once, and it was a messy, smelly thing.

FC: So you wouldn’t want to eat your art at the end of the day?
Warner: It usually takes three to four days to make and shoot a foodscape, so no. The problem with working with food is that you have to work very quickly.

FC: You don’t shoot the scenes all at once then?
Warner:
I shoot the foreground first, then the middle, then the background. The time I did a London skyline, it took all day to make St. Paul’s Cathedral out of melons, corn, and carrots. The plan was to build the Houses of Parliament out of asparagus, but we had to stop and shoot St. Paul’s first, to avoid the church starting to rot before we were halfway through the houses.

FC: Other than unusually shaped produce, what inspires you?
Warner:
The photographer Ansel Adams. And films such as The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And skylines.

FC: Real skylines?
Warner:
It’s getting to the point where I look at skylines and start to replace the buildings with food in my mind.

Carl’s first book, Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes will be published in October, 2010. For more information about Carl and to see more of his photographs, visit his Web site, www.carlwarner.com.

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