Title: From Pen to Plate
My photo essay explores the practices of
local, traditional, and sustainable foods on the
Silver gelatin prints on 16 inch by 20 inch RC Fiber paper.
For my senior project I choose to create a photographic documentation that explores the practices and culture of raising one’s own source of food. I photographed the processes and people involved in getting the animals essentially from pen to plate. The idea of the animal moving from its pen to a dinner plate is how I cam up with the title “From Pen to Plate.” I felt that this was a topic that seems foreign and unfamiliar to many people, yet it has always been and will continue to be an important and defining characteristic of our community and culture. For most of us the idea f raising your own source of food seems impractical and a thing of the past. While for others, like those whom I photographed, it is a normal, traditional, and very important aspect of life.
always been interested in photography and after traveling to
realizing that I would be limited by my location on the
shoot for my project was an Ecuadorian style pig roast at a pig farm in
Manorville. Going into this shoot I still had no idea of what I was really
going to photography or what I was about to get myself into. My second
shoot was on
After I had printed all of my final images I added another component to my product. I decided I would make a book, using Blurb, which would tie my whole project together into one piece. In this book I included all of my images from the three stories along with additional information. For each animal I included a traditional cooking recipe, which I believe made a stronger connection between my images and my conceptual idea of exploring traditional and local food. In the book I also included instructions on how the animal was killed and then turned into food. These instructions gave a basic written description of what my photographs were depicting. Combining my images with the cooking recipes and how to information really captured the “pen to plate” essence of my project.
There were a couple of issues I encountered on these shoots. In all of these shoots I had to make sure I got each photo I needed in order to be able to illustrate a complete story. During these shoots I could no ask the person to re-chop the animal’s head off so I could get a better photograph. To overcome this issue I had to quickly photograph from various angles to make sure I got a good image I would be able to use in my final selection. Because my knowledge of and access to people who raised their own animals was limited I ended up having to photograph Sawyer twice, once killing a turkey and again killing a duck. I was worried that the two shoots would look too similar to begin with because they were both of birds and involved very similar photographs and then having to photograph the same boy made it even more similar. In order to make the two stories appear as different as possible I had to photograph Sawyer’s cousin, who was luckily there at the time, holding the duck. Throughout the duck shoot I also tried not to photograph Sawyer’s face so the audience would not be able to tell the same boy was in two of my stories.
Shooting in a documentary style was a new and challenging thing for me as a photographer. I am used to shooting in a street photography style in which I just have to worry about each image individually. With documentary photography I had to constantly thing about all of my photographs as a whole. In this project I had to make sure I was illustrating a complete narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end, which an audience would be able to easily follow.
encountered problems even before I began to shoot. Getting access to places and
people to photograph continued to be a challenge throughout my entire project.
The first thing I had to do was make sure each person would allow me to
photograph their animal. There were two cases, once when I was suppose to shoot
at a commercial duck farm and once when I was suppose to photograph and
organized deer hunt, when the people would not allow me to take pictures
because they were worried that I was an animal rights activist or that a group
like PETA would see my images. After I got permission, I had to make sure there
would actually be an animal present for me to photograph. I tried many
times to organize a shoot of a deer hunt and skinning but it never happened. I
had consistently contacted every person and organization that I could think of
that deer hunted to try to accomplish this shoot. Since deer season started,
practically every weekend, there were multiple people who were suppose to call
me if they killed a deer. Either there were no deer to be hunted or just no one
ever called me. I even sat in the woods on
In addition to my final three stories I also photographed men crabbing. These images did not make it to my final selection because many of them were not as visually interesting as the photos from my other stories were. Also, as a collection these images did not successfully tell a story because there was no definite beginning, middle, or end.
The two major skills I greatly improved on through this project were printing and obviously photography. When I first started printing my final images I wasn’t the best printer and had done very little dodging and burning before. Since I was printing on a large scale I knew all of my images would have to be printed very well because any mistake would be noticeable. For my first attempts at printing it took me three or four prints before I got my exposure, contrast, and especially dodging and burning right for my final print. However, by the time I printed my last prints I was able to successfully print an image in just one or two tries. Through this project I also developed the skills for shooting documentary style photography. I acquired the skills to shoot documentary by perfecting how to use images to visually tell a narrative to an audience.
This project has not only provided me with insight into the art of photography, but also into the culture of homegrown food. As I visually explored the subjects I developed a personal understanding and perspective of the topic. I took great notice to how the role of raising one’s own source of food has changed in our society over time. Hundreds of years ago raising your own food was the only way of getting food. Now with supermarkets, importing, and exporting food is always accessible. Home grown sustainable food has evolved from a necessity to an uncommon alternative for healthier and fresher food. Through this project I have realized how packaged and processed meat wrapped in plastic is much more normal and accepted than someone producing their own food. Something so unnatural has replaced traditional practices that were once deeply rooted in our culture and daily life.
The works I consulted included primarily photo essays from Photo Eye and different recipes. I used the photo essays for inspiration and to get an idea of the work I would be doing. I used the recipes and cookbook to base the recipes I used in my book.
"Adam Jahiel at photo-eye Gallery." Photo Eye. Viewed 10 Sept. 2008 <http://photoeye.com/GALLERY/forms2/homepage.cfm?image=1&id=48522&imagePosition=1&Door=52&Portfolio=Portfolio2&Gallery=0&Page=74>.
Coastal Living. "Glazed
"Debbie Caffery at photo-eye Gallery." Photo Eye. Viewed 10 Sept. 2008 <http://photoeye.com/gallery/forms2/index.cfm?image=1&id=49102&imagePosition=1&Door=51&Portfolio=Portfolio4&Gallery=0&Page=67>.
"Jon Edwards at photo-eye
Gallery." Photo Eye. 10 Sept. 2008
Neill, Robert H., and Ellen
Rolfes, eds. Outdoor Tables and Tales : Recipes and Food Memories from
"Pentti Sammallahti at photo-eye Gallery." Photo Eye. Viewed 10 Sept. 2008. <http://photoeye.com/GALLERY/forms2/index.cfm?image=1&id=68149&imagePosition=1&Door=51&Portfolio=Portfolio1&Gallery=0&Page=83>.
"Perry Dilbeck at photo-eye Gallery." Photo Eye. Viewed 10 Sept. 2008. <http://photoeye.com/GALLERY /forms2/homepage.cfm?image=1&id=36382&imagePosition=1&Door=52&Portfolio=Portfolio2&Gallery=0&Page=68>.
Pujol, Layla. "Fritada de chancho recipe." Laylita.com. 11 Feb. 2008. Viewed 05 Jan. 2009 <http://laylita.com/recipes/2008/02/11/fritada-chancho/>.
Community Member (Details)
Originally my outside consultant was supposed to be Jon Snow. He is a
photographer and teacher at the