Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Enhanced Varieties: Seduction in the Land of Plenty

After months of translating images into industrial food landscapes, we developed a growing intimacy with Carleton Watkins' work.  His 1889 Lake George Cling Peaches photograph, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and Huntington Library, appeared in a dream to Barbara in all the colors of the rainbow. This was the birth and inspiration for Enhanced Varieties.

Enhanced Varieties: Seduction in the Land of Plenty 
Enhanced Varieties is a suite of Jell-O® -toned silver gelatin prints reproducing Carleton Watkins’ 1889 photograph, Lake George Cling Peaches.
In the 1880s, land barons began advertising to easterners, encouraging them to invest and settle southern Californian. Carleton Watkins, renown for capturing the sublime in nature, was hired to depict the irresistible economic opportunities of the region. Despite a desert climate heavily dependent on irrigation, Kern County, California, was marketed as a land of inexhaustible agricultural potential. Watkins’ photograph of a crate of peaches is most emblematic, illustrating lushness beyond measure while overlooking the true costs of cultivation where water is scarce.
We all know the success of this characteristically American marketing scheme. With the help of agricultural technology, farmers flocked to this region to grow a new reality — America’s fruit basket. Today we have come to expect limitless plenty and limitless choices. We offer you Watkins’ Peaches as an icon of the triumph of the technological improvement of nature, engineered and marketed to keep us expecting more. 

Appropriating this iconic image, we chose to tone silver gelatin copy prints in twenty of the most popular Jell-O flavors our current technology is capable of seducing us with:

Berry Blue       
Island Pineapple       
Black Cherry  
Fruit Punch  
Cherry Lemonade     
Blackberry Fusion    
Tropical Fusion

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Artists Ponder Food: Song Dong

Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of impermanence and the transience of human endeavor. 
Waste Not

"Finally, in 2005, Mr. Song proposed that they turn the accumulated junk into an art project. In this way, he argued, nothing would be discarded and lost; everything would be meaningfully recycled and preserved. His mother agreed to this and they emptied the premises. Then, in an exhibition space in Beijing, they sorted its contents into the kinds of meticulous piles and groupings seen at MoMA: stacks of neatly folded shirts, clusters of bottles and cans, groupings of stuffed animals and so forth, arranged in and around a dismantled section of the original wood house. As a finishing touch, Mr. Song created a neon sign reading, 'Dad, don't worry, Mum and we are fine,' and hung it over the installation." Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Artists Ponder Food: Juergen Tellers

For the cookbook Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano, Teller photographed the creations dreamt up in the retreat’s kitchen by chef Antonio Guida, who won the restaurant two Michelin stars during his time there.
Food No.15, Hotel Il Pellicano 2010

Food No.113, Hotel Il Pellicano 2010

Captured in Teller’s recognizably edgy and impish aesthetic, Guida’s recipes emerge as whimsical fantasies bordering precariously on the hedonistic, meticulously crafted artworks to be consumed in the passion of a moment, to be vanished but unforgotten.
Food No.102, Hotel Il Pellicano 2010

Food No.18, Hotel Il Pellicano 2010

Artists Ponder Food: Jennifer Rubell

Jennifer Rubell creates participatory artwork that is a hybrid of performance art, installation, sculpture, and happenings. The pieces are often staggering in scale and sensually arresting, employing a wide range of media, both durable and ephemeral.

Old Fashioned (2010)

The title, Old-Fashioned, both identifies the variety of donut hanging on the wall (the most basic and elemental in Dunkin’ Donuts’ lineup), and raises the question of what "old-fashioned" might mean in a contemporary-art context. As viewers enter the courtyard, they are faced with an 8-foot by 60-foot freestanding wall. The front of the wall is pristine, with 1,521 donuts hung in a grid formation at perfect 6-inch intervals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

LensCulture Earth15 Awards

We are honored to be a finalist in the LensCulture Earth15 Awards among such fine work. "The level of thoughtful approaches to communicating very complex ideas about conservation, climate change and the impact of human consumption on this planet was extremely impressive—not to mention the simple stunning beauty of many of the images.” —Molly Roberts, juror

— Molly Roberts, Juror

Expo2015 Milano: Feeding the Planet

We only wished this had come true as part of Expo2015, an international expo about food in Milan. We received a proposal from Positivo Diretto, an exhibition firm in Lecce, Italy, who wanted to use our images as 2.5m high totems to line the route through Lecce, the city hosting the delegates of Expo2015 in May. Unfortunately, they could not get needed permissions so we had to content ourselves with a feature on the Feed a Different Imagination Expo campaign site. Hoping for Expo2020 in Dubai!

Tiny Tiny Group Show

The Cola Sea from Processed Views was included in Tiny Tiny Group Show's UNREAL.  Thanks Kevin Miyazaki!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Processed Views in the world!

Pacific Midwest 2.0 at INOVA
June 26-August 9, 2015

Along with our work, we had two Carleton Watkins originals from the UWM US Geographic Survey Library in the vitrine. 

THE FENCE Photoville through October 31, 2015
Processed Views is on view on The Fence in Boston, Brooklyn, Atlanta and Houston through October.

April – May 2015
On Landscape 2
Materia Gallery, Rome, Italy
Our photo book Processed Views (lower left) was included in the Photobooks 2015 show at Materia Gallery in Rome, Italy

Our artists book Processed Views is now in the collections of Western Americana at the Beinecke Library, Yale University; Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin; Indie Photobook Library; Hellenic Centre for Photography, Athens, Greece.

Processed Views was paired with a story by Chris Offutt in Oxford American in their spring 2015 issue. 

May 1– June 27, 2015
The Portrait and Landscape in Contemporary Photography
Brie Castell Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina
Exhibiting with the gorgeous work Aline Smithson and Blake Fitch in this dramatic black walled space!

PhotoBook 2014
curated by Karen Davis and Paula Tognarelli
Jan 8 – March 15, 2015/Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, Ma
Nov – Dec , 2014/ Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, New York

August 23 – September 28, 2014

Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
juried by Rebeca Senf, Darius Himes, Mary Virginia Swanson, Larissa Archer

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured in Float Magazine

A beautiful publication. Thanks to Dana Stirling and Yoav Friedl√§nder for featuring 
both Natural History and Processed Views in Float Photo Magazine

Ponder Food As Love - On Line Magazine Features

Slag Mag's Ode to the Tomato
A late summer harvest with this never ending simple tenderness from Ponder Food as Love.

this never ending simple tenderness
Don't Take Pictures    Summer Farm to Plate

The farm-to-plate movement has become increasingly popular in recent years. Consumers want to know where their food originated and how it was treated before arriving in on their table. As inherently curious people, photographers too wish to know more about their food production—and they bring their cameras along.
the handful of earth you are
Don’t Take Pictures strives to present photographers who are actively involved in the creative process of making photographs. The photographers in this exhibition have constructed still lifes, documented production, and dirtied their hands alongside their subjects to show the various stages in which our food exists before it is restaurant-ready. Photographers from around the globe submitted work for this exhibition, and we are pleased to feature this collection of images that is as “free-range” as the edibles it presents.

Interview - Processed Views - China Voyage

You two have collaborated on a lot of photography work. I heard that you studied in the same college and has became good friends  after a road trip in the West. 
Could you tell me how you two decided to go for traveling then?
Is it the  first time you two go traveling together, why did you choose driving in the west? 
What did you expect about this journey?

We met at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a design school within an engineering school. Women were few in numbers, and we gravitated toward each other because of a common interest in photography. We were already friends when we decided to drive to New Mexico to visit Lindsay's sister during a winter school holiday in 1976. We spent a month traveling in the region. The western United States has spectacular mountains, deserts and beautiful light. Many of America's National Parks are located in the area. We were aware of the rich photographic history of the American West. We expected to see dramatic and beautiful land-- New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment .

Lindsay   I had visited New Mexico many times due to my family connections, but the variety in both the landscape and people are profound. 

Barbara  Driving westward gave me a sense of the vastness of the United States. When we arrived in New Mexico, it was misty and overcast and for many days, I didn't realize we were surrounded by mountains. When the sun emerged, the quality of light in the southwest was extraordinary! There are huge expanses of space, often dry and desolate. It was very humbling to feel so insignificant within this land. I grew up in a city in the flat midwest U.S. -- all of this was new to me.   

Where the trip began and finished?
 How long did it last? 
Where did you pass by? 

Lindsay   We left gray, snowy Chicago by car and drove 1,500 miles across the flat Midwest. After a day and a half through cornfields, then wheat fields under a big sky, we saw the Rocky Mountains on the horizon. We stayed at my sister's house near the border of Mexico for seven days. From the south central part of the state, we traveled north along the Rio Grande River valley, a region filled with history and culture. The mountains get taller, the rivers wider and the sky is huge. We stopped to explore the ruins and artifacts of the Anasazi cliff dweller civilization of the 12th century. When we attended seasonal sacred dances in Pueblo villages, we were fascinated that the adobe architecture of the contemporary Native American Indians is completely integrated into the arid mountain landscape. Overlaying the indigenous civilization, Spanish colonial influences date from the 16th century and are still are very evident in the culture. We traveled to many Catholic missions that were established in every small town. We crossed large cattle ranches covering the grasslands. New Mexico's history, light and landscape of hills striated with yellow and red clay, dotted with green pine trees, inspired many American artists, (most notably the painter Georgia O'Keefe) and it inspired us! 
Photographers have always been drawn to this region for the beautiful light and scenery.
Everywhere you see time through the geology.  The hand of man on the land is small and insignificant. This the opposite of living in an urban environment. 

What impressed you most in the trip?

Barbara  What impressed me most on this trip was the great, vast variety and drama in the landscape. Rain storms come over the mountains each afternoon and the clouds are colored by the setting sun. The sky was a light show every morning and evening. The land has a harsh side, too – lack of water, prickly cactus, poisonous snakes and sandstorms whipping through rugged canyons. The Native Americans were deeply connected to this land and knew how to live in harmony with it. I loved learning about their culture.  

Did this trip bring any idea and inspiration about life or photography for you? 
Did you know each other much deeper after this trip?

 Lindsay   During this trip I began to see myself as a photographer, making deliberate choices when looking through the viewfinder. Barbara and I talked about photographs which could be made and realized we had a similar point of view and aesthetic. 

We were constantly reminded of the early photographers who were part of the United States Geological Surveys of the 1870's (e.g., Carleton Watkins, Timothy O'Sullivan, William Henry Jackson), as well as contemporary photographers of the American Southwest (Ansel Adams, Laura Gilpin, Edward Weston). In a way, we felt that we were inside these images, but coming from a different time and place, we could to tell our own stories. 

Barb  We  began exploring the landscape as a backdrop against which to tell stories photographically. We would switch roles as photographer and model. We discussed the theme of the images before shooting, we took notes, scouted locations, and returned to favorite sites.  Fortunately, we shared a similar aesthetic and were compatible as road trip companions, so we usually agreed on how to proceed. 

It was delightful to leave behind the expectations and assumptions about what photography was supposed to be, and just record what we saw in our own poetic or irreverent way. Our image-making  was a spontaneous, organic process. It was only when we returned to Chicago  that we became aware we were expressing something different. Collaborating challenged the idea of the individual vision. When our  fellow students--mostly men--saw our prints,  they were perplexed and hostile and thought  we should not take photographs like we did!   Those comments made us want to make more photographs!! 

In the previous interview, you said a road trip is important for photographers, can you tell me why?      (“In the US, a road trip is often a photographic rite of passage...”) 

The quest for the unknown is part of the human condition. Whether searching for religious freedom, gold or farmland, travel westward is part of American history. For pioneers, traveling west was a way to find adventure and opportunity in the 19th century. In the 20th century it became an investigation of the nature of the people themselves. Jack Kerouak's On the Road and Robert Frank's The Americans greatly influenced our own coming of age.

This road trip allowed us time and space to explore how we fit into the land. We observed the results of expansion and conquest. We studied the representation of these ideas in photographic history.  As young feminists and photographers coming of age, we began a conversation about how we define ourselves that continues to today.

Did you go traveling together again after that? 
What is the most important thing to travel and work together harmoniously?

Barbara   That was the first of an annual photographic "pilgrimages” for the next decade.  Lindsay and I traveled north through Colorado, Nevada, California and Wyoming and west through Arizona and Utah.  We visited spectacular National Parks, among them Death Valley, Yosemite. We followed the Mississippi River south to the delta. We also traveled to the Southeast, to Florida, Georgia and The Carolinas. The only thing that stopped us was having babies. Then we made photographs closer to our homes.

Lindsay  The most important thing for a harmonious road trip is a sense of humor and good camping equipment.

You said you got the inspiration from work of Carleton Watkins, and created Processed Views. Could you say more about this? 
How and why his work impressed both of you so much? 

For inspiration, we always  turn to mythology and history to guide our research.  The settling of the West is America’s great mythology and is often referred to as the notion of  Manifest Destiny. The historical  photographs of Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) can be seen to illustrate this myth. Watkins is famous for his photographs that framed the American West as a series of amazing views and endless possibilities. However, much of his work was commissioned by the corporate interests of the day; the railroad, shipping, mining and lumber to record and advertise their achievements. 

We used his inspiration to show how American’s uncritical history of using  technology and resources  in the name of progress may transform the land in ways that are unintended without considering the consequences. We hope to learn from the past. 

From road trip in the west to buliding a “west scene” by food, do you have strong emotion about west landscape or culture? Why?

 When we were growing up in the 1960's, the west represented an uncomplicated American mythology:  individual independence, freedom, unlimited resources. The dramatic landscape of the west was the background for this story, and is part of our history.  We hope that the invented scenes we make will reveal another version of the story.

What kind of work are you working on recently? 

We are always working on a few projects at the same time. We are starting a book about  the differences between experiential knowledge and scientific knowledge. We are finishing a book about gender, power and authority. Another project we working on explores the myths we have about childhood vs. the reality of caring for children in our culture. 

Please recommend one of your favorite travel destination and the reason. 

Barbara  I travel to Vermont from Chicago several times each year. The Green Mountains in the Northeast of the United States are older and more rounded than the jagged Rocky Mountains. The shades of green are rich and a sense of time is evident here. There is something so interesting about the way geography shapes attitudes of a region. Vermont is a very embracing place.

Lindsay  One of my daughters is living in Alaska and just gave birth to twins. It was a double pleasure to visit that landscape! I recommend it, even if you don't have babies to watch growing.  Alaska is like visiting a giant's fairytale land. 

Barbara and I I invite you to come and visit us here in the Midwest!

What about your next traveling plan?

Often our travels serve as pilgrimages. We want to see the ruins of Greek civilization to research ancient ways of knowing.

In the end, what’s the meaning of traveling from your perspective?

Lindsay  Traveling makes us think differently about our lives.  I just read an interesting passage about walking (the slow form of traveling) --perhaps it is a good answer to your question:

“The poet John Keats walking and talking and having several things dovetail in his mind suggests the way wandering on foot can lead to the wandering of imagination and to an understanding that is creation itself, the activity that makes introspection an outdoor pursuit...”   Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Interview - PhotoWorld China - Have Fun with Daintiness!

Processed Views 

Thank you for your time to take this interview about your project Processed Views: A Survey of the Industrial Landscape, 2014 a series of 10 editioned archival pigment prints  18”x22.” We are making a feature about the topic “food photography”, so we hope you to talk more about your idea of this topic during answering the questions below. 

How did you fall in love with photography? 
Lindsay.  I have loved photography since childhood. My father set up a darkroom a couple times a year to print family snapshots. I grew up looking at National Geographic and Life Magazine. I understood photography was a magical medium that literally brings time and space into our consciousness. 


Your jobs are all relevant with photography and images, please tell me about what do you do in your daily work?  

Barbara is a Chicago-based photographer and graphic designer. She has a BS in Visual Communications from the Institute of Design+Illinois Institute of Technology. Her work includes the design of annual reports, corporate identity and many projects for non-profit organizations. Ever looking to the art historical past to invoke order and harmony, her search for narratives to explain life.

Lindsay is a Milwaukee-based photographer and lecturer at the University of Wisconsin /Milwaukee. She received her MS in Visual Communications at the Institute of Design+Illinois Institute of Technology. She teaches darkroom and alternative processes classes. Inspired by the intersection of science and history, she organizes her world balancing skepticism and the unconscious.

What does this career mean to you?
 Our jobs allow us to use  photography, a medium where we can engage in a “visual conversation”  with other people.  
About our collaboration.  Collaboration challenges the notion of the primacy of the individual artist’s vision, the artist/model relationship, and ownership of the final work. Collaboration demands moving beyond personal stories and into the realm of collective experience. It has been the core of our practice and mirrors the fluid and mutable ways of storytelling traditions.
How did you meet each other? How did you two decide to collaborate together? 
Our collaboration grew from our student work at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1970’s. At that time shared the same questions about our identity as women artists and we began using photography to answer those questions. 

Collaboration was not a conscious decision. It grew out of making pictures that told stories. On a practical level, working together provided an instant critic, a willing model, a stylist, a road trip companion, a technical assistant and an editor....and it was often more fun!

Collaboration challenges the notion of the primacy of the individual artist’s vision, the artist/model relationship, and ownership of the final work. Collaboration demands moving beyond personal stories and into the realm of collective experience. It has been the core of our practice and mirrors the fluid and mutable ways of storytelling traditions.
I saw your bio and found you are based in different places.
We worked together in Chicago for about 10 years when Lindsay moved 100 miles north to Milwaukee, to start her family. She has two daughters and lives with her husband.  Barbara lives with her husband in Chicago, and has two sons.

How do you work on photography projects together? Which part do you do respectively?
Our image ideas are developed through research and debate, editing  and compromise. Division of the work changes with each project, depending who has the time, appropriate resources or committment to a task. We shoot together or separately. To bridge the distance between two cities, we rely on email and telephone, we share ideas in our research blog notebooks ( and taking a few days at a time to get together in the studio. 

Tell me the story of the very first photo you shot. Are you still shooting this theme now? Where did you shoot them? Please tell us the process of taking these photos. What did you prepare before shooting?  Any details? 
In 1976 we took a “road trip” to New Mexico while still students. (In the US, a road trip is a kind of photographic right of passage...think Robert Frank or Stephen Shore.) We shared cameras and  took lots of photographs: snapshots, visual jokes, short stories, and serious visual studies. We performed as photographer and model, sometimes with costumes and props, sometimes nude.  It was a spontaneous, organic process....we were photographers on the road!  When our fellow students--mostly men--saw our prints, they were perplexed and said we should not take photographs like we did! 

Those comments made us want to make more photographs!!  From that time we began to consider the difference between the myths, power and authority of   women vs. men.  This theme reappears in our work as our lives changes. We are currently working on a project that compares female portraits with male figures painted by Michelangelo.  

When did you start shooting “Processed Views” series? How long did you take to complete this series?
We were looking for balance between the “homecooking” we grew up with and the current system of industrial agriculture, food processing and marketing dominates American’s lives.    
In 2012 we began Processed Views and have finished this summer. The project consists a series of 10 archival pigment prints  sized 18” x 22.”  

Where did your inspiration come from? 
For inspiration, we always e turn to mythology and history to guide our research.  The settling of the West is America’s great mythology and is often referred to as Manifest Destiny. The historical  photographs of Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) can be seen to illustrate this myth. 

Watkins is famous for his photographs that framed the American West as a series of amazing landscapes and endless possibilities. However, much of his work was commissioned by the corporate interests of the day; the railroad, shipping, mining and lumber to record and advertise their achievements. 

We used this inspiration to show how American’s uncritical history of using  technology and resources  in the name of progress may transform the land in ways that are unintended and somewhat horrifying.

Your photos look like various landscapes, did you design the scene or story of the photo before shooting? 
Yes, first we listed food products we wanted to depict. Then we looked for a Carleton Watkins landscape which would make sense with that food. Building the landscape was an intuitive process and inevitably the food itself dictated the final form of the landscape.
How did you choose which food to use? 
Each photograph shows a different part of the industrial food system we wanted to question and challenge. We chose popular foods which contained high-fructose corn syrup and sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, artificial flavors and the destruction of the land with moncultural farming methods.  
How did you build the scene?
To mimic mountainous terrain of California and Oregon, we constructed foam-core bases on which we placed the food.  We lit the scenes to balance the happy colors of the food with a sense of natural, outdoor light. Theatrical lighting gels were used to create the water.  We created a color pallette which would “seduce” the viewer into an food land in which agricultural production and food processing is taken to an extreme. 

After looking at our photographs, we wanted the viewer to ask:
  Have gone too far in technological ability to control nature in order to fulfill fantasies prosperity and progress?  Should we rethink our fun-food utopia?

Did anything impress you a lot while you were shooting? 
While we were shooting we were startled at how unpleasant and strong the food smelled. We were surprised that our pet dog was not interested at all in eating the food we used in this project.

We were also impressed with the enormous amount of information about food, health and farming techniques we found on the internet.  That is both encouraging and confusing.  We recorded interesting ideas and images we found  in our research blog: (

Was there any difficulty during the shooting process? Tell one story of it.
Blue Dye #l Precipice was the most complicated photograph to make. We cooked many Duncan Hines Blue Velvet cakes to build the Precipice. The color was so intense! It was very disturbing! 
The first time we shot the photo we used popsicles of many colors, shooting til they melted to a huge puddle on the floor. What a big, sticky mess!  That first attempt at the picture made the final version easier....but no less smelly and messy.

Did you two have different opinions in the shooting? How did you solve it?
Of course we both have ideas we want realized, but we stay open and figure out ways to embrace or resolve differences.  There is no sense of ownership of the images.  Often the artwork itself often leads us to a solution.

Which is your favorite photo? Why?
We like them all!   Most popular and poignant though, is Fruit Loops Landscape is made with products that are marketed to children for breakfast. We hope it makes viewers really think about the food we eat and that we serve our loved ones. And isn’t the pink sky beautiful!?

What did you want to express through this series of photos?  You mentioned technology and environment problem in the  (artist statement?) instruction of “Processed Views”, can you explain your idea?
Simply, we want to question our current relationship with nature. 

We have learned that the earth is not a collection of separate resources to be exploited, but is a network of systems in balance and harmony.  If we are part of nature, we are what we eat. If we destroy nature, we will destroy ourselves....although it may seem fun at first,  it will end in a stinky mess.

What public feedback did you receive? Have you received any impressive comments?
Some of the photographs have gotten attention on the internet. It is our hope that the images stay in peoples minds after they click to the next site.

What is the most funs and gains in shooting this series for you two? Can you speak of them?
We love to make photographs that are fantastical and have humor!  When people look at processed views they  laugh, at first.....then they look disgusted. That is very gratifying!  We had a lot of laughs planning and building these scenes. 

We gained a lot of knowledge about American popular food culture, which is terrifying, but also hopeful. More and more Americans  seem to be questioning the destructive side of food technology and looking for balance.

I saw there is another series about “food” on your website. Why do you care about this topic so much? 
Food is not just a commodity, it is a symbol of nurturing. As mothers, wives and caregivers, we wanted to explore this precious relationship.
In 2009, when our children left home and we began working on a project about the emotional and physical love that flows through the act of preparing and sharing food.  This project is called Ponder Food as Love.
We find sustenance in the tasks of nurturing, the body becomes serving platter, altar, banquet – it is offered and feasted upon. The line between serving and self dissolves.

What does the name “Processed Views” mean? I am trying to find an appropriate translation in Chinese.
In America vernacular speech, “processed” refers to food made in factories, often with the addition of artificial additives and techniques that favor longevity over nutrition. “Views” is often used in reference to tourism and scenery that is conventionally pretty. Postcards show “views” --special landscapes that are sold to the tourist.

Our Processed Views are fantastical places to visit, but we hope no one wants to live there!