A Feast for the Eyes at the Polygon Gallery

The history of photography is told through food.

Installation view of Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography, 2021, The Polygon Gallery. Curated by Susan Bright and Denise Wolff. Photo by Rachel Topham Photography.

Even before Instagram popularized the form, food photography has been a recurring motif in cultural expression, establishing a place in some of contemporary art’s most Iconic imagery from Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup to Ed Ruscha’s Spam portraits.

The Polygon Gallery’s latest exhibition, Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography, uses the subject of food to trace the history of photography from the 19th century onwards, while documenting the shifting cultural trends and identities of the times. Curated by photography writer Susan Bright and Aperture Foundation’s senior editor Denise Wolff, the touring exhibition brings together works from various photographic realms: photojournalism, fashion, advertising, and rare cookbook photography.


Ouka Leele, Peluquería, Limones, 1979, C-print. Courtesy the artist.


The exhibition has over 100 pieces on display from 60 renowned international artists, including Warhol and Ruscha as well as Cindy Sherman, Nobuyoshi Araki, Guy Bourdin, Man Ray, and Wolfgang Tillmans. The pieces are thematically organized into three sections. The first section, Still Life, looks back at photography’s earliest inspiration: still life paintings. Works displayed here are by the earliest photographer pioneers, such as Roger Fenton and Imogen Cunningham, and illustrate how photography has borrowed from the still life form while expanding into a new medium.


Sharon Core, Early American—Still Life with Oranges, 2008, C-print. Courtesy the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.


The next section, Around the Table, looks at the social traditions surrounding food, from the photojournalistic series by Arthur Felig documenting the morning rituals of bagel-deliveries in New York in the 1930s and 40s to an archive of historic cookbooks.


Photographer unknown, Weight Watchers recipe cards, 1974. Courtesy Aperture Foundation, New York.


The final section ends the exhibition on a note of playfulness. Playing With Your Food highlights food photography of the contemporary, with an emphasis on the colourful Pop Art movement. Vik Muniz’s recreation of Andy Warhol’s Double Mona Lisa (made with peanut butter and jelly) and Ruscha’s Spam portraits are on display.


Ed Ruscha, Spam, 1961, Gelatin-silver print.


Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography is on until May 30, 2021 at the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver. Admission is by donation and no appointment is required.