Oh, food photography! From mainstream food-focused media to the obscene amount of personal food blogs, from Pinterest “food porn” boards (ugh) to daily Instagram posts of “this is a sandwich I ate for lunch,” the presentation of food has become an overwhelmingly present force in modern trends. But what happens to all that food? What changes when you stop looking at these images as beautiful (and borderline-fetishized) compositions of cleanly-plated and well-lit art, and instead consider that it in fact is just food. It is organic compounds that quickly decompose into a very, very different-looking state. Artist Joe Buglewicz takes this to heart in his Rotten series, a collection of beautifully-composed images of rotting food.
The series came together when Buglewicz was living in a crowded Brooklyn loft, amid transient roommates and too much takeout. “Five people in one apartment basically meant that someone was always cooking or coming back with groceries,” he told us. ”[The refrigerator] would fill up so much that you couldn’t really see what was there.”
Eventually, Buglewicz started randomly photographing the forgotten, molding food. “At first I thought the decay just had a nice look to it, then I started using it as a way to curb our waste,” he says. “The less I had to shoot the better, since we were being more efficient.”
The images themselves are gorgeous; Buglewicz stages the rotting foods against a stark white backdrop, allowing the colors to pop out in vividly crisp detail. In his words, this setup “causes the viewer to only focus on the food and the decay,” thus putting the project in a broader perspective. “It’s one thing to see rotting food on the ground, in the trash, dumpster, or in your fridge,” he says. “Since we’ve been exposed to that so much, it kind of seems normal in that environment. The decay can seem pretty at first to some, but in the end that food that went unconsumed and represents a small piece of a larger problem.”
With a background in restaurant and food-related photography, the Rotten series was as much of a personal challenge as it was an artistic endeavor to Buglewicz. He explains, “[the project is not] meant to be a dig at restaurants, but more the behaviors that can be changed to curb waste.” By visualizing how we waste, he says, we can identify “aspects that need continued work, and potential solutions to specific problems.”
Buglewicz’s work can be seen here on his website. A limited run of his prints will donate 10 percent of sales to City Harvest, a food rescue organization in New York. View a slideshow of photos from Rotten below.