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One Third: Artist Visualizes Food Waste

Curators’ corner

One Third: Artist Visualizes Food Waste

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A 2011 United Nations survey revealed 925 million people – one seventh of the world’s population – are currently threatened by starvation. This figure is alarming in and of itself, but when coupled with the fact that nearly one third of all global food goes to waste, it becomes imperative that developed countries spread greater awareness about individual wastage and globalized food production.

In One Third, Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler sought to provide this aforementioned awareness by turning his camera lens on rotting food – strawberries, chicken, Greek noodles and lollipops – you name it. As Pichler writes on his website, “One Third goes past the sell by date in order to document the full dimensions of the global food waste.”

Pichler, a vegetarian, selected various supermarket items and allowed them to rot in his apartment over a period of nine months. Strawberries took only two weeks to develop a moldy coat while chocolate chip cookies required months to exhibit signs of decay. Although Pichler admits the stench in his apartment was overwhelming at times, he endured it for the sake of his project’s credibility.

“It was quite a challenge,” Pichler says. “I was definitely not the first one who was making photographs of rotting food but to make myself credible, I decided not to rent a studio but to make it in my apartment. This was quite a conscious decision. When I am working on a project, I want to really be in the middle of it.”

Pichler deliberately staged his rotting items against an elegant black backdrop with a ‘flattering’ light. This decision, Pichler says, was intended to add an element of deceptive beauty to the portraits.

“From the beginning, it was obvious for me that I wanted to quote the aesthetics of advertising photography, because I thought there is a little bit of a twist if I really style the food and make it look perfect. On first sight you react with ‘ok that looks nice,’ and then you realize what you are looking at.”

The artist’s dedication to not only his work but also the message behind the work garnered the attention of the United Nations, whose food waste survey was the basis of Pichler’s project. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) asked Pichler if they could display his photography at annual meetings and food waste events. The photos, which have been showcased multiple times by the U.N., accompany a short description of the food’s life history, and the resources needed to transport it from factory to shelf.

To learn more about this project, visit Klaus Pichler’s website and check out a selection of photos below.

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Photos by Klaus Pichler

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