Food For Thought
Barry Seidman’s photographic series – you’ll never view produce the same way again
By John D. Adams
When we last spoke with photographer Barry Seidman, he was toying with some new ideas. He had just released his latest book of still-life photography: “New Eyes.” At the time he remarked: “I don’t take pictures. I make them. Do I need to create another photograph of a flower or a vegetable? Yes. Because I have my own eyes; I can see them in a different way.” We didn’t know it at the time, but Seidman was on the precipice of creating his most striking work to date. And it all began with his wife’s vegetables.
Feast for the Eyes
“Let me take you on a journey,” begins Barry Seidman. “My wife is my inspiration and my encouragement. It all started with her.” Mary Ann Kurasz Seidman is known around Palm Beach for her dinner parties and culinary flair. She is, says Barry, an excellent cook who is never afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Thus, he spends many days accompanying his wife to the farmers markets dotted throughout the Palm Beach area. “She would be shopping for her palette,” says Seidman. “Peppers, tomatoes, radishes, all the best stuff. She’d be shopping with her taste buds, and I started looking with my eyes.” It didn’t take long for this longtime commercial photographer to spy the mysterious beauty that many fruits and vegetable hold. Not immediately evident to the layperson, Seidman studied the voluptuous shapes, pure colors, and beautiful textures of the produce.
“I’d see something unusual in the market and I’d get a vision in my head of how I might photograph it to show it in a completely different context. That’s how I work. I get a visual then go out and execute it. I’d bring it back to the studio, shoot it, print it out, pin it on the wall. And then I’ll scrutinize it.” He would study and choreograph his finds, creating relationships between his subjects that are sensuous, sexy and voluptuous – bringing them to life. The next week, he would be back in the market, seeking out the next funny little character trait in the harvest. After a time, the local vendors began saving their more unusual specimens, anxious to show Seidman what they had found. Many of those made their way back to his studio.
Some of Seidman’s subjects seem to be caught in flagrante delicto. And many observers cheerfully call his work “food porn.” Was that an eggplant or the sensuous backside of a naked person? Should we feel guilty for catching those Daikon radishes in a compromising position? Often Seidman seems to delight in the suggestion of something much more provocative than ordinary vegetables.
“People have asked me why I shoot things like this. Are you a vegetable photographer? I don’t know how to answer it. Never ask an artist what they’re thinking. I’m a visual guy. I see it. I don’t necessarily intellectualize it. I shoot things, not people. Things don’t have an attitude. I don’t need hair and makeup. I don’t need approval. I shoot things. I’m just a ‘thing’ photographer.” Oh, but to accomplish this latest body of work, to express humor, sensuality, passion, and love to items many would simply see as their next meal? Seidman is so much more.
See more of Barry Seidman’s work at www.barryseidman.com