Following the success of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Modernist Cuisine at Home, Nathan Myhrvold and The Cooking Lab have brought out the ultimate feast for the eyes – The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. Stunning, arresting photographs suspend motion, transform the simplest of ingredients into works of art, and reveal what the naked eye can only dream of seeing.Drawing on some of the images from the Modernist Cuisine series, the creators have carefully selected 150 of the best jaw-dropping photographs from a library of over 200,000 images. We asked Nathan Myhrvold what distinguishes a modernist approach to photography and food. He explained, “food has been enslaved by a set of entirely arbitrary constraints. The Modernist approach to cuisine is about highlighting, challenging, and sometimes rejecting those conventions of the past.” To that end the book’s enormous full-bleed photos do away with old food photography clichés by exploring innovative techniques and a fresh perspective on food.
Food has been enslaved by a set of entirely arbitrary constraints. The Modernist approach to cuisine is about highlighting, challenging, and sometimes rejecting those conventions of the past.
Focus stacking and panorama stitching reveal curious, mouth-watering angles. Disorientating close-ups go beyond food porn by offering a more profound, haptic perspective. Texture draws us in, inviting us to rediscover the food we love. These macro and super-macro close-ups take us on a voyage over the undulating marbled contours of a salmon and the voluptuous satin-like rolling hills of a red cabbage. Meanwhile microscopes transform even the least appetizing ingredients, onion skin and potato starch, into stunning works of art, finding beauty in their textures and patterns.
Yet perhaps the most innovative technique in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is the cut away. Incredible cut away views of the interior of food and cooking equipment bring a new awareness of the chemical and physical processes and transformations that take place in cooking. Pots, pans, barbecues, ovens and siphons are cut in half to yield never-before-seen cross-sections of their mechanics in action. And high speed cameras capture the mesmerising motion of blenders, coffee grinders and sous vide machines.
Often, the levitating layers, cross-sections and microscope images beg the question, ‘how the heck did they do that?’ Thankfully Nathan and his team offer explanations, devoting a 38-page chapter to the art and technique behind the photographs. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine also contains a set of useful tips for taking photos at home or in a restaurant, making the book accessible even for beginners.
Nathan Myhrvold’s passion for photography is as deep-rooted as his passion for food. He told us how, as a boy, he was given a plastic camera but very quickly took things to the next level, “I converted one of the bathrooms in our house into a darkroom. I informed my mother only after I had coated every surface with matte-black paint – and made my own prints.” Nathan went on to study mathematics and physics and was the Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft before he retired in order to start the Modernist Cuisine project. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is very much the culmination of his life-long interest in science, cooking and photography.
I converted one of the bathrooms in our house into a darkroom. I informed my mother only after I had coated every surface with matte-black paint – and made my own prints.
The convergence of these three pursuits makes for a surprising, distinctive book that not only delights the eyes, but also reinvents the food we cook and changes the way we perceive it.
Available soon at Sous Chef – call to pre-order