Maybe you've had your fill of friends posting pics of their latest meal on social media. If you are hungry for something more satisfying than pin-ups of perfectly plated pancakes, sundaes dripping rivulets of caramel or lurid lasagna, feast your eyes on the images in Sip. Savor. Share!, a photographic love letter to San Francisco's food and drink, markets and mixologists, sponsored by the urban art collective Femme Cartel. The show opens May 9 and runs through May 26 at the Mission's Roll Up Gallery.
The show features the work of local artists:
Molly DeCoudreaux (head photographer at SF.Eater.com, frequent contributor to Refinery29, The Bold Italic)
Femme Cartel is known for showcasing cutting-edge, urban art, from tough to girly. Its founder, Emily Howe, calls herself “a community organizer at heart.” "We started with shows that focused on women artists because they seemed to have second-class citizenship in art world. Now we often include a male artist (who supports feminist ideals)," says Howe. Bay Area Bites interviewed the co-curators of this food photography show and two of the featured artists.
Bay Area Bites: You've done graffiti inspired art and a hip take on fashion illustrations. Why food now?
Emily Howe: We love San Francisco and Oakland and the food world encompasses social justice, community gardens and feminist foodies. For many years, women were relegated to the kitchen, then they joined the workforce but were STILL expected in the kitchen as supermoms. Now, there is a return to the domestic arts, but we are reclaiming those domestic arts in new ways: it’s a choice to bottle your own beer or pickle your own vegetables.
BAB: Why a focus on female photographers?
EH: In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to think about gender, but if you look at who gets in art shows, who wins grants, who are the curators, jurors, art professors, deans of art schools -- across the board it's proportionately more men. The breakdown should be 50/50, but the big names are dudes. One of our goals is to showcase emerging artists and help people get their first show with an exciting launch. Christina Bohn, my co-curator and I picked images that we loved and would buy ourselves. We also wanted to represent certain themes: coffee culture, cocktail culture, food trucks, Asian food, Mexican food, nightlife.
Christina Bohn: It’s timely now since the Bay Area is so into food and hand-crafted cocktails. And we include a range of images from instagram photos to fine art.
BAB: How did you find the artists for this show?
CB: We have a roster of artists who we’ve worked with in the past, but they represent more fine art, mixed media and collage. Not so much photography. We like to tap into the well of emerging artists. So we hit the Internet hard, Google, Craig’s list. San Francisco is such a beautiful melting pot of people from all walks of life. We wanted to include different threads that make up the whole scene. We pride ourselves on being a launching platform, finding artists who have never had shows and giving them opportunity to get their work out there. We love to connect people. Sometimes we know of a hair salon or pizza place that needs art on their walls and we can match them up with someone from the community.
Professional photographer Molly DeCoudreaux grew up in Oakland. "What got me into loving food was the ten years I worked at Baywolf, moving from busser to waitress." DeCoudreaux enjoys showing food communities, cheese-makers and chefs at work in the kitchen as well as bringing focus to small upstart companies. "I can relate to them because I’m scrappy too, I work hard, in a physically strenuous business."
As for being part of Femme Cartel's female-focused art show, she says, "Most photographers are men, it’s a gendered profession. There's a lot of gear and electronics. Sometimes I go into a restaurant with all my bags of gear and some guy still says, 'Oh, are you here for the waitress position?' (And I’m 33!)"
DeCoudreaux shoots striking, non-traditional portraits of drag queens, porn people as well as weddings. "Weddings have a certain stress because they only do the ceremony once," she says. "Food sits still – unless it’s a hollandaise sauce that breaks after 15 seconds."
She admits the hardest food to photograph is BBQ. "It's just meat covered in sauce, it can look like a brown mush. You have to light it and garnish it so it isn’t just a plate of brown." She doesn't usually work with a food stylist, relying instead on chefs who plate their food artistically. "I like collaborating, being in the kitchen, trying to stay unobtrusive. I like to show real people doing their work." Instead of a perfect peach tart, for example, DeCoudreaux would prefer something a little lopsided. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful,” she says.
Andria Lo, documentary and editorial photographer andphoto director for Hyphen Magazine, grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where, she says, "There weren’t a lot of Chinese people. We ate Mom’s Chinese cooking at home and didn't go out to eat at Anchorage's Chinese restaurants." When Lo and her family moved to Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, she experienced culture shock at the plethora of Chinese restaurants.
Lo caught the photography bug as an art student at UC Berkeley. "It was the magic and camaraderie of the darkroom," she says, "where people are working individually and collectively at same time."
Although professionally, she photographs products, portraits, weddings and other subjects, Lo says, "food photography is one of my passions. You get a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the city. I especially like shooting the great energy at food events -- like ForageSF dinners -- it’s a challenge to capture the excitement in the air."
One of the hardest places to shoot, Lo explains, is in professional kitchens. "While the dining room may be gorgeous, the fluorescent lighting, stainless steel counters and dirty dish racks present a challenge. I have so much respect for chefs. I’m visually stunned by the plating they come up with. My favorite perk is getting to eat their dishes. It's an impetus to work fast, so that the food is still hot."
Anna Vignet: "There's a huge variety of world flavors in only a handful of miles in the city. I love trying food from different countries with friends and learning about a country's food and culture."
Gennesis Gastilo: "Mother Cerveza is a love for the art of mixology and as in imbibing, a love for the people with whom you share your drinks. In the spirit of an intensely diverse and welcoming community, Femme Cartel’s show in San Francisco has at the heart of it: Love is indeed a miscible thing. (Peace begins with a beer)."
Aleksey Bochkovsky: "I've always fed off the energy from streets in big cultural cities. I need to be around people to steal moments of interaction and real feelings, however subtle. Food is a social experience and street food, in particular, interests me for its bouquet of demographic gatherings."
Sarah Deragon: "One of the reasons I adore San Francisco is because of the dynamic foodie/bar culture. Femme Cartel continues to make history with their unique curatorial projects. I'm elated to be part of this show."
Flee Kieselhorst: "I am a professional freelance portrait and event photographer and the key to my heart is food. When Femme Cartel (my favorite lady positive art organization) announced the call for entries for "Sip.Savor.Share!" I thought “Yes! An excuse to EAT!” My work in this show represents a few consecutive Fridays walking around San Francisco, meeting and shooting new folks, and of course...eating too much!"