Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler’s documentation of food past the sell-by date, “One Third”, is both extensive and resoundingly mind-blowing. It is evident that many edible things (so far 57 items and counting) can grossly decompose. Pichler’s portraits of food in advanced stages of decay, is a feast for the eyes — even if it turns the stomach. The results are captivating, even though in reality they’re covered in various strains of mould, maggots, and flies, or are simply unrecognisable pools of goo.
With crisp close-range photography, expert lighting, and some occasional invisible wire, as well as perhaps the notable appearance of fabulously kitsch silverware and crockery, the photographs have a grotesquely awesome magnificence.
However, the aim of Pichler’s photos is anything but beauty. According to a UN report, 1/3 of the food goes to waste. The rampant waste is a symptom of a culture that commodifies and devalues food. There are a lot of spontaneous decisions in the supermarket, and people often don’t stop to think about whether they are buying too much, or whether they could reuse leftovers instead of throwing them away.
To highlight the overlooked value in everyday foods, Pichler approached his project as if it was an advertising photo shoot for a high-end brand. He started with common items from the supermarket, like cheese, strawberries and cauliflower. After letting each food fester for a few weeks, he arranged it in his studio for a luxurious portrait.
To provoke viewers to think about their own consumer behaviour, each photo is accompanied by information on where, when and how the food was produced, the distance it travelled, and its carbon and water footprints.
For added realism, Pichler conducted the entire project, from purchase to putrefaction to photograph, in his home in Vienna. And it wasn’t always pretty. The worst was when he had raw chicken and octopus decomposing at the same time.
Currently there are plans to work with NGOs on activism campaigns. But in the mean time, please check out the full gallery to see the entire project.