One Third: A Project on Food Waste

One Third - a project on food waste

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.

Watermelon: Place of production: Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante, Spain; Cultivation method: Outdoor plantantion; Time of harvest: June - August; Transporting distance: 2,442 km; Means of transportation: Truck; Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0.54 kg; Water requirement (total) per kg: 1,490 l; Price: 0.99 € / kg

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.

Cauliflower: Place of production: Finistere, Bretagne, France; Cultivation method: Outdoor plantation; Time of harvest: June - October; Transporting distance: 1,784 km; Means of transportation: Truck; Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0.44 kg; Water requirement (total) per kg: 295 l; Price: 0.99 € / kg

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.

Instant Mashed Potatoes: Place of production: Stavenhagen, Germany; Production method: Factory production; Time of production: All-season; Transporting distance: 857 km; Means of transportation: Truck; Carbon footprint (Transport) per kg: 0.3 kg; Water requirement (total) per kg: unknown; Price: 6.60 € / kg

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.

Ice Cream: Place of production: Vienna, Austria, ingredients from all over the world; Production method: Factory production; Time of production: All-season; Transporting distance: from 100 km (Hazelnuts) to 8,500 km (Bananas); Means of transportation: Aircraft, ship, truck; Carbon footprint (total) per kg: unknown; Water requirement (total) per kg: unknown; Price: 10.50 € / kg

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.

Red Cabbage: Place of production: Faiyum, Egypt; Cultivation method: Foil green house; Time of harvest: All-season; Transporting distance: 2,445 km; Means of transportation: Ship, truck; Carbon footprint (total) per kg: 0.36 kg; Water requirement (total) per kg: 321 l; Price: 0.99 € / kg

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.

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About Patricia

Born in Hong Kong and studied in England for most of her life. Transplanted herself to Tokyo, New York and finally back to her root. Having treated her taste buds to the best of these continents have to offer, she has decided to invite others to join her on her gastronomic voyage. Full-time food lover, part-time cook who wants to enjoy the pleasures of life, mostly at the dining table.
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