A simple food which, with its inviting aroma, conjures images of family scenes and the joy of eating together. Bread is the star of the photographs by Joel Meyerowitz that are being exhibited in the Cereals and Tubers Cluster.
I am focusing on breads, because the Pavilion is dedicated to Cereals and Grains and bread is the first use of these food resources. For this work, the breads actually came from all over Italy.
Most of the breads were sent to me by Francesca Allamprese Manes Rossi of Il Granaio delle Idee Srl, who I met by chance near Buonconvento and who, once she heard what my work was about, offered her services to find nearly 75 different breads. However I did find a number of local, or private bakers who made their own special kinds of bread just for me for this project.
From a photographic point of view, what aspect fascinated you most about these subjects? The colors, the textures, the shapes?
I had only just begun making Still Lives about two years ago, so when this commission for the Pavilion came up my immediate response was to make photographs of Bread, as if each one was a separate ‘personage,’ and treat them as unique characters. To that end I made a little, corner-like stage for them to act on, and the stage, in a deep gray color, would also serve to carry the dark image of the ovens they were baked in. Following on from that angular space I had the idea to create three-sided columns on which the breads (much bigger than life size) would function somewhat like “totems’ inside the public piazza space of the pavilion. In that way, the repetition of similar forms and colors would be seen as actually being incredibly diverse, just as each region and city has diverse cultures.
In an interview on your official website you said: "The world continues outside the frame". Is this also valid in the sense that photographs can provoke questions in the viewer on big issues such as food waste and world hunger?
I would hope that the power of imagery today could be effective in helping to demonstrate that problems really exist, and that all of us should be willing to make an effort to ‘read the signs’ that photographs present and make some changes that would benefit mankind. In that sense photographs do exist outside the frame. However, I cannot claim that for my photographs here at Expo Milano 2015. These images show the abundance and diversity that a rich culture like Italy has as a basic, daily reality. This, of course, is not so in most of the other countries in the Pavilions, where scarce resources, or political systems diminish the number of choices.
In mythology grain is often linked to the creation of man. For example, in the sacred texts Popol Vuh of the Maya, man comes from corn, while according to Chinese legend, man comes from "Lord of Millet". Is this ancient truth that links grain to the creation of man reflected in your photographs?
I wish that were the case. I cannot say that these portraits of bread possess any kind of legendary or mythic potential. However, these do have their own history and local tradition baked into the way they look and the functions they serve. There are festive breads for holidays, decorative forms made from flour and water, sweet breads, flat breads, salted and salt free breads, breads that have crossed national boundaries to become part of the borderland breads where traditions, like cultures and language, mix and change and reinvent the basic forms of bread baking. I did try to celebrate the idea of bread being the ‘staff of Life’ by giving each bread a chance to be an individual, and through this I hoped to show the diversity and beauty of this most basic food source.