AmericaConceptPonder food as love By Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman

We investigate the delicate and compelling nature of nurturing in these photographs. Emotional and physical energy flows through the act of preparing and sharing food.
596616 min



Contemplate the pleasures, tensions and insistent dramas of nourishment.

We investigate the delicate and compelling nature of nurturing in these photographs. Emotional and physical energy flows through the act of preparing and sharing food. There is reciprocity in the giving and taking. It is in this exchange that we find sustenance. In the tasks of nurturing, the body becomes serving platter, altar, banquet and booty – it is offered and feasted upon. The line between serving and self dissolves.

Love is caught, as Pablo Neruda describes, in…”the transmigration of dream into salad.”

Our collaboration began in 1978 while on an extended road trip while we were students at the Institute of Design/Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. We found we had similar visual and conceptual sensibilities, which is the bedrock of our long collaboration. Production has always been shared, based on the nature of the project. Through collaboration, we seek common ground and try to extract something elemental to the human experience.

We photographed and studied the landscape of America for a decade, but when motherhood curtailed our roaming, we found that family life demanded an intimate knowledge of and relationship with food. We imagined it as another kind of landscape, where biological and emotional needs are insistent and procuring sustenance becomes an extension of giving and showing love.

Our project, Ponder Food As Love, began in 2009 during an artists’ residency where we were assigned a studio next to the kitchen. The caring cook put her full energies into the preparation of each evening’s communal meal. These dinners nurtured the artists who gathered and shared food, wine and conversation. They returned to their studios and, in turn, nourished their art. Relieved as we were by the chef preparing the meals, we contemplated food’s complex physical and social presence in the act of nourishing and the deeply human instincts food is central to.

food / so that my shadow can travel along in your hair food / light breaks through the tree of life food / little by little you've turned into fruit food / dropped from the sky into memory food / as the fruit burned ripe food / this never ending simple tenderness

The photographs are the reflection of how we think about the reciprocal pleasures of giving and taking through our experience as nurturers, providers, women, mothers and family members and ultimately as human beings connected to the bounty of the earth.

We weren’t interested in creating sumptuous food photography, but in rendering the connections and imperfections between fragility of flesh and food. The wintry north light of our studio lent a softness to the color palette. The prints are small, inviting the viewer into a universe, at times comic, cosmic and tender. We titled the images with excerpts from Pablo Neruda’s 100 Love Poems because his poetry describes the body as both deeply rooted in the earth and a source of transcendence.

Our process always involves research, so as we made photographs, we looked at the varied directions of other artist working in the field, both commercial and fine art venues. We studied art historical still life painting and food photographs which display physicality and cosmic visual sensibilities. We thought about mapping emotions (Madeleine de Scudéry’s Map of Tenderness), and about our relationship with the natural world.

snip the threads of the earth's grapes what secret clarity opens through your columns the handful of earth you are a replica of the multiplying universe slitting the world and its green leaves the transmigration of dream into salad rise from the roots, singing your syllable of sap oh little infinity! as the fruit burned ripe

We began with the historical and mythical ways women have been associated with the fruitful and fertile—from the cosmic egg to Mother Earth to Ceres, as preparers of food, child bearers and nurturers. As we worked through the series, we began to see the topic as a broader human issue: about human connections to food and nature. So many things are out of balance right now, from how we think about our bodies, to what and how we eat, to our connections with the natural world. We examined these topics as a way to slow down and observe these fraught relationships.


Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman have developed an extensive body of photographic projects, chronicling rites of passage and documenting the psychological landscapes and social architecture that surround us. The confluence of history, myth and popular culture is an ongoing theme in their collaborative work.

Exhibiting nationally and internationally, their photographs are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Walker Art Center and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Ciurej is a photographer and graphic designer in Chicago, Illinois Lochman is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based photographer and lecturer at the University of Wisconsin. [Official Website]
moon lines, apple pathways from the series Ponder Food as Love fills with years like a swelling cluster of fruit this is how you become everything that lives

you will come and go among the melons

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