One of photography's most prestigious competitions, currently in its 12th year, the Sony World Photography Awards never fails to disappoint with the talent it unearths. This year, a particularly surrealistic and aesthetically pleasing entry swept the judges of their feet, making us reassess how we judge standards of beauty.
In the category of 'Professional, Still Life', photographers Nicolas Gaspardel and Pauline Baert placed first with their unique take on food and popular culture, utilising texture, taste, colour and composition to expert effect, producing uncompromising, unconventional and rather uncomfortable images that poke fun at beauty and consumption in society today.
Collaborators on project BEURKMAGAZINE their modus operandi is as follows:
"With a touch of mockery, BEURKMAGAZINE photographs food every day with metaphors that are as poetic as they are disturbing. For BEURKMAGAZINE, society is "yuck" in a pop culture universe. Our creative approach is composed of antithesis. Dali amused himself by composing works with irrational associations of forms, images and objects; Maurizio Cattelan, meanwhile, focuses on the subversion of symbols and provocation; we are somewhere in between, with a more than one person and a desire to give an artificial beauty. Food is at the center of our ideas, which are magnified, manipulated and reworked to highlight our message. The pop tone, tight shots and especially the titles are an integral part of our signature."
With the context to the pair's artistic relationship and the knowledge of their appreciation for a good title, their collection 'Yuck - Suck My Balls' is something to behold. Using a muted and pastel palette with interesting shots of food, the dynamic duo have humorously deconstructed the expected standards of food photography, adding an artistic and fun flair to a genre that's as elegant as it is utilitarian. Of it's many things, it's never as strange as this.
Emphasising their choice to magnify and manipulate, the twists in their images are oftentimes subtle, playing a trick on the viewer, bestowing the images with that sumptuous quality of re-lookability. Not only is a single look not enough, but it's insufficient to understand the depths of the humour involved. Each photograph has a title that is both an image-orientated pun, and also a indictment of our current times.
Loaded with both satirical critique and vaguely political insights, the bottom line is fundamentally surrealist. As clever as a piece is, or as much as it does or doesn't seem to make sense, it boils down to being absurd anyway. It's a fine line that wins out by not trying to be too clever, not trying to say too much and not falling back on a weak chink in the chain.
Food is central to almost every culture in the world and its place in our modern lives speaks volumes. It's at once a signifier of your belief system and lifestyle, depending on the diet you choose to follow. From there it goes all the way to an annoying part of going for dinner at a nice restaurant. There's always going to be someone taking a photograph of it and making sure everyone envies their hashtag foodporn.
Using food combinations that are 'yuck' gives this collection a little salt. Some people try endlessly to make their food look good, yet this Parisian pair (global home of gastronomy) are making the ugliest things look alluring. Bacon instead of ice-cream in your cone? Yeah, no bother. It actually looks alright.
Besides this winner, you can find the rest of the competition HERE. From ethereal portraiture to interesting birds-eye shots and the story of a flamingo's recovery, the awards had it all and all of the winners brought something fresh to the table, albeit not quite as fresh as chewing gum on toast.
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