Henry Hargreaves Makes MREs Michelin
Shining a light on the ills of society isn’t usually part of a food photographer’s job spec. But for Henry Hargreaves, it’s a form that can do just that. The New Zealand-born photographer, Brooklyn-based former model is determined to use this medium for something more profound – and something more disturbing. His approach had to be different from the start.
The stories he tells are generally bittersweet glimpses of the modern world told through the unlikely prism of food – as seen in his acclaimed “No Seconds” series, which recreated the last meals of death row prisoners to chilling effect.
“I’m not a good cook,” Hargreaves explains, “which separates me from most other food photographers, who usually have a culinary background. I wasn’t trying to make food look like you might want to eat it, so I was able to focus on telling the stories.”
His new project “From MRE to Michelin” again looks at the connection between food and state-sanctioned violence. This time, he’s opened up the little-seen ration packs (generally known as MREs – Meals Ready to Eat) of armed forces across the world, and transformed the ingredients into highly complicated haute cuisine, with the help of chef Chuck George and videographer Jimmy Pham.
For Hargreaves, “No Seconds” and “MRE to Michelin” are closely related.
“I think there’s a theme that runs through a lot of my work, about how food can be this common denominator between you and someone else,” he explains.
“We’re brought up to see something like the Russian military as this big, evil beast machine. Then you see how the poor unfortunate troops eat and become it all becomes humanised. You start to see them as people rather than just as an abstract.”
With another project about the restaurant staff meals of around the world, Hargreaves is clearly still fascinated by food and what it says about us, as are his audience.
I ask him where he thinks the enduring interest in his work comes from. His reply is simple: “Food and death: two things that happen to us all.”
Hargreaves grew up in Christchurch.
Original article by Clive Martin, CNN, June 9, 2017.
Photo by Henry Hargreaves.