Photographer Catherine Losing likes to play with her food. Flipping through her online portfolio reveals an array of odd, culinary-themed set pieces that combine biodegradables ranging from fungi to meats with nonedible luxury items such as jewelry and perfume bottles. In Ice Cream Dreams, Losing uses up-turned ice cream cones as display holders for gem-studded wristwatches, while in Scrunchies, she finds whimsical uses for the ’90s hair accessory, such as binding a stack of loose dried pasta noodles or a bunch of scallions.
U.K. foodie journal The Gourmand came calling earlier this year and commissioned Losing for a full spread in its latest issue. There was no theme, just a couple of brainstorming sessions with the editors that left her buzzing with a few ideas. What she eventually came up with was a tingling set of still lifes that recall the tabletop lab kits of sixth period chemistry class.
The food featured in The Serpent That Ate Its Own Tail is wired up to circuit boards and conductors. “I got really into researching and experimenting with the idea that some foods (in theory) can conduct and produce electricity,” Losing tells Co.Design. Working with chef and frequent collaborator Ian Graham and set designer Anna Lomax, the team constructed a visual “menu” for each of the still lifes. These showcase a protein or fruit suspended in a loopy maze of electrical appliances, such as fans, heaters, and light bulbs. The result, Losing says, imagines that “the food is powering its own demise.”
To capture the images, the electronics were flipped on and allowed to interact with the food. In one case, a portable heater blows hot air toward three melting white-chocolate plates. In another, electrical cables link a plastic container filled with wood chips to a tin soup can poked with holes, from which a trail of smoke rises up toward rotating lamb tongues. Another features a large, upright octopus whose one slack tentacle grasps an electric knife.
The contents of the photos themselves were cobbled together using items “you’d find in the back of your Gran’s cupboard, a supermarket, or a school science department.” Losing admits that this arts-and-crafts approach draws on her nostalgia for things past. Indeed, with The Serpent, she was inspired by the potato clock kits of her youth, the kind of thing that you could turn in as your science project and not fail. Those were the days.