The human palate has an incredible tolerance for super sweet drinks. It’s likely a property of the liquid sliding by our tongues fast, then sitting in our stomachs without filling us up with bulk. As a result, there’s an unavoidable human disconnect between a can of Coke and its eight teaspoons of dissolved sugar.
Photographer Henry Hargreaves had always seen the stats about sugar in sodas and energy drinks, but none of the visualizations ever hit home for him. So with his project (de)hydrate, he ran a bit of an art experiment and reduced bottles of Coke, Vitaminwater, Zico coconut water, Monster, Jarritos, Snapple, Mountain Dew, and Powerade over an open flame. Then he poured the syrupy results into lollipop molds to depict the drinks, not as beverages, but as hardened candy.
“I guess I feel like a drink is just a lollipop in disguise,” Hargreaves says. “It’s just an adult’s lollipop, a different way of getting the sugar into you.”
The work was conducted loosely, and admittedly without any strong adherence to the scientific method. He didn’t control for ounces; he simply bought containers of each drink that he thought a reasonable person would drink in one sitting. He reduced the liquid by eye, and then Hargreaves molded each lollipop based upon the size of the bottom of each bottle, so they lose any standard baseline.
Even still, just looking at these sickly sweet orbs will make your stomach churn and your teeth hurt in a way that a bottle of soda never would.
“I thought initially, when I was turning them into molasses, as they carmelized, I’d lose the color,” he says. “I was actually excited that they actually did hold their color . . . I liked the Powerade one that almost went green, but around the edges, [stayed] blue–blue Powerade to me has always looked like the stuff they poured on a Maxi Pad in a TV commercial. It’s such a peculiar, unappealing color.”
After the photography session, Hargreaves couldn’t resist tasting the candy for himself. He describes the results in each case as “a really sweet version of the drink.” He could only get a few licks into his Snapple lollipop before putting it down.
“But what was interesting was, if I put that lollipop back in water, within about five minutes, it would dissolve itself back in the water and eventually become the drink again,” he says. “That was spooky—why I called [the project] (de)hydrate. It was essentially the drink without the hydration.”