Artist Christopher Boffoli likes to play with food. We're not talking making airplane noises while guiding a spoonful of peas through the air on a short flight. He makes full-on dioramas with miniature people and a whole world of food.
In Boffoli's book "Big Appetites: Tiny People in a World of Big Food," he creates scenes of little characters hard at work on everything from bagels, lox and cream cheese to sushi. He was inspired by a lot of scale juxtaposition he saw as a child in cinema, television and advertising.
"Though there could be great comedy in situations in which people found themselves shrunken down to a tiny size in a normal-sized world, what made a greater impression was the drama: how a harmless ant could suddenly become a monster hunting you down, or how a few drops of water from a garden hose could catalyze a deadly flash flood," said Boffoli. "In the context of my work I thought the concept was a great foil for the way our American penchant for massive portion sizes has the potential to transform something that nurtures us into something that does us harm."
In the various scenes, the characters are never eating the food they're surrounded by, only working around or on it. In one photo, workers try to pry the seeds from giant strawberries, in another, three men ride bicycles up the curve of a banana and, just in time for Halloween, there's a depiction of a candy corn expedition.
"Just as we don't eat the ground we walk on, the characters in my 'Big Appetites' photographs bike over, swim in and work among a world of food but don't necessarily consume it," said Boffoli. "Specifically, migrant laborers and hourly-wage earners that pick, process and transport our food to market but who treat it like a commodity that they move along but do not consume as food for themselves."
Boffoli makes his points with the photos, but the captions are just as important to the story. In one photo called "Linguine Car Wash," the caption reads: "The deluxe carbonara option was canceled after too many customers lost mirrors and antennas." In another called "Sundae Skiers," the caption reads: "The runs were short. But the bragging rights of exotic slopes were worth it."
There is no average set-up time for Boffoli's diorama photos, but he says he generally can shoot three to five set-ups in a few hours. During the editing process he may find he needs to re-shoot or completely cut an idea he previously thought would resonate. And some ideas just come to him while he's doing everyday tasks such as peeling an orange. The act of creating a long orange peel made it onto the cover of his book.
"I'd love to say that I'm clever enough to know exactly what will make a successful image, but sometimes the truth defies a simple explanation," said Boffoli. "I'm just an artist who makes work that pleases me, and when I'm lucky, it occasionally strikes a chord with someone else in the world."
And if you're wondering whether or not he munches during these food-filled sessions, he says, "not really." The food is 100% real, but after he scrutinizes the food for a time through a lens, it's not as appetizing.
Boffoli's work is currently on display at Art Toronto and will open in Seattle on Oct. 29.
Do you like little people food art? Me too. Follow me on Twitter: @Jenn_Harris_