Carl Warner’s Whimsical Food Landscapes
What the London skyline has to do with asparagus, rhubarb, and Pink Floyd.
By Maria Popova
British photographic artist Carl Warner, whom you might recall as one of our favorite architects of edible landscapes, is a master of food and form, crafting astounding fantasy food landscapes that are part Ansel Adams, part Anthony Bourdaine, part your childhood daydreams dreamt from the counter of your grandmother’s kitchen. These miniature vignettes are painstakingly hand-crafted with only minimal Photoshop involvement and exude a kind of vibrant whimsy that stands in stark contrast with the mundane, dully ordinary ingredients Warner uses. Food Landscapes collects Warner’s most magnificent work, alongside detailed production notes and ingredient lists for each scene.
Making landscapes out of food seems like a rather unusual thing to do for a living, and people often ask, ‘What made you start doing this?’ It seems that the burning heart of this question is really the curiosity about what it is that motivates any human being to do something out of the ordinary, and my short answer to this is usually a simple, because I had the idea and I chose to do something about it.” ~ Carl Warner
And since we’re on the subject of influences today, Warner traces the kernel of his inspiration to the work of Tessa Traeger, a food photographer who in the early 1990s published A Visual Feast, a collection of painterly, two-dimensional pictures composed using food. Warner wondered whether he could take this a step further and create three-dimensional vignettes with food. Then, one day, as he was strolling through the fruit and vegetable market, he noticed the curving trunks and parasol canopies of portobello mushrooms were reminiscent of trees in the African savannah. He quickly grabbed the mushrooms and some grains, and headed back to his studio to create a tabletop scene that would photograph like a larger landscape. The rest was creative history.
Of his start with photography, Warner recounts:
For me, drawing and music were a means of escape into other worlds and alternate realities, and this provided the means to stimulate and exercise the muscles of my imagination. This went on for years, until I discovered photography. I found that I could photograph the real world but make it surreal by the techniques and the processes I was able to use in the camera and in the darkroom. I soon realized that this was a lot quicker than drawing, and I was able to develop ideas and concepts with more ease… At the same time, album cover art was in its heyday, and graphic designers such as Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis were creating amazing surreal images for bands like Pink Floyd. I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
A pinnacle of finding magic in the mundane, Food Landscapes is an absolute treat and a living manifesto for the power of truly running with the seemingly crazy creative ideas that take hold of your imagination.
Images courtesy of Carl Warner / Abrams Books
Published November 9, 2011