“We produced stills in the style of the old Dutch Masters’ oil paintings.”
Reinhard Hunger is one of the most influential German food photographers. Modern food photography is today's witness of food culture and trends, just like painting used to be. With his images, Hunger aims to tell a story, often with a humorous twist. He prefers to show the natural beauty of food, but still, his images are the result of highly conceptual thinking and detailed design work. As we all eat with our eyes and images play such an important role in our perception, I was tempted to ask Reinhard a couple of questions about his professional work.
How did you first get into photography and food?
I’ve been interested in photography since I was a teenager, I already knew I wanted to be a photographer when I was 16. I was always keen on taking pictures and immediately after school I already started assisting different photographers. At first, I was dreaming of becoming a fashion photographer, going to Milano, but soon I realized the fashion business is not for me.
I wanted to work on my own, in my own studio and this is how I got started with still lives. I worked very close with a designer, Christoph Himmel, and we produced stills in the style of the old Dutch Masters’ oil paintings. The Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) Magazine approached me and asked us if we could pursue that style but with food as a subject. And that is how it started – still now I’m working with the SZ Magazine and requests on food photography became more and more… I didn’t deliberately chose food as a subject, it just organically happened.
Personally, I am very interested in food and cooking, the theme of food is even in my last name ‘Hunger’, so maybe it was bound to happen. I love cooking and I have a garden where i grow some vegetables. Strolling over the markets, watching a chef arranging a plate – these are all things I really enjoy doing. And just watching the food stylist, I learned a lot from during the past 10/15 years.
How does food photography mirror or influence food culture?
It is interesting to see that the style in which food is prepared, arranged and served is always changing. Look at a cookbook from only 5 years ago – the style has changed considerably. It has become more colourful now, fashion in food always changes. And of course the style of an image also always depends on the occasion, if you are shooting for yourself or for a client. My food photography started around 2004. At that time there was already the trend towards a more natural look going on. In the 90s it was more an artificial look. But the whole development of food trends went from organic and vegetarian to now vegan a lot of craft foods, like all the craft breweries…it all keeps on increasing. So I am very curious what it will look like in 10 years.