James SOE NYUN—Playing with Food

St Frances Church Ranchos de Taos New Mexico homage to Paul Strand, Engineered Food Series, ©James SOE NYUN, all rights reserved

We’ve come a long way since man first invented agriculture, allowing us to sustain large, stable populations.  We take for granted what’s been accomplished with regard to plant breeding and food science and what it means for the food on our tables.  How we have advanced from hunting and gathering to super markets and spare freezers is quite a story, yet most never give it a thought.

Others of us, like James Soe Nyun, do think about food: how it has been bred and grown, how far it has been shipped.  And we grow some of our own, nurturing it from seedling to supper.  James is a thoughtful gardener, blogger and photographer who is interested in the complexities of human interaction with nature.

Big Corn Little Corn; Engineered Food Series, © James SOE NYUN, all rights reserved

In James Soe Nyun’s Engineered Food Series, his photographs ask us to dwell on the issues surrounding our food, specifically the controversial method of genetic modification.  Using what he refers to as “a conceptual art-making practice which relies heavily on photography”, James essentially plays with food.  He engineers, if you will, modern sculpture–then photographs it.  His images reflect the tradition of using still life works to address worldly issues.  The results are arresting and humorous photographs that made me laugh, albeit uncomfortably.  The subject matter is enormously creative and thought provoking.  So compelling are the photographs, they earned James a first place prize in a nationwide competition judged by the curator of photography at the LA County Museum of Art and a write up in the New York Times: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07E1D71130F93AA35752C1A961958260

Engineered Food II, © James SOE NYUN, all rights reserved.

“Engineered Food II” is, James explains, “a tabletop hybrid of fish and various things from the garden or Asian grocery: passion fruit, oyster mushrooms, radishes”. This still life was prompted by a news item James had seen on splicing genes of plants with genes of animals and has a more sinister air than some of the other photos in the series.  Also making an appearance in unconventional ways are spam, Hostess® Wonderbread, Alfa-bits cereal and American cheese, foods that normally evoke a pendulum swing of emotional responses from individuals.  Take a look at James Soe Nyun’s Engineered Food Series and other splendid photographs on his website portfolio http://soenyun.com/index.php

James Soe Nyun’s wonderful garden blog: Lost in the Landscape


About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is freelance garden writer and speaker.
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2 Responses to James SOE NYUN—Playing with Food

  1. Colleen,
    Aw blush, what great comments on my food series! Thanks for showing some of them here. I had fun making them, and it’s great to see that they can still communicate some of that weird balance of amusement and queasiness that I experience when I look at the world. (And thanks, too, for the kind words on the blog!)

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