Hannah Birenz - Photographs Hannah Birenz - Photographs


You may notice a preoccupation with food in my work.

It took me a long time, decades, to realize that advertisers, influencers and all the other money-making enterprises pretending to be our friends depend on us to be dissatisfied with our lives, and they fuel that dissatisfaction by showing us images of styled food and styled lives, things a thousand times better than what we have, some future perfection that we can attain if we just buy a few things. We, in turn, are willing consumers, wanting to believe perfection is achievable, wanting to believe the people on Instagram, in advertisements, and on TV are authentic representations of humans, because it’s easier to buy something and hope for the best than it is to sit with the fact that life can scarcely be controlled. This methodology, applied to food, has given us reducing, dieting, and wellness, different branding through the decades of the same advertising campaign. In our confusion over what is healthy we remember the meticulously crafted pictures, the perfect life of someone else that could be ours, and we buy what we are told is a breakthrough in nutrition as if after 200,000 years as a species we have now finally figured it all out. With these food purchases we get the added benefit of instant morality along with our future perfect bodies - we get to be called “good” and “guilt-free” by a bag of popcorn. Food, one of the few places where the practical and pleasurable coincide, has instead become a tool of self-flagellation, a shared trauma among those who can afford to be picky about what they eat.

I took the following pictures as a manifesto after a young adulthood spent in self-imposed scarcity trying to attain my own perfection, as an antithesis to disingenuous representation that causes so many of us to needlessly suffer in our abundant lives. Somehow, unadulterated images of our most common reality function as the most shocking, radical statements (think of a picture of a model with underarm hair, or acne); and so, here is food the way it is, being eaten, in rooms of people relishing each other’s company, and really relishing their delicious meals. Instead of a lighting kit, a food stylist, money being made beyond the frame, there is just more of the same, life being lived. Isn’t that what food is supposed to give us anyway?