Eat

Full of It

Per Johansen’s thought provoking food photo series squeezes food into plastic bottles and pushes the line on gluttony, consumerism and what it really means to be “Full”.

Interview by Lora Wiley - lora@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos by Per Johansen
 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

Citizen Brooklyn: These photos are startling and almost humorous at the same time. Was that the goal?

In a way, but only as an extra layer. The original idea was based on a feeling of disgust and being fed up with our decadent consumer society. Not only of food, but in general. That the series also allows you to smile a little only reinforces the series I think.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: The style is almost like “food porn”, which many food bloggers strive for. How did you arrive at the idea to shoot the pictures like this?

The aesthetic that I have chosen for this series is very deliberate. Most of today’s communication is very manipulative, and often you find a conflict between form and content. In the series “Mæt” (“Full”) I believe that the viewer will at first glance be attracted by the form and fascinated by the aesthetics, but then may be repelled when they realize the nature (quite literally) of the contents. This ambiguousness, I think, is healthy and will keep the viewer fascinated and make them start asking questions.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: The idea of one being “full” in english means to have eaten to satisfaction. Is there a different connotation on Danish society?

In Danish we also use the word “Mæt” in a different way. For example we have an idiom, that says: “han døde mæt af dage”, which translates to “he died “full” from days” (i.e. means having lived a sufficient number of days or something like “you have had enough”). So I also use the word in the meaning of being stuffed or fed up.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: How did shooting these photos change your immediate relationship with food? long term?

As already mentioned I didn’t make the series only with food in mind, but as an image on consumption in general. So actually it didn’t change my relationship with food a whole lot.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: We love the way you describe the series, “At first glance the viewer is drawn by something seemingly aestetic in perfect harmony… but if you take a closer look, the motifs are marked by something decadent, disgusting and incarcerated. something is in decay, and it disturbs the harmonious balance.” How do you hope this affects people’s idea of food consumption?

In a profound way I hope that it makes people think about our consumer society. Maybe we have chosen the wrong path and should start thinking about what life is really about. Or what it could also be about?

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: Which photo is you favorite and why?

The photo of the liver in the cola bottle is my favorite, maybe because it was the first picture to emerge in my head and because it most clearly exemplifies the idea. The picture of the calf-tongue is also one of my favorites; I think the image of the tongue trapped in the neck of the bottle is very powerful.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: Food stylist?

I handled everything myself.

CBK: What did you do with the food?

Some of it I ate with friends and some of it I had to throw out because it was either too old or dirty (had fallen to the floor in the process etc.).

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: Most surprising reaction?

There have been a variety of surprising reactions. One of the most unexpected came from a gallery owner from San Francisco. When she saw the series she was very enthusiastic about the images and said: your series is very sexual. When I look at the photos in that light I can see what she means, and I can’t help but wonder if my subconscious also has deceived me in the process?

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

CBK: The last line of your bio on your website is: “Good luck to me”. Explain.

Actually it’s very simple. When I wrote this, all circumstances in my life were “ready” for me to start doing my own work. But as is the case with everything else in life I believe that a little luck is necessary or at least that fate is not completely without importance.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

Per Johansen BIO:

Per Johansen was born and raised in Copenhagen in a working-class environment. His mother was a secretary and his father was a jack of all trades. When he was 18 he got his first job in a photography store in Copenhagen. Through his job he had contact with professional photographers and eventually was lucky and quickly found a studio where he became an apprentice. Per collaborated with his brother on “Three kisses”, a black and white 16mm film. They also made art photographs together, drove down through Europe to show and sell their pictures.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

Back home we exhibited our photographs at Krasnapolsky, at that time a new and hip café/gallery. We sold a couple of our photos and received a really good review in the country’s leading newspaper Politiken. Moreover, some of our work was accepted and shown at the Charlottenborg Autumn Exhibition. This was the middle of the 80’s and alas, there was no way you could make a decent living as an art photographer.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

Eventually, I fell in love, and leading a normal life became my first priority. My first job was at Roskilde University, where I worked as a photographer for about a year. Later, I decided to open a photography studio with a colleague. Somewhat to our surprise, our business became a success right away and it lasted many years. After a period of financial and inspirational decline, my partner and I decided to split up our studio and pursue individual projects. I had been fiddling around with my project “en anden side” (another side) for many years and could feel that now was the time to be getting serious about it. Luckily, I was at a place in my life where I could make it work. We closed our business in 2008, and ever since, I have been working exclusively on my own things. Now I feel that I have managed to create such good projects that I am now ready to show them to the world.

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

 Photo © Per Johansen

Photo © Per Johansen

See more of Per Johansen’s work at http://www.enandenside.dk/maet.php.

Comments are closed.