Perhaps as a reaction to or because of the current climate of food enthusiasts, NYC-based photographer Chris Maggio’s Male Chef is a refreshing, welcome look at what food is in his world. The series, which started out as a Tumblr, displays food—in its many forms—that can be found in his environment. The images are stark and of a point-and-shoot aesthetic, and they are a pleasure to look at because they are, in fact, rooted in a reality to which many people can relate. We sat down with Maggio to hear more about where he’s coming from, his aesthetic, and who the real Male Chef is in the Maggio clan.
The photos are an affront to the seamlessness with which food photography has been presented to the public over the years (cookbooks, food styling, editorial spreads, etc.) What was your intention in keeping the photography “lo-fi” so to speak?
“I think that Male Chef just fits into an aesthetic that I really enjoy working in, which isn’t always related to food. I’ve always been fascinated by user-submitted photography on the Internet—searching odd niches on Yelp, Flickr, Facebook or Craigslist always yields some really amazing results.
“While I think that Male Chef can be seen as a swipe at “food porn”, I really just enjoy working on it as a homage to the bizarre creativity that’s exhibited by Internet-users who wouldn’t usually consider themselves creative to begin with. Search for a good Mexican place on Yelp, and you’ll often find the most beautiful pictures of newborn babies being held next to burritos—to illustrate the scale of the meal. Male Chef is just a blog of gross looking food, but I think that scrolling through the site is fun because it makes you wonder about the material’s author. It’s like when you view a stranger’s Craigslist ad and you ask yourself: ‘Who the hell is this person? Why did they pick that picture to share with the world?’”
What was dinner like for you growing up? Has mom seen these?
“When I was growing up, dinner was far from gross—my mom is an awesome cook. She is a Jewish woman who married into a large Italian family, so my brothers and I ate troughs of ziti and a lot of delicious matzo ball soup. She’s surfed the pages of the site and thinks it’s funny—I even snuck a photo or two of her meals in there. I think she was honored for her meals to be archived on the Internet, where the leftovers never go bad. On the other hand, my dad’s specialty was always fried bologna sandwiches that he would make for us on Saturday while my mom was at work. Perhaps he’s the real Male Chef you should be talking to.”