"Food Maps": Informative, Delicious, Freaking Beautiful

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
March 13, 2014

Photo credit: All, courtesy Henry Hargreaves

A food stylist walks into a bar. She discovers the bartender is also a photographer. They make “Food Maps,” the artworks made from certain countries’ and continents’ iconic foods that you see before you. 

"I used to bartend [at Schiller’s in New York City] and she was a regular,” said Henry Hargreaves of his friend and collaborator Caitlin Levin. ”She would come in on Monday nights and drink rosé. She told me she was a prop stylist, we started doing little test shoots together—that was ten years ago—and here we are now.”

Yes, here they are now, making gingerbread art galleries that were exhibited at November’s Art Basel in Miami and can now be seen at Dylan’s Candy Bar on New York Upper East Side. And making banana maps of Africa.

For Hargreaves, who is now a partner in New York restaurants Saint Mazie and Jack’s Wife Freda, his interest in food as a medium goes back to his days working as a bartender and server. “I’m always intrigued by people’s relationship with food,” he told us. “The way people ordered would often say something about them that you can’t articulate. I could anticipate orders, like, ‘This person’s got a beer written all of over them.’ Or ‘This person’s going to want to modify one of the drinks we’ve got here.’”

He made his “Food Maps” out of the products associated with the featured countries or continents, but “we’re not going to be Nazis about it,” he said. “Tomatoes are originally from South America, for example, but they’re identified with Italy. The kiwi fruit was originally the Chinese gooseberry, but the New Zealand food marketing board rebranded it.” 

The challenge in choosing the right foods was finding something both iconic and versatile. “Every state within a country is different; nothing is repeated.” So the citrus in South America, for example, appears sliced whole, in rind form, in pulp form, etc., so that boundaries are clear (and so that it’s freaking beautiful). 

As for what happens to the leftover food, his girlfriend eats it. At least the meat and cheese. “Well, she’s French,” said Hargreaves. “We try not to waste—we eat what can be recycled.” Not a bad gig.