Photos with a bite: Artist’s edible subjects get plots of their own
Photographer Christopher Boffoli brings teensy figurines to life, offering a look through a food-lover’s lens at a world that’s whimsical, philosophical — and sometimes macabre.
Seattle Times food writer
Feast your eyes on more
See an exhibit of Christopher Boffoli’s work at Winston Wachter Fine Art gallery, 203 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle, through Dec. 23.
CHRISTOPHER BOFFOLI has a lot of little friends.
Like him, they’re creative artists, quick thinkers, hard workers, perfectionists. Their teeth are sweet. Their bodies over-caffeinated.
And like Boffoli, a photographer who has brought them to life, these teensy figurines offer a look through a food-lover’s lens at a world that’s whimsical, philosophical — and sometimes macabre.
When they’re not starring in “Big Appetites: Tiny People in a World of Big Food” (Workman, $12.95), Boffoli’s friends live in a foot locker adjacent to his West Seattle kitchen.
And to his great surprise, his scenic miniatures — rendered as fine-art photographs that sell for as much as $10,000 each — are making him famous.
Cover girl “Patty” puts muscle behind a minuscule lawnmower, zesting a navel orange worthy of a properly garnished Negroni. The “Popsicle Mountaineer” precariously perched atop a frozen treat (the caption reads “Climbing up was always a lot easier than climbing down”) could play Boffoli in the movie — one where (true story) the intrepid Northwest newbie makes a day climb up Mount Rainier with a pack on his back — and breaks his leg five minutes into his descent. Nine hours later, he’s rescued by rangers and carted off on a stretcher, just like the hapless lad portrayed in “Twinkie Field Casualty.”
“I had no idea these pictures would have this kind of traction, this kind of reaction,” Boffoli says of the photos that spawned the series — and the book that shines a spotlight on it. Nor could he have envisioned the acclaim he’s received since an editor spotted his work online in 2011, then persuaded him to syndicate it internationally.
The digital art — a hobby, really — went viral. “My life changed overnight.”
One day he was a self-taught photojournalist racing out of the house to chase sirens for the West Seattle Blog. The next, he’s exhibiting work in galleries in Toronto, Monaco, Singapore and Los Angeles, with solo shows in New York, London and Seattle. Today “I’m running a global brand from my dining-room table,” just steps from his studio kitchen.
There, Boffoli fields calls from greeting-card companies looking to license his art, corporations offering commissions, and an avalanche of interest from worldwide media. (Perhaps you saw him on “CBS This Morning” or noticed his photograph on the spring cover of the hipster’s food journal “Lucky Peach”?).
“This work would have never happened for me without Seattle light, Seattle skies,” says the 43-year-old New England native who has called Seattle home for a decade. “In a lifetime of taking pictures, I’ve never found better light for food photography than here.”
When he’s not traveling the globe in search of adventure, Boffoli holes up at home near the Admiral Junction, walking distance from Bakery Nouveau and Cupcake Royale, where he often finds sweet inspiration.
He also gives props for his props to familiar places like the West Seattle Farmers Market (for fresh seasonal produce) and Big John’s PFI (where he scored the cannoli shells that double as “pipeline” for his miniature construction crew).
And he remembers well the moment he realized his appetite for Fran’s gray salt caramels had a larger calling: as a prop for a quartet of conical-hat-wearing Asian “farmers.”
Charmed and flattered, Fran Bigelow has since paid him back for the nod. A limited-edition print of Boffoli’s “Salted Caramel Harvesters” now hangs at Fran’s Chocolates in University Village.
Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times’ food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.