In the late 1920’s master photographer Edward Weston began taking a series of still life images that included shells, fruit, and vegetables. He took his first picture of a pepper in 1927, and a number of other pepper pictures in the following years. In 1930, he placed a pepper at the lip of a large funnel turned on its side, and took Pepper No. 30, one of the most iconic photographic images of all time.
As with flowers, fruit and vegetables have always been a staple subject for artists, photographers included. There is so much to discover in the forms, colours, and textures that are present. And so much to be learned about composition and lighting.
A Savoy Cabbage is a wonderful, textured ball that can be pealed back to explore all sorts of combinations. I purchased the Tromboni Squash (pictured below) from friends who run a table at a small Saturday market. I had never seen them before, and I marveled at their lyrical, swan-neck shape. The peppers were in a large bin outside a fruit and vegetable store on the Danforth in Toronto. Someone commented that a particular pepper in that image was rather sensual. This is one of the few times I’ve used “spot colour” in a photograph, in order to create The Saucy Pepper.
I may never equal Pepper No. 30 with my photographs. But that hasn’t stopped me from taking pictures of fruit and vegetables when I see something interesting or special. Or from experimenting with light, composition, and backgrounds. About his series of pepper photographs, Edward Weston wrote: “I have done perhaps fifty negatives of peppers: because of the endless variety in form manifestations, because of their extraordinary surface texture, because of the power, the force suggested in their amazing convolutions. A box of peppers at the corner grocery hold implications to stir me emotionally more than almost any other edible form, for they run the gamut of natural forms, in experimental surprises.”