Plenty of food for thought in exhibition of ‘found’ photos

Picture: Chris Duffy
Picture: Chris Duffy
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THEY have nothing in common, save for the timeless pleasure of enjoying their food.

But now the anonymous characters who have been photographed over the years tucking into various forms of food are to get a starring role in a new exhibition.

Picture: Chris Duffy

Picture: Chris Duffy

A century of culinary experiences around the world are being celebrated the first public display drawn from a vast private collection of unwanted photography which is held in Scotland.

Fife-based food fanatic Chris Duffy has spent the past decade amassing a vast array of photographs, books, manuscripts and food-related ephemera.

Now some of the images he has collected are go on public display for the first time – in an art gallery created inside a former railway stationmaster’s house.

Intimate meals, extravagant celebrations and mundane tasks all feature in the 250 images he has selected for the “People Eating” exhibition.

Picture: Chris Duffy

Picture: Chris Duffy

The former actor, playwright and puppeteer hopes to tour a series of exhibitions around Scotland following an initial run at the Off The Rails Arthouse, in Ladybank, which was converted by local artists five years ago.

Duffy, who currently runs the performing arts centre at the Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools in Edinburgh, said: “I was touring around as an actor and puppeteer more than 20 years ago when I started buying cookery books, menus, manuscripts and so on. It became a growing fascination.

“Over time, I realised I was being increasingly drawn to things that had a really strong visual appeal. I’ve been collecting the images in the exhibition for around 10 years now.

“I’ve found a lot of them in junk shops, antique fairs and bookshops. The way I like to get them is to happen upon them somehow, although I’ve bought a few things online and at auction.

Picture: Chris Duffy

Picture: Chris Duffy

“There are certainly images from the turn of the century and earlier, but because of nature of the way they’ve been gathered a lot of them come with no information at all.”

Duffy has even created a special culinary-themed “soundscape” for the exhibition, which will be accompanied by a series of special food-themed events and talks.

He hopes to spark a debate on the relationship between people and food, how how its place in everyday life has changed over the last century.

Duffy added: “Whenever I talk about my collection, some people think it is a bit strange, but a lot of people really engage with it.

Picture: Chris Duffy

Picture: Chris Duffy

“If you look a bit deeper at these images you can weave as many tales as your imagination will allow. Food, for me, is a doorway into somewhere else.

“I think something will happen when all the images are brought together and viewed side by side. I also love the fact they will be going on display in a space that has a domestic history.

“Even though they communicate so much, a lot is left unsaid, leaving space for us to reflect on what’s missing, our own relationship with food and how we might remember meals and moments like these in the future.”

Kathy Watts, one of the artists involved in the Ladybank gallery, said: “This wonderful collection of images is fascinating, amusing and curious by turn and has a particular resonance within the environs of the Arthouse.”

People Eating is at the Off The Rails Arthouse from 2-10 April.

Picture: Chris Duffy

Picture: Chris Duffy