Sarah Wight and Paul Adams, Department of Design
Last June, I set out with camera in hand to explore the Italian social traditions around food. I wanted to capture what mealtimes mean to Italians, and how they differ from Americans. I planned to create a body of work that acts as a window into the Italian culinary culture.
I traveled through Florence and Rome and photographed Italians sharing and making meals together. I reached out to contacts I had in Italy and was able to find a few Italians willing to let me photograph them. I photographed a family eating Sunday dinner together, a pizza chef and pasta chefs cooking in a ristorante, and old friends eating out together late on a Saturday night. We communicated the best we could, since not all my subjects knew English and my Italian is limited.
Here are a few examples of the photographs.
While interacting with the Italians I photographed, I was struck by how social mealtimes are. They talked more than they actually ate. They seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company and loved chatting about everything. Even after the food was gone, they would continue to sit at the table and talk.
I also noticed the attention Italians pay to their ingredients. The family I photographed had a garden to supply them with fresh, homegrown ingredients, and told me most Italian families did the same. Italians also love to follow tradition. The father told me that Florentines don’t put salt in their bread because Pisa, Florence’s rival, cut off their salt supply at one point in the Middle Ages. Florentines stopped using salt in their bread, and didn’t ever go back.
While I believe this project yielded good results, I now realize how extensive an undertaking my project actually is. In order to accomplish what I had really envisioned, I would need to live in Italy for several months, learning Italian and photographing and interviewing many more people. This would create a larger, more complete body of photographs and a better understanding of the Italian perspective on food. I am, however, currently seeking out and photographing Italians in Utah who have recently immigrated and are carrying on their traditions the best they can. They are especially able to give me insight on how the Italian food culture contrasts with the American food culture.
By sharing meals with these Italians, I was able to see the passion they have for food and the strong connection they feel to those around them. I plan to continue learning about and photographing this beautiful culture and sharing it with others. My photography exhibit will be going up in the Harris Fine Arts Center this February.