When I wrote about A24’s newest cookbook “Scrounging” I was excited to see that New York creative duo Wade and Leta were behind the photography. The pair of artists run the gamut from branding to large-scale installations. You name it, the couple can make it. So I reached out to see if they’d give us a behind-the-scenes look at how the imagery came together, their inspirations, and what they did and didn’t eat.
TFIB: Hi Wade and Leta, thanks for the chat! Would love to hear about Scrounging. Could you tell us a little bit about the project and how it came your way?
W&L: Sure, happy to! We were approached by our long time friend Perrin Drumm, who is also the head of publishing at A24 and behind some of our favorite recent bookshelf staples such as their recently released “Florida” book.
As far as friends go, we’ve known Perrin for about ten years and have collaborated together on an array of projects, ranging from a pop-up bar serving cricket cocktails for Mold Magazine at Sight Unseen’s Offsite years ago to the identity and design of now defunct AIGA Eye on Design. Essentially, she sent us a text asking if we’d be down to shoot this book idea she had, and there was no way we could say no.
TFIB: I’m assuming you had a list of foods from films to shoot, where did you begin with the overall look and feel of the shoot? The flash on camera approach gives all the photos such an iconic 70’s/80’s vibe.
W&L: At the start of the project, Perrin and her team simply had the ideas of the dishes, but the recipes and the stories behind them were yet to be visualized. Perrin and her art director Kyra Goldstein weren’t looking to recreate the films and wanted us to set the scene for each shot, with the goal to not over-dramatize the scene and make the photography feel directed enough but perhaps shot by someone who rarely uses a camera. We based the art direction off of the idyllic photos by Martin Parr, William Eggleston, and Stephen Shore for tonal cues.
Wade and I began to dream up the scenes and scenarios in which these foods would be consumed, thinking about how we could stylize them with minimal, inexpensive propping, prioritizing function over form. The same was to be said about the photography: our work tends to be overstaged and overstylized, and it was quite a mental challenge to completely deviate from this aesthetic. Our technique for shooting these photos was to point the camera (often without looking through the viewfinder, for that “unstaged angle” effect) and click the shutter! The overall idea was to embrace the calamity in the nature of scrounging and reflect it in our manner of photography; in the same way that a tomato and peanut butter sandwich might appear off-putting, we wanted to achieve the same idea of making something theoretically wrong but is working just enough to call it right. Most of our behind the scenes imagery was captured with a Yashica T4.
TFIB: Did you end up working with a food stylist, or was this all done by the two of you? How much food and snacks did you end up buying (and how much was left over for late night munchies)? How long did the process take overall?
W&L: We had some really fantastic collaborators for this shoot, with Sue Li being the food stylist who also helped to build the recipes. Linnea Crabtree was our prop stylist and found us the perfectly decrepit working stove (!!) for our Betty Blue hot dog shot, as well as an old stainless steel sink for our shot from The Apartment. We were shooting in a studio space with modern appliances, but we all wanted to really lean into the idea of “working with what you have,” as one would while scrounging up a meal. Ironically, if you rent an apartment in Brooklyn, it’s quite common to still have these outdated appliances.
We can’t attest to how much food was purchased, as Sue was handling that role, but the remainders were used for all of our own home cooking or donated to food banks. The planning took about a month, and the actual shoot lasted three days. We’re proud to say that there was no post-production, either, because that would not be true to our theme!
TFIB: Of all the dishes that you photographed, which was creatively your favorite to capture? Did you try and eat any of the dishes? Haha
W&L: One of our favorites was for the recipe of cereal milk with water—we envisioned that this person would have just come from the gym and wouldn’t have had time to shop for groceries, and so they would have used their workout water bottle to hydrate their cereal with a few pumps of water…ew.
Sue was really strategic about which dishes to prepare and when, and we owe it all to her for building out the shoot day schedule. For example, who else would have the insight to save the fried chicken shot for the end of the day because the smell would permeate the space?
We definitely were nibbling, as there was a lot to go around. We witnessed Perrin swiping up a fluff’nutter sandwich after our Overboard shoot, loose M&Ms and all. Sadly, none of us were brave enough to taste the End of Days pizza/pepto bismol/whiskey smoothie, but it’s probably for the best because we didn’t have a medic on set.