Lots of us play with our food. But for photographer Christopher Boffoli, it's become a full-time career.
Boffoli rose to fame a couple of years ago. You may have seen some of his photographs — amusing dioramas featuring miniature plastic figurines in dramatic settings crafted from food — when they went viral back in 2011. More than 200 such images — at least half of which, Boffoli says, have not been previously published — are collected in a new book, Big Appetites.
Boffoli's scenarios, and especially his captions, evoke New Yorker cartoons — many are dark and humorous.
"I love the idea of taking something whimsical that people expect to be fun and turning on the fulcrum of their expectations to something more disturbing," Boffoli tells NPR.
In his hands, an idyllic father-and-son sleigh ride around a snowy cupcake winter wonderland becomes a lesson on the perils of "eating yellow snow." Adorable teddy bear cookies are lined up as an invading horde.
Boffoli began the "Big Appetites" series more than a decade ago, and his images have been featured in museum exhibits around the world. (Our friends at The Picture Show wrote about one such show last year.)
His photographs have also found a following among art collectors: Prints sell from anywhere from $950 for a 12-by-18-inch image to more than $10,000 for one that's 48-by-72 inches.
"The elements of this work are toys and foods — two of the most common elements in cultures around the world," Boffoli says. "It gives the work broad appeal."
Part of the charm lies in the way that Boffoli's scenarios play upon the common childhood fantasy that toys have secret lives of their own. As Boffoli writes in the book's introduction, "These are actually real, tiny people with their own lives and complex culture."
Yet the images also speak to our own culture and the "dysfunctional relationship we have with food in America," Boffoli says.
"Food spectatorship and overconsumption are issues I wanted to work in subtly," he says. "But it's not really didactic."