Curly peppers and microgreens: Northern photographers complement the World Press exhibition with future foods

Every year, NonFiction Photo organizes the World Press Photo exhibition in the synagogue in Groningen. The contribution of regional photographers is becoming increasingly important, this time with the theme ‘Food of the Future’.

NonFiction Photo is becoming increasingly professional, says Andrea Hooymans, who has been director of the Groningen organization since 2015. Not only is she bringing World Press Photo to the City, with the best press photos from the previous year, but there is also space for an exhibition of photographers from the northern provinces and a project with Minerva students, there are guided tours and more than 1500 students will see the exhibition. With all these different elements, this photography event has been billing itself as a ‘festival’ for three years now.

An important theme within World Press Photo is how man’s pursuit of progress has destructive consequences on our planet. The regional input is in line with this with the exhibition ‘food of the future’ . Food is hardly mentioned in the current World Press exhibition, but it is a current topic that concerns many people, says Hooymans. “In light of climate change, the energy crisis and sustainability, many people look at their daily meal and think, for example, of vegetarian and organic food. See also how a war in Ukraine could affect our food.”

Food waste: full bins and mismatches

The northern photographers show different aspects. Monica Balu from Friesland, for example, photographed the (full) bins in the restaurant industry and in student housing, with which she raises the issue of food waste. Arjan Verschoor from Haren does this with so-called ‘misfits’ such as curly pepper. They are beautifully caught and beautiful to look at, but are not considered suitable for sale because people only want straight peppers.

Such misalignments often end up being costly in the food and hospitality industry. But the consumer could also just eat them. Furthermore, it seems that processing vegetables into the most perfect forms can lead to a lower nutritional value.

World Press winner Kadir van Lohuizen examines the Dutch food industry

Kadir van Lohuizen is not a northerner. The well-known photographer himself won the World Press Photo in 2018 with a series about waste in major world cities and last year made a documentary about rising water levels. His latest project is ‘Food for thought’, where he researches innovations in the Dutch food industry. That’s why Hooymans invited him The food of the future ‘.

Van Lohuizen took pictures in a greenhouse where LED lights improve the growth and quality of the crop. The pink-red color of the light seems alienating, as if it were a laboratory rather than a greenhouse. He also captured a field where different plants are grown next to each other. This experiment tests whether it is better to grow several products in strips next to each other than monoculture of one crop in an entire field.

Microgreens beautifully photographed with the macro lens

Andrea Hooymans, who herself studied photography at the Academy Minerva, researched a related topic. Intensive agriculture and monoculture impoverish the soil, which means that artificial fertilizers must be added every time, she explains. She photographed fungi and mushrooms, among other things. The latter in particular breaks down natural waste and enriches the soil. “But by plowing the land every time, as is happening now, fungi don’t stand a chance.”

Like Van Lohuizen, she also focused her camera on modern cultivation techniques such as aeroponics and hydroponics. In addition, crops do not grow in soil, but receive their nutrients through air or water. Hooymans also photographed microvegetables – tiny sprouts from all kinds of plants, which can contain up to forty times more nutrients than the full-grown plants. The macro images provide fairytale-like images where the plant’s cell structures are visible.

Such images are more than just recording and documenting. “We also want to show the beauty of nature,” says Hooymans. “Because something is beautiful, you keep looking further, and you can also get the story behind it.”

NonFiction Photo Festival 2022, including World Press Photo 2022. Until December 4 at the Synagogue, Folkingestraat 60, Groningen. Open: daily 10-18; Thu/Fri 10-21.

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