Christopher Boffoli: Surreal Massachusetts Photographer’s Tiny World Goes Big
Christopher Boffoli’s most well-known works, titled Big Appetites, showcase a world in which people are secondary to the giant food surrounding them. A fine art, commercial, and editorial photographer from Worcester, MA, Christopher’s photographs play with scale and heavily focus on the little details. Christopher is a surreal Massachusetts photographer currently living in Seattle and his works have been published–online and in print—in more than 100 countries around the world.
Courtesy of Big Appetites Studio
Christopher’s passion for scale stems from a fascination with the perspective of a child. To be a child living in an adult world shrinks you in size. The decision to focus on food came later when he began to notice the beauty of the textures and colors of food.
Beyond the superficial beauty food has to offer, Christopher believes food is an intriguing subject because of its universality. On the universality of food as a subject, his website expresses, “Whether you eat with a fork, chopsticks or your hands, everyone understands food. Sitting down to a meal makes us feel most human. The sensual experience of eating accesses primal instincts that stretch back to the earliest days of our evolution.”
There’s a sort of youthful joy that his photographs exude; similar to the joy you felt as a child creating whole universes with your toys. Christopher has grown up but his adolescent imagination lives on through his work.
Courtesy of Big Appetites Studio
Q: Your photos remind me a bit of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; a world that is surrounded and populated by food. If you could create a candy – any candy in the world – what would it taste like and what other effects would it have?
A: Bourbon (with notes of vanilla and caramel). Effects: it would make you totally relaxed for at least two hours. And perhaps invisible (or at least translucent).
Q: When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
A: Well, “creative person” is a label and an external construction. I was most likely a young child when I discovered that I enjoyed working creatively, both with color and art and also with words. I can remember putting together a little book with a story and my own illustrations, with a stapled binding, in the first grade. I was pretty proud about that. But I don’t know that there ever was a moment of realization in which I declared to myself that I was a creative. To me it’s like asking when you discovered that you have a certain eye color. It is just something that is. When you create things it is just a part of you. Things on the inside have to be expressed to the outside or it will kill you (figuratively). It is a kind of hygiene.
Q: What food were you obsessed with as a child?
A: I don’t know if I was really obsessed with any kind of food though there was plenty of food dysfunction in my childhood. My mother wasn’t really into cooking (or doing anything else around the house for that matter). And my father was very cheap so we could essentially have whatever we wanted as long as it didn’t cost anything. So there were a lot of boxed cereals and frozen pizzas. I didn’t learn proper nutrition until much later. Though I do have to say that I lucked out in that my grandparents more than picked up the slack. I had the good sense to pay attention when my grandparents taught me the secrets of cooking their signature dishes.
Q: What do you think is so special about child’s perspective?
A: What I think is powerful and great about childhood is that when one is still figuring out life, you’re not encumbered by rules and the stringent categories that are adults are beholden to. Kids often think in a non-linear manner which is so much more conducive to creativity. It’s a shame that so many of us lose that inherent ability to break mental rules and block ourselves with acquired prejudices.
Q: What do you think is worse, being gluttonous or apathetic?
A: Are those the only two choices? I guess gluttonous is the lesser of those two evils as you’re at least (presumably) expending energy (or passion) in your pursuit of something, as opposed to simply not caring.
Q: You say that you’re inspired by the media you watched as a child, what is one movie or television show that freaked you out when you were younger?
A: There was a lot that freaked me out. We had cable and my parents really were not adequately monitoring what I was watching. But it’s hard to narrow it down to one experience. While it wasn’t THE freakiest, there is one film that covers both sides of your question in that it deals with both scale juxtaposition and horror: Food of the Gods. It was about how chemicals released into the environment were causing animals and insects to grow to humungous size. And then they were all attacking the people. What can I say…filmmakers were really doing a lot of drugs in the late 70’s.
Q: What do your pictures have to say about American food consumption?
A: Whenever you have tiny little people posed against sheer walls of chocolate cake you one can’t help but use it as an opportunity to shine some light on this very North American tendency to overdo it with food. I’ve heard many people say that they’d like to be the people who inhabit my images so they can dive into that swimming pool sized portion of coconut cream pie. But in truth, I think if we really had to eat ten times our body weight in our favorite food that it would quickly cease to be our favorite. So that very handily circles back around to the notion that the idea of something and its reality are often two very different things.
Q: What do you hope people feel when they look at your photographs?
A: I don’t really make images with an agenda. In fact, I feel strongly that what people experience when they stand before my art really has much more to do with them and their experience than it has to do with me pushing some kind of message. I create images to satisfy some capricious whim and beyond that it is my responsibility to get out of the way and let people find their own way into the work. Of course, there are top notes of color and humor built into the work so it is always interesting when I attend exhibitions and can stand back and watch people experiencing the work for the first time. There often will be laughter and conversation, especially at art exhibitions with a lot of heavy, Avant-garde or confusing subjects. People see what essentially is toys and food and it is easILY accessible to them. So I understand that. But I’m also careful to not try to do too much to drive any particular way of thinking.
Q: If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like?
A: Fruity and lush with a tannic finish. And maybe an unexpected flicker of salt.
Q: What does it mean to have your work displayed at Arden Gallery in Boston, so close to your hometown of Worcester?
I grew up in Worcester at a time when it felt like the best times had already passed it by. Our grandparents and their siblings would tell us nostalgic stories about how clean, safe and magical it was when they were younger. So in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it certainly felt like it reached its nadir. Of course, there were always people who were prepared to list all of the things it had going for it: “All of the colleges!” “Such hills!” “The heart of New England.” But people will always go to great lengths to promote and justify where they live, despite the objective realities. The truth is that Worcester is my birthplace because a choice was made for me. My ancestors went there for jobs and opportunity and human inertia dictates that subsequent generations stay there even when those things are gone as it is the place they know as home. So Worcester represents the site of a lot of painful experiences. But it is also an indelible part of me. Whereas at this point I’ve traveled the world and now call Seattle home, there still is no feeling that matches when I experience when I hike through a hardwood forest in Central Massachusetts. And no matter where I am any given October, I always pine to be back in New England. Visiting Boston now is mostly bewildering because so much has changed (and continues to change) between visits. Anyway, it’s a complicated mix of emotions. And yes, there is something special about having this work represented by a gallery in Boston, to have it shown there for the first time, and to be covered by the local press that hasn’t really covered it before despite wide coverage in US and international media to date. I guess there is a certain kind of validation in it.
Courtesy of Big Appetites Studio
The Arden Gallery on Newbury Street currently has pieces from Big Appetites on display and will be representing Christopher’s work in Boston moving forward.
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