The diet that helped Karl Lagerfeld shed 80 pounds in little over a year is no secret. Neither is Jacqueline Kennedy's caviar and potato diet or Usain Bolt's peculiar habit of chowing down on dozens of chicken nuggets before breaking world records. But to visualize these unusual diets is to transform legends into astonishing reality. This is precisely the bread and butter of Italian photographer Dan Bannino, who fuses the legendary diets of public figures into baroque, still-life photographs that both bring these mythical anecdotes to life and aggrandize them further.
Each image in Bannino's Still Diets series consists of a table suspended in a black void, upon which elegant silverware, relevant decorative artifacts, and the food in question lay. Lit from above, each still life gains a dramatic, painterly feel, further transforming the banality of the food items into relics of eccentricity. Partially eaten food, often falling off the plates and even the table, give a sense of reality to the images, as if Lady Gaga had, in fact, just sat down to eat her strict diet of baby food earlier that day.
Contrary to what one might assume, Bannino isn't particularly obsessed with fame or celebrity culture. The culinary aspect of the images is the bigger draw. "Five years ago, I moved to London to pursue my intention of becoming a full-time photographer," Bannino tells Creators. "After a few random gigs, I ended up working as a product photographer for a research company, shooting mainly food."
The experience ended up being a formative one. "During those months working with boxes and boxes of the most bizarrely edible things, I developed a fascination for the topic. I started seeing daily meals and food shopping through a different perspective. In the end, I quit the job and moved back to Italy to focus on personal projects. And here I am."
With their dramatic lighting, messy composition, and overabundance of food and expensive trinkets, the images feel somewhat hedonistic, as if Bannino is adopting a critical position towards the lifestyles of the people we idolize. But the photographer believes that he is not working from a position of cynicism or criticism, stating that he is merely following a historical art tradition in his works.
"The compositions are directly inspired by the Rococo and Baroque movements. The decorative abundance is today, as it was in those days, alluding to the theme of the caducity of life," says Bannino. "I want people to stop and look at these tables, after being attracted by the abundance and redundancy of the objects, colors, and light. In some ways, I'm trying to surprise them; once they've discovered the story and the characters behind the works, hopefully they'll try to figure out the purpose behind my work."