Nathan Myhrvold Captivates – Food & Drink: Modernist Cuisine Photography

Food & Drink, Modernist Cuisine Photography by author, chef, scientist and curious mind Nathan Myhrvold is a wildly colorful book about his love of photography, where food and beverages are the main characters. He tells many stories with each photo that, depending on your familiarity with the subject, evokes a mélange of feelings. This slip-casted, 216-page book pulls from work in his previous books and sets the stage for some ravenous conversation.

The book was shared as a sample for my review. All opinons are my own, without compensation, yet full of thoughts to share with other lovers of food, wine and art. All photos credited to Myhrvold and The Cooking Lab LLC.

After learning about Myhrvold and his impetus for the book (in chapters My Photographic Journey and The Story of This Book), Modernist Cuisine Photography is broken into six sections, organized by the photographic techniques used and his desire to have fun:

  • The Speed of Photography
  • The Scale of Photography
  • A Change of Perspective
  • Playing With Your Food
  • Still-Life Photography
  • Food Portraits

Throughout the book Myhrvold intertwines the scientific principles of how he took various photos, and the thrust of each.

Anyone remotely interested in photography will find his discussions of how he achieved various photos captivating. He uses a variety of cameras including a regular DSLR, as well as video, and different robot-assisted tools, most of which he built himself. His workshop is deep with tools, that assist in capturing the perfect shot: different flashes, bulbs for different lighting, high-powered compressed air, a scanning electron microscope (that magnifies items up to 500,000 times), a variety of digital software tools, and a slew of ordinary items such as aquariums, black velvet, cooking tools, and many more I am sure were not mentioned!

Click on any photo below to see a larger size.

In the chapter Still-Life Photography, Myhrvold was inspired by artists to recreate certain artworks containing food, and also sharing his own still-life shots. His Smoked Salmon, Caviar, and Montrachet still-life (page 154) has a pizza and wine theme inspired by the chef artist, Wolfgang Puck. After living here in France I’ve come to appreciate smoked salmon and being one who loves cooking and wine, I will be recreating this dish and wine combo for my table! For  those not familiar, Montrachet is a lovely Chardonnay from the Montrachet appellation in Côte de Beaune of the French Burgundy region. I’m positive the wine pairing for Myhrvold’s salmon and caviar pizza will be exceptional!

Over the course of ten days, I picked the book up several times and found many things jumping out. For instance, being a lover of bread baking who keeps starters and makes fermented foods, I relished the six ferments (pages 2, 3, and the cutaway on page 4), and the levain (page 6). And anyone who sabered a champagne bottle might geek-out on the photo Release, yet may think Myhrvold cheated! (pages 25, 26).

Food & Drink: Modernist Cuisine Photography

Reading through the chapter Photography Scale and not knowing about complex compositing and focus stacking, I was intrigued to see how he built the picture Inside the Barbeque. He also discusses these techniques in his previous book Modernist Cuisine.

While marveling at the photos, the book made me want to learn more about photography and to take better photos. One of the interesting techniques Myhrvold uses is focus-stacking of images. The results are amazing as seen in many of his photos including Romanesco (page 81) and Shrimp (page 170).

After all the tantalizing food close-ups and beverages twisting and splashing, you get a break with a few serene photos of the seashore, pastoral scenes (some taken aerially), and many more.

One evening on our terrace sipping Banyuls after dinner, I stumped my husband with a few photos that neither of us could figure out until we read what they were! If you get the book, let’s see if you can figure out Blood Orange (page 45),  Dragon Eggs (page 55), and Fractals (page 66).

Each page of Food & Drink, Modernist Cuisine Photography is a visual feast. A gorgeous book indeed!

6 thoughts on “Nathan Myhrvold Captivates – Food & Drink: Modernist Cuisine Photography

    1. Lynn Post author

      We are on the same page! I need to head over to FWC and read your take. Thanks for stopping by Jeff!

    1. Lynn Post author

      I remember I swooned when his first 5-series Modernist Cuisine came out. This is an easier way to indulge in a wider example of his talents!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.