September 22, 2011
Terry Border’s photo blog Bent Objects, begun in 2006, anthropomorphizes inanimate objects using bits of wire and a few props. He creates scintillating inner lives for the ordinary things that most of us take for granted. And a good chunk of his work revolves around the pantry, portraying modest pears, bespectacled raisins and brain-starved zombie peanuts, even a Hitchcockian scene of a carrot descending a staircase unaware of a menacing vegetable peeler lurking nearby. This food-stylist-cum-humorist’s blithe (and sometimes bawdy) wit was first collected in the book Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things, and a new collection of photographs due out this October, Bent Object of My Affection, explores the love lives of the odds and ends lurking in our cupboards and closets. Border was kind enough to entertain a few questions via email about his work and his unique relationship to food.
What were you doing before Bent Objects?
I was in commercial photography for several years. Loved everything about it except for the actual photography part. It’s an interesting business, but dealing with art directors was going to be the death of me (or one of them).
Did you ever play with your food as a child?
I had a good imagination as a kid, but I never ever played with my food. When I’m sitting down to eat, someone playing with their food is right up there with them chewing with their mouth open—it drives me crazy!
What inspired you to start the Bent Object blog?
I started doing some small wire sculptures, so I thought I would share them with whoever might be interested. Thought maybe I’d sell one every now and then for some coffee money.
How do you go about inventing the personalities and private lives of foodstuffs?
I think I have a lot of empathy. I’m able to imagine myself as whatever object I’m working with. The more of a story-line I’m able to come up with, the more I can pack into the photo.
Has working on the blog changed the way you now look at food when you go grocery shopping?
There’s a part of me that’s always thinking about possible scenarios when I’m walking the aisles. Especially the produce area. I’m sure the produce people wonder why I loiter so long in their part of the store. They probably think I’m crazy, or that I work for their competition!
Are there certain foods that you find especially rewarding to work with? Any that are especially difficult?
Hard foods are easy to work with, soft foods are difficult. Trying to make a banana stand up is challenging. Plus they bruise easily and age pretty quickly. Other foods, like peanuts, will last forever.
For the past few years you have encouraged readers to embrace and celebrate unnaturally orange foods with Strangely Orange Snack Appreciation Day. How did this “holiday” start and what do you find so appealing about these foods?
Take a look at all of the fluorescent orange snacks as you walk down the chip aisle at your grocery. I find it sort of scary! But I went the other way and decided to embrace this weird, other-worldly snack food color. I figured why not try to have fun with it.
In what directions do you want to take your Bent Objects creations next?
I recently finished my first animated short, starring a slice of peanut butter bread (I made it to promote my second book, Bent Object of my Affection). I sent a link to it to Roger Ebert, and he gave it a good review on his Facebook page! Now that was a good day. It was so much fun, and totally different than distilling a whole story into one single image. It’s a totally different way to approach things, and I think I’ll be doing some more in that direction in the future.
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.