The Photobook Review

Guilty Pleasures/Hidden Treasures: Darius Himes and Frish Brandt

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Darius Himes on Robert Spector
The Pizza Hut Story
Melcher Media and IPHFHA
New York and Wichita, KS, 2008

The official geographic center of the continental United States of America is in Lebanon, Kansas, a mere 199 miles from Wichita, the birthplace of Pizza Hut. It somehow seems fitting that a chain restaurant with such national (and global) reach emanated from smack-dab in the center of the country. In 1958, the Carney brothers borrowed $600 from their mother to open a restaurant after seeing an article in the Saturday Evening Post about a new phenomenon: pizza. The name? Well, the sign of the building they rented only had room for eight letters—and a classic was born!

Having survived college on two-for-one coupons for medium-sized pizzas, I readily welcomed this book into my library. The Pizza Hut Story, an illustrated history of the company, was produced for its fiftieth anniversary and released only internally. This glossy book—loaded up like a Meat Lover’s pizza with historical photos, kitschy logos, and an earnest love for building a popular business—is devoid of any irony and is the perfect way to simply celebrate their success. It comes delivered, obviously, in a cardboard pizza box. Scrumptious!

Darius Himes is the international head of photographs at Christie’s.

 

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Frish Brandt on Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters
Chez Panisse Cooking
Random House
New York, 1988

Chez Panisse is practically an adjective, not just a proper noun. The soul of this restaurant in Berkeley, California, is in the ingredients, not the technique. It all started when the now-revolutionary food-wizardess Alice Waters simply wanted to cook for her peers while hosting political gatherings during the Free Speech Movement that rocked UC Berkeley in the 1960s.

By the time this book came out in 1988, a lot of that political unrest had gone to bed, and other unrest had taken shape. But what transpired in those nearly twenty years is a completely new understanding of what we put on the table—and why. The book’s pictures, by Gail Skoff, give us this in the most elegant and elegiac way. Take the monochromatic picture of two legs straddling a wooden bowl of langostino that leads us to the lobster ravioli recipe. The picture doesn’t tell us anything about technique. There’s no photograph of shelling, or rolling, or cutting—just this: a visual poem to the ingredients, and to the participant. Or what about the picture of levain bread, from back when Wonder Bread was most prevalent? The loaf resembles a boulder in a landscape, with a snow of flour upon it. The bowl of wild mushrooms could be an ode to Proust, if only he had felt about mushrooms as he did about madeleines. But mostly the pictures are simply pure metaphor. Their ingredients drive the picture, just as they drive the kitchen of a place that has revolutionized the way we think about food. I’m not just talking about glorious palate experiences—I’m talking about politics. From UC Berkeley to Waters’s life-changing, school-based Edible Schoolyard Project, politics are where it began and where it leads.

Frish Brandt is president and co-owner of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. fraenkelgallery.com

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The PhotoBook Review is a publication dedicated to the consideration of the photobook—focusing on the best photography books being published, from the coffee-table book to the handmade artist’s edition, and on creating a better understanding of the ecosystem of the photobook as a whole.

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