San Antonio-based Mark Menjivar thinks of his project, “You Are What You Eat,” as a series of intimate portraits. “One person mentioned that ‘asking to photograph my refrigerator is like asking me to pose nude,’” he says.
Menjivar, 29, a professional photographer with a degree in social work, came up with the idea while working on a documentary film about hunger. “I was thinking about how ‘you are what you eat’ is a cultural cliché, but is also very relevant.”
He began by making portraits of people with their refrigerators. “But then I realized the viewer would compare how a person looks with what they eat.” He decided that an image of the fridge, captioned by a few details of the person’s life, told more.
Menjivar contacted a few friends, but the majority of the fridges belong to strangers, some of whom he approached, and others who offered when they learned about the project. “A lot of people were hesitant or anxious— but in the end, trusted me enough to invite me into their homes.”
Using a Keith Canham 4x5 field camera and Lowel Tota lights positioned on either side of the fridge to fill in backlit interiors, he’s shot about 50 altogether.
Each tells a story. A freezer packed with meat belongs to a couple who raise their own livestock. The interior crammed with takeout containers, to a waitress who works the night shift. The one with a frozen dead rattlesnake? A short-order cook brought this desert find home “to make a walking stick.”
Menjivar explains, “There’s both a humor and seriousness to [this project]. I want it to spark people’s imagination.”
See more of Menjivar's work at www.markmenjivar.com.