These vintage color food photos might make you lose your appetite

Looking back on the early days of food photography.

Salad topped with mayonnaise with mayonnaise bottle
Salad topped with mayonnaise with mayonnaise bottle.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images

Food photography existed long before decadent donuts and charcoal-infused-everything took over our Instagram feeds. Photographers have been snapping still lifes of food almost as long as photography has existed.

In the 1950s color photography exploded in the world of advertising. At the same time, many brands were making processed food products initially developed to feed soldiers during WWII. Now, these manufacturers were looking for ways to bring their products inside the homes of the American family. Food photography helped make it more appealing.

Tom Kelley is best known for his celebrity portraiture—he famously shot the nudes of Marilyn Monroe that would run in the very first issue of Playboy—but his still lifes of food shouldn't be overlooked. It may lack the glamor of his celebrity portraits, but there is something wild about the way that this photographer looked at food.

His highly saturated images have a much different aesthetic than typical modern food photography. The pairings often seem bizarre, the lighting conditions a bit too harsh, and many of the dishes barely look edible in the first place. But there is something beautiful and charming about these vintage food photos and what they say about the way in which we once ate: salad topped with mayonnaise anyone?

Here are some of our favorites from his massive archive.

Pasta in frying pan
Pasta in frying pan.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Sliced ham in tray
Sliced ham in tray.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Deep fried battered prawns with tomato sauce, green olives and chips
Deep fried battered prawns with tomato sauce, green olives and chips.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Dates in silver bowl with tea
Dates in silver bowl with tea.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Plate of breakfast with sausage cheese and olive
Plate of breakfast with sausage cheese and olives.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Roulade on plate
Roulade on plate.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Plate of meat garnish with sauce jug and napkin
Plate of meat garnish with sauce jug and napkin.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
TV dinner on white background
TV dinner on white background.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Macaroni pasta layered with meat in bowl
Macaroni pasta layered with meat in bowl.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Chicken leg and meat stuffed in pineapple
Chicken leg and meat stuffed in pineapple.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Sliced pizza and sweet dessert on red background
Sliced pizza and sweet dessert.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Minced meat coming through mincer with chefs in background
Minced meat coming through mincer with chefs in background.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Prawns decorated with crush ice and savoury sauce
Prawns decorated with crush ice and savory sauce.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Burger with bite taken on plate
Burger with bite taken on plate.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Meat pie in plate
Meat pie in plate.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Desserts with fruits on white background
Desserts with fruits on white background.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images
Meatballs, tomato paste can and spaghetti on red background
Meatballs, tomato paste can and spaghetti on red background.Tom Kelley Archive via Getty Images