The Photographer’s Cookbook, published recently by Aperture but conceived in the 1970s, reads a bit like a local Junior League cookbook, albeit one that includes recipes from Ansel Adams (Eggs Poached in Beer) and Minor White (Steamed and Sautéed Vegetables). Begun in 1977 by an assistant registrar at George Eastman House (now the George Eastman Museum) looking for a way to make her job a little more interesting, the book collects close to 50 of the 120 submissions she received in response to an ad she placed in the museum’s magazine and by writing directly to photographers. As with any community cookbook, the contributions vary in complexity and appeal, and reflect the era in which they were written. Jerry Burchard builds a ‘fish’ out of cream cheese, caviar and jarred pimentos, and provides a crazed-looking example. Arnold Newman contributes a portrait of Julia Child, but the recipe he gives is for diet cottage cheese salad with radishes. Some contributors and contributions were ahead of their time. Writes Lisa Hostetler in the book’s introduction, “Some of the photographers included here are less known today than they were when the cookbook was conceived, but their recipes and images are nevertheless novel and timely, such as Joseph Jachna’s ‘Potato Chip Cookies,'” which sound awfully contemporary, like something you might find at Momofuku Milk Bar.
For Hostetler, the relationship between photography and cooking can be traced to the mixing, measuring and chemical reactions of the darkroom. “Before the advent of
the digital age, many amateur and professional photographers spent hours in the darkroom making and mixing chemicals to concoct variations (their own recipes, if you will) on standard photochemical procedures to suit their aesthetic impulses,” she writes. But even more old-school than working under the glow of a safelight is the book’s unspoken argument that the whole photo community could be encapsulated in a single, slim volume.