Inspired by the beauty of Renaissance paintings, German photographer Rebecca Rütten puts a spotlight on contemporary fast food culture in her series Contemporary Pieces, rendering greasy burgers and takeout containers in the dramatic lighting and classical style of the Old Masters. Elegant aesthetics and unhealthy, calorie-laden meals are juxtaposed in these portraits and still lifes, drawing attention to disparities between social classes and the food they can afford to eat.
“In the Late Renaissance, Italian and Dutch painters dealt with the middle and lower classes,” Rütten writes in her artist statement. “In my opinion, Fast Food Culture represents these two social classes in the United States today. To eat healthy is expensive. However, one can buy large amounts of food at a fast food restaurant for a comparatively low price.”
The photographer asked her friends—some of whom have tattoos and piercings, underlining their identities as “children of the modern age”—to model for her, recreating the poses that laborers and prostitutes had adopted while modeling for painters like Caravaggio. Rütten notes, “It was significant that many of my friends try to avoid Fast Food. In their eyes, Fast Food in the United States is comprised of genetically modified items that are designed only for mass consumption. To them, the food becomes a non-edible object and loses its value as being considered Food.”