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Ernie Button, Breakfast is Served
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Ernie Button, Breakfast is Served

The genesis for Cerealism was a trip to the grocery store; there sat King Vitamin next to a new version of Cap’n Crunch, Choco Donuts

By FDL on

Remember back in time when your breakfast cookies had the shape of animals and you dipped them in milk? As grown ups we tend to go for less creative shapes and we usually can’t tolerate milk anymore.

Ernie Button, the American photographer from Arizona, had an intuition: give back breakfast cereals their fun side placing enlarged photographs of the Arizona sky on the background.

Here FDL caught up with him for an interview...

If you were a dish, which one would you be?
Probably an Italian pasta dish. I haven’t met too many people that don’t like pasta.

What's the first taste you remember?
There are lots of tastes from my past that I can remember but honestly I'm not sure if I can say what was the first. Some distinct food memories for me include remembering the smell & taste of barbequing steaks in the family backyard. I remember the taste of space food sticks, a product in the early 70’s that capitalized on the U.S. Space Program. I was very sensitive to the texture of foods when I was young and did not have a positive reaction to stewed tomatoes when I was forced to eat them. I was never forced to eat them again.

The most incredible taste experience you had in your life?
For my 40th birthday, my wife and a friend of ours took me to dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel overlooking Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong. Being from Arizona, there were so many foods and smells and textures that I had never experienced before. The view of both the food and the harbor that night; amazing.

Something you always have in your fridge?
Eggs and cheese The perfect taste? My grandmother’s cinnamon rolls from her own secret special recipe.

Your first camera? The subject of your first photo?
Canon AE-1. A fishing trip with my father in the mountains of Idaho. Lots of landscapes.

Is there a metaphor in your food pictures?
These Cereal images are very much like life. My images work on many levels from the superficial to deeper layers of thought & perspective. Depending upon the person, the images can be just about the playful surface of cereal or more complex thoughts provoking a discussion about nutrition and what it is that we eat. Art is meant to do something to us: provoke thought, emotion, enjoyment. Something. I make art for myself as a way of self-expression. The beauty of art, in general, is that we bring our own point-of-view to an image or a piece of art no matter what the artist intends. I've had exhibitions where I am truly shocked what people interpret the image to mean or what they "see" in the image. Interpretation can be influenced by how we were raised, the type of day we had, our political views, whether we like or hate the color red, etc. I try to make art that makes me think, a subject matter that I find interesting, that's ultimately aesthetically pleasing and that lets me enjoy the process of creating.

How do you know a food photo is valid and well executed?
With the Cerealism project, I know that an image is well executed if it would take a second, longer look to determine that it was made of cereal. Kind of a tromp l'oeil or "fool the eye" technique which is often used in painting. I want the image to be strong compositionally, to work well as an image but also to have some of the playfulness that this project is intended to have.

Is there a difficult photo you will want to take?
There are a few more scenes that I would like to create with cereal.They are a bit more complex to create so will take some time and planning. The dish to die for? I know I should say cereal but there was a carrot cake that I had in St. Andrews, Scotland that left such a lasting impression on me, it is something I wouldn’t say no to.

* For over 35 years, Phoenix, Arizona has been Ernie Button's home.

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