Courtney Reagor is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Born to a midwestern mother and Southern father, she was raised me in Chicago, IL. Creative thinking and lots of family meals were a big part of her childhood. Raised in a household of two artist parents and a sister that grew up to be an incredible chef. Throughout the years, the imagery that has remained most consistent in her surroundings has been food.
FDL met with Courtney for a chat...
If you were a dish, which one would you be?
If I were a dish, I would be a carefully constructed sandwich. I was raised on sandwiches and feel like well-balanced layers of condiments, vegetables and protein are a perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes you don’t have all the right ingredients to make the perfect sandwich, but its important to know that there is always a way to make something satisfying with what you have in your kitchen. If you keep the essentials stocked.
What's the first taste you remember?
The first taste I remember is something I think a friend of my mother’s used to make from a Betty Crocker cookbook for finger foods. It was a mixture of cream cheese, green olives and chopped corned beef. Although I think its original intention was to be served with other hors d’oeuvres and wine spritzers, my mom would put this on crackers for me. If I feel particularly nostalgic, I will make it for myself as a secret snack.
The most incredible taste experience you had in your life?
The most incredible taste experience I have had in my life was on a road trip I took with my dad. When we take trips, we tend to drive as far as possible in one day. On this particular trip, we went what felt like a hundred miles out of our way to have what was touted as the very best fried chicken in the states. By the time we reached this little dive that resembled a run down gas station, we were so hungry and that chicken was indeed the best I have ever had. It was crunchy and spicy and perfect. In true southern form, it came with an abundance of biscuits and other fried delicacies. I have since driven a hundred miles out of my way to eat there a second time to relive that incredible flavor.
Something you always have in your fridge?
Something I always keep in my fridge is mustard. I have Dijon, whole-grain, yellow and honey mustard in there right now. Those jars live right next to the other essential in my fridge, dill pickes. They are probably my favorite snack and pair very well with mustard on a sandwich.
The perfect taste?
The perfect taste to me is a dish my father’s mother made. It was similar to a traditional chicken and dumplings, which is popular down south. But she hand rolled noodles that were always speckled with a bit of black pepper. Then they were incorporated in a slow cooked chicken stock that she would have on the stove simmering all day. It was always well seasoned and such a comfort growing up. My dad, cousins, sister and I all try to recreate it the way she made it for us. We are getting pretty good, but she had a special touch. There was always a lot of love in that dish. I think the perfect taste is really simple, fresh baked bread with a little seasoned olive oil.
Your first camera? The subject of your first photo? The very first camera I had was a Polaroid and I’m pretty sure my first subject was my Siamese cat named Lipstick.
Is there a metaphor in your food pictures?
As far as there being a metaphor in my work, I really enjoy playing with the shapes and colors of fruits and vegetable and the connections they have to man made objects. If anything, these photographs are about exploring spatial relationships. I think when I look back at the work, years from now, a hidden metaphor may be revealed to me.
How do you know a food photo is valid and well executed? Is there a difficult photo you will want to take?
However, there was a still life image that I took, that was a reference to a past hang-up I had about the combination of fruit and cream. When I was a teenager I tried to convince everyone around me that this was a hideous combination. I have since grown out of such passionate feelings, but thought it was a funny image to create. The next series of photos I want to take are based on a collaboration with a friend of mine, who commissioned me to make a ceramic pizza for her girlfriend. Ceramics has been a great outlet for me when I am not taking photos, so naturally I would like to marry the two processes. I would like to create a ceramic feast and document the objects in a formal setting. It’s still an idea in its infancy so we will see how it pans out.
S.Pellegrino and Food for Soul, the non-profit organisation founded by Lara Gilmore and chef Massimo Bottura, form a new global partnership to drive social and environmental change and promote a sustainable food culture.