Even if you are very careful about what you eat, how often do you really think about the microscopic structure of the foods you consume? If you’re like most of us, it’s not often. But commercial food photographer Caren Alpert is changing that by putting our foods’ structures on display.
Alpert documents the things we put into our bodies by using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The SEM is a very powerful tool that uses beams of electrons to magnify specimens up to 30,000 times their original size.
The process Alpert uses involves first sending a small sample of food to an SEM lab. Technicians there dehydrate the specimens and coat them in a conductive gold coating.
After the specimens are prepared, Alpert travels to the lab to do the actual photography. She operates the SEM much in the same way as a typical camera and comes up with some truly alien-looking images.
The SEM produces only black and white images, so Alpert colors them during processing to reflect the colors of the original foods.
The images often resemble alien landscapes or natural Earthly formations. Natural foods are far more complex than processed ones, featuring fascinating textures.
Although Alpert’s goal is to get us to look differently at our food, she is not trying to encourage eating one type of food over another. Her approach is purely artistic, highlighting the hidden features of everyday items.