Some people fear the skeletons in their closet. But most of us are probably more self-conscious about the green things growing in our refrigerators.
It’s an idea explored by Mark Menjivar, who spent four years photographing You Are What You Eat, a series featuring the contents of more than 50 refrigerators across the United States, all of which are in their native, often disgusting, state because their owners were never given a chance to clean them out first.
"One person likened me asking to photograph their fridge to me asking them to pose nude for the camera," Menjivar tells Co.Design. "Fridges are funny. We share them, but they can be this really private space. Especially now, I think that the things and ways we eat are so tied to image."
In Menjivar’s hands, the fridge has become a fascinating portrait, an exploration of someone’s character through old Chinese takeout boxes rather than unkempt hair or weathered brows. A bartender in San Antonio sleeps days and works nights. His or her fridge is full of styrofoam boxes and one properly folded American flag. A team of filmmakers stocks little else but beer, wine, and a few types of BBQ sauce. A short-order cook from Marathon, Texas, has a freezer full of flour tortillas and what I’m fairly certain is a rattlesnake. But whatever she’s eating must be working: She can bench over 300 pounds.
"I have found underwear, snakes, pubic hair, bugs, batteries, placentas, a lazy susan, mystery items that not even the owners knew what they were, and more," Mejivar divulges. "I think that the fridge can be a glimpse into a lifestyle that someone is leading. It can never be a full picture, but it can give us hints."
I can’t imagine that moment right after the fact—the handshake good-bye as Menjivar packs up his gear, pretending to have overlooked a stray pube or placenta staring at him in the eerie blue glow of a refrigerator light—accompanied by an excuse, of course, that he’d misread his watch, and that he really didn’t have time to stay for dinner after all.
"You Are What You Eat" will be on display starting December 1 at Brooklyn’s 0.00156 Acres.