Food: Get your laughing gear round that

Kate Plumb's images of creamy concoctions and suggestive sausages prick the pomposity of much contemporary food photography. Caroline Stacey enjoys a bit of sauce
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Indy Lifestyle Online
How do these tickle your (fondant) fancy? Kate Plumb's photographs subvert the conventions of food photography as we've come to know and love and want to eat it. The 34 year old, who is better known for exquisitely poised fashion still lifes in magazines like Arena, and campaigns for the Pied a Terre shoe chain, has been using her spare time to lay bare some ideas about how we think about food. This deliberately Seventies suggestiveness makes a refreshing - if not necessarily appetising - antidote to the seriousness with which food is usually shown.

Most contemporary photography treats us either to the elaborate perfection of a chef's creation, architectural marvels fashioned from luxurious hand- picked produce, or to close-up home cooking with its irresistible imperfections - the crunchy, slightly burnt bits, the oozing, glistening juiciness of earthy ingredients.

These established practices highlight the sensual, inspire respect for the quality of the raw materials, and encourage worship of food in a way the British were embarrassed to do a few years ago. Back then food's potential for offering sensual pleasure was denied. But nothing could stop people realising that some sorts of food looked naughty, and applying their own brand of sauciness to it - not Daddy's or HP - for a guaranteed laugh.

Plumb's pictures strip food of its modern glamour and take us back to the days of saveloys and Jammy Dodgers, in all their lurid glory. The images are not so much sordid as lascivious in the tradition of `Readers' Wives'. Whether or not there's someone doing something suggestive, many of the photographs are straightforward double entendres that remind us how strong is the link between sex and food.

Some of the images celebrate the synthetic: the sausage padded out with rusk, the pretty pink cake which has the texture of a bran tub at a village fete. They remind us that however sophisticated we think we've become, this kind of food still exists alongside the dishes so beautifully depicted in cookbooks and magazines. It also represents a peculiarly British view of food. And only a British person can appreciate how an uncooked chicken leg has skin as goosepimpled as a half-naked body on Blackpool beach on a breezy Bank Holiday.

Plumb, who grew up in Preston, Lancashire, describes her show as the edible equivalent of getting all dressed up to go out on Saturday night wearing white stilettos and with bare legs mottled with cold like corned beef.

She is the first to admit she's not trying to get into food photography - the sort that makes dishes look good enough to eat. This collection is her bit on the side.

Kate Plumb's photographs are exhibited at Bierodrome, 173 Upper Street, London N1 (0171-226 5835) until 31 May. Simon Hopkinson is away. He returns on 5 June.

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