'Nearly Eternal': food-art that’s too good to eat

The photographer Norbert Schoerner has turned his camera to the subject of food, working alongside Tokyo-based art director Steve Nakamura to create a sublime and mysterious portfolio of solitary meals, obscure ingredients and improbable still lives

A slice of cheesecake on a table surrounded by shards of a broken white plate
Norbert Schoerner and Steve Nakamura have collaborated on Nearly Eternal, a celebration of the obscure and improbable in futuristic food art
(Image credit: Norbert Schoerner and Steve Nakamura)

The photographer Norbert Schoerner has turned his camera to the subject of food, working alongside Tokyo-based art director Steve Nakamura to create a sublime and mysterious portfolio of solitary meals, obscure ingredients and improbable still lives.

Nearly Eternal is not an everyday foray into edible imagery. Schoerner is an acclaimed and accomplished photographer, a pioneer of digital imagery with numerous fashion credits to his name and has long-running collaborations with The Face, Dazed & Confused and the Chapman Brothers. The German photographer’s partnership with Nakamura – another regular collaborator – treats food and its accessories as if they were props in an ongoing but obscure narrative. Both men revel in the use of rich blocks of colour and abstract forms, as well as the physicality of working with real things in real places.

Nearly Eternal revels in juxtaposition and artifice, whether it’s enticing or jarring (a smashed glass amidst melted ice, a strawberry against fake green fingernails). The result highlights not just the absurdity of hyper-styled food photography but the transient nature of food itself.

A slice of toast with a knob of butter and a scoop of jam, next to a salt shaker and a piece of raw meat

Simple food items morph into props over the course of the series

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

A fork holds up some pasta from a bowl, but there is no-one holding the fork

A meal without an eater – Nearly Eternal plays with the concept of 'food as display', something to be admired and not consumed...

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

An orange, an apple and a pear on a table-top. A grasshopper is on top of the apple

... which touches upon the inherent irony of the 'food book' – at its heart, food photography creates images that 'look too good to eat', as seen in this almost-too-perfect, potentially plastic fruit

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

A creme caramel, ice cream with a drizzle of sauce, orange segments and a cherry

The dilemma: how to capture to the transcient nature of food via the distinctly un-transcient form of still photography, which by very definition can only capture a moment?

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

Two egg yolks are delicately suspended between pincer-like chopsticks, mimicking a hanging kumquat and testing our sensory perception

Schoerner tackles this by making each dish an art work, something intended to last, and Nakamura makes each photograph a beautiful record, together forming something which is 'nearly eternal', despite the subject's perishable nature. Pictured: two egg yolks are delicately suspended between pincer-like chopsticks, mimicking a hanging kumquat and testing our sensory perception 

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

A plate of food sits on a table in an otherwise empty dining room

The role of 'eater' or 'restaurant-goer' is never filled – chairs remain empty and forks remain clean – which forces the reader into the position of 'eater', visually tasting and sampling each meal

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

A grasshopper sits on top of an apple beside the words "nearly eternal"

Nearly Eternal will be available from December

(Image credit: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner)

INFORMATION

Nearly Eternal by Norbert Schoerner and Steve Nakamura, Chance Publishing (an imprint of Claire de Rouen Books) limited to 500 copies. Available from December, from Claire de Rouen's website (opens in new tab)

Photography: Steve Nakamura and Norbert Schoerner. Courtesy Claire de Rouen Books

ADDRESS

Claire de Rouen
First Floor
125 Charing Cross Road
London, WC2H 0EW

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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.