Color Sells: Nickolas Muray's Food Photography : The Picture Show Today it seems like everyone is a food photographer. But that was not always the case. Nickolas Muray was a pioneer of color food photography, way back when the process was complicated.
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Color Sells: Nickolas Muray's Food Photography

If you are a fencer, you might know Nickolas Muray (1892–1965) as a 1928 and 1932 Olympian. Others might know him best for his color photographs of Frida Kahlo. He brought his exacting skills and passion to photography, creating luscious portraits and saturated images that would seduce viewers.

Muray was an early adapter of the three-color carbro process. Having worked in the magazine business making color separations for Vanity Fair and Vogue, it did not take long for him to become a master of the complicated process. Today, the photographs retain a vibrancy close to the way they appeared some seventy-five years ago, thanks to built-up layers of pigments and the lack of any tarnishing silver halides.

In 1935, Nickolas Muray won a contract with McCall’s to create color photographs for their homemaking and food pages. He used the color carbro process to make rich and — debatably — enticing photographs of food spreads for the magazine and for other advertisers through the 1950s. These images should be seen within the context of commercial photography, with attention to the use of color to garner the reader’s attention. Some of the images may seem to have odd compositions; that was because text would be placed on the image. The doll frying an egg, though? That one is just weird.

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