Sacramento Farmers and Chefs Highlighted in Farm-to-Fork Photography Series

Sacramento is America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, and it’s about far more than food – local photographer Janine Mapurunga says it is part of every aspect of life in California’s capital city, and she sees the arts reflecting the emphasis on eating local.

“Food is a very visual thing,” Mapurunga said. “I think that people who work with food, whether they’re growing the food or preparing it – the people who are really good, they do it with their gut. They’re also very attuned aesthetically, and that’s what photography is all about.”

Janine Mapurunga

Janine Mapurunga

In a new photography series called Sacramento Farmers and Chefs, Mapurunga is highlighting the faces of the people who grow and produce the city’s farm-to-fork fare.

Mapurunga, who is originally from Brazil, said she got her start in photography with a cheap camera her grandmother gave her for Christmas when she was a child.

As an exchange student in the Sacramento area during high school, she honed her photography skills as she fell in love with the city. She later came to teach photography at a local community college before spending time in San Francisco, Europe and Sri Lanka.

“After coming back to Sacramento I noticed there were so many people talking about food,” Mapurunga said. “It’s outrageously good.”

She added that over the past year, her focus has been on local food, from her own backyard vegetable garden to the food sourced by restaurants that comes from just a few miles away – sometimes even being picked from the ground the same day it is served.

Through her photography business, which had oftentimes been dominated by shooting weddings, she met Patrick Mulvaney in 2003. Then in 2007 the chef commissioned her to develop a photo essay called “The Farmer Series”, which is on permanent exhibit at the restaurant’s private events space – Next Door to the B&L. This was her first introduction to local farmers. In 2008 she left for Europe to pursue graduate work in fine arts, returning to Sacramento in 2012, when she called upon her restaurant and farmer contacts and her idea for a close-up portrait series centered on Sacramento’s vibrant food scene was born.

Patrick Mulvaney

Patrick Mulvaney

“This project has very strict parameters,” she said, explaining that she set up a photo studio on the front porch of her East Sacramento home and relies on natural light to shoot the portraits. Due to that, the photos can only be taken at certain times of the day.

“I wanted the white background, and I wanted the lighting to be very consistent,” she said.

In each photograph, the subject is wearing a white T-shirt, and Mapurunga said her focus is on the person – allowing the portrait to depict the farmers’ and chefs’ individuality.

As the series took shape, Mapurunga said she added short interviews to the process. In the interviews, she asks the farmers and chefs questions on how they arrived where they are today.

The exhibit has a Facebook page that highlights the various events surrounding it, and the next event is a “eat-and-greet” dinner scheduled for July 13 with Chef Oliver Ridgeway from Grange.

The main show for the Farmers and Chefs series will open Sept. 14 at Sunh Fish at 19th and V streets during the Second Saturday Art Walk.
Mapurunga said she plans to continue running events around the show, because in the end, it is a melding of art and food.

“There is no place I am able to, with my budget, eat this well other than Sacramento,” Mapurunga said. “I eat like a queen in Sacramento.”