Refrigerator Portaits

Refrigerator Portaits

There’s a small honors class I’ve taught for several years at Michigan State University about industrial food. It’s an interdisciplinary class, and over the semester the students and I explore industrial food from all kinds of angles, using approaches from history, sociology, economics, philosophy, nutrition science, anthropology, and more. The class is designed to get students talking to each other, to get them used to presenting their work in public spaces, and in general to get them out of their comfort zones in the service of making them think. The assignment that makes them most uncomfortable at first but which, I’ve found, yields high returns in terms of thoughtfulness and reflection, is one I call “Refrigerator Photography.” This is what I tell students: “For this assignment, you will find someone willing to let you photograph their refrigerator – ideally with little or no advance warning. You don't want them to clean or prune it before you get there. The person you...
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