Martin Parr’s glorious photos of bad food won’t make you hungry. They might even nauseate you. But you won’t be able to look away.

His new book, with the wry title Real Food, is a gut-busting celebration of everything your mother would never let you eat. It features more than 200 photos of tater tots, sausages, cookie cakes, and disturbing gelatin creations that may or may not have fruit hidden inside. He spent 25 years visiting 36 countries from Chile to Sri Lanka to make these pictures, proving junk food isn’t just an American obsession.

Parr works with a ring flash, macro lens, and a brutal closeness, zooming in on all that cheese and grease. And if you don’t find anything at all appealing here, well, that’s because “good” food doesn’t necessarily make for good photos. “The cheaper the food, usually the better the image looks,” says Parr. This approach runs counter to the current trend in food, where people meticulously position their artisanal donuts, overpriced cocktails, or fusion whatever, then run the image through half a dozen filters to show how #authentic it all is.

Real Food dispenses with such pretensions. Each turkey leg, jelly roll and Jell-O … thing is so unceremoniously presented that you’d think the images were a mistake if they weren’t bound into a lovely book. Nothing that Parr does makes the food look at all appetizing, sitting there on paper plates, styrofoam trays, and chipped dinnerware. It’s the kind of stuff you find in concession stands, truck stops, and bad buffets. And it’s all so much more real than the thoughtful latte pics littering your Instagram feed.

Real Food, Phaidon, 2016.Real Food, Phaidon, 2016.


Fantastic Photos of Terrible Junk Food Around the World