Imagine this perfectly set table: Four glasses of deep red wine next to a double-layered chocolate cake covered in white icing, surrounded by glass dishes with assorted nuts and yellow cookies, all on top of a pewter blue tablecloth speckled with dots that look like raindrops.
Then imagine an angry child came through and stomped on it all - knocking over the wine glasses, smashing the cake and breaking the glass, turning what seemed like an ideal domestic setting into an utter mess.
This is, more or less, what the art of Loyalsock Township native Rachel Bee Porter looks like.
PHOTO By RACHEL BEE PORTER
Porter, who now lives in Pittsburgh, grew up flipping through every home and lifestyle magazine that came her way.
"I devoured every issue of Martha Stewart Living, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping that I could find," she said. "They presented such an alluring and perfect view of domestic life and I bought into the illusion they were creating."
The pristine photos were so well-done that they inspired Porter to want to become a photographer herself.
"I wanted to create those beautiful images, so I ended up pursuing my BFA in commercial photography," she said.
Porter quickly realized that she had a talent for making high-quality food photography, but achieving the lifestyle it promised was much harder.
"I realized that I possessed all of the skills and abilites that I needed to create those enticing images, but that creating the picture-perfect life that accompanied them was much more difficult. In fact, for me, it become unattainable."
Porter's "Joy of Cooking" series evolved out of this frustration and it has yielded many rewards. Recently, a photo from the project won first prize in the Camera Club of New York Annual Juried Competition and was on display in the group's gallery in New York City until Sept. 7.
"It was a really great feeling to win that award," she said. "I remember getting the email with the results of the competition and I almost deleted it! I could see the first two lines of the email on my phone and it opened with the always grim sounding, 'Thank you for submitting. We had hundreds of entries and it was very hard to choose the winners...' The good news was buried somewhere in the third paragraph. So I'm very glad I read the rest of it!"
And now her work is on display as a part of the "There's Something Happening Here" exhibition at the Brancolini Grimaldi gallery in London until Nov. 10.
Porter found out about the possibility to show internationally through a random email.
"James Reid, the photo editor of Wallpaper Magazine, emailed me out of the blue one day to ask if he could include my work in a show that he was curating for the Brancolini Grimaldi gallery in London," she said.
Reid was organizing a show for "emerging photographers" who were "exploring the possibilities of what photography is and can be," according to Porter.
"I felt very honored to be included in this group of photographers," she said.
Porter cooks and destroys all the food herself and said that the "performance" is as important as taking the photograph.
"There's a great deal of performance in my work, with the photograph being the end result," she said. "There's some play between creation and destruction, beauty and horror."
Like many photographers working today, Porter toes the line between working with film and working digitally.
"All of my freelance work is shot digitally," she said. "For my own fine art work, I prefer to shoot on film using a 4-inch-by-5-inch camera. There's just something about film that I love, even though I'm well aware that it's going the way of the dinosaur."
The photographer said that Pittsburgh is a great city for an artist to live in.
"The art scene in Pittsburgh is pretty vibrant," she said. "They have a lot going on. I've been living there for over a year now, and I still feel like I haven't discovered the full extent of it. There are so many museums and galleries there with great programming."
She added that the Williamsport area will always be important to her.
"Since I grew up in Williamsport, it will always have a special place in my heart," she said. "It's been interesting to see how it changed over the years when I come back to visit. It seems like Williamsport keeps growing in regards to its art and cultural scene, which I've been really happy to see."
Porter said that her current project involves flowers but that she didn't want to say too much about it at the moment.
"I don't want to go into a lot of detail quite yet," she said. "I have an idea of what it is that I'm going for and what I want the images to look like but I find that my ideas are better expressed in photos than in words sometimes."
Porter graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in professional photographic illustration from Rochester Institute of Technology and a master of fine arts degree in photography and related media from Parsons the New School for Design in New York City.
For more information about the artist, visit rachelbeeporter.com.