One activity I always find enjoyable when visiting a new country for the first time is taking an informal tour of a local, well-stocked supermarket. Doing so usually provides insight into the general tastes of those I am choosing to temporarily live among. For, there might be some truth in the old, somewhat cliché pronouncement that the food makes the (hu)man. If the above adage is true, then instant noodles undoubtedly make up an overwhelming percentage of regional cuisine, and therefore the body mass of the local population. Over the past few years, I have started taking photos inside and around local supermarkets, to contemplate the reasons for the variations in flavor of these noodles. For example, I expected an artificial seafood tang to dominate near coastal areas, while msg-inhanced beef-stock varieties settled more within the interior. To be honest though, this train of thought was little more than a convenient excuse to take photos of what I like best, the banal, washed up, ordinary moments within which, there is little excuse to project anything other than what truly is.
In the photo above we see a glut of instant ramyeon boxes slowly being unloaded from the back of a one ton box truck. While the boxes themselves may contain icons of shrimp, or vegetables, the most natural element to the scene above comes from the intrusion of rain into the scene from the top-left corner of the frame. Off frame, to the right, a small local supermarket, just three isles deep, awaits this shipment. Overall, if shot on color film, there would be little color to show. Simple, dry, off-white tones dominate both the boxes in this scene, as well as the dehydrated nuggets of nourishment contained within their innermost cores. What importance such variety can suggest to the physical and psychological needs of those who often indulge in such delights, I will likely never know. For now, I am content to look from the outside in, amazed by the ordering of the mundane.
[Image taken using a Contax T2 shooting Kodak Tri-x.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)