Farm-to-Fork to Photography
Photographer Gail Skoff donates food and wine images to UC Davis Library
Tastescapes: Celebrating the Food and Wine Photography of Gail Skoff
Thursday, December 14
4:00 to 5:30 p.m.
Shields Library Lobby
Join us in celebrating Skoff’s gift to the library. Explore an exhibition of selected works and talk with the artist. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Must be 21+ to attend. Register.
Photographer Gail Skoff, whose work is featured in cookbooks that are integral to the Northern California food movement, has donated a number of pieces from her personal collection to the UC Davis Library.
The photographs — which focus on the subjects of food, wine and agriculture — are on display in the lobby of the Peter J. Shields Library and, through Dec. 17, at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.
A beginning tied to Ansel Adams
Skoff became interested in photography in high school when she had the opportunity to visit Ansel Adams’ studio and talk to the world-famous photographer.
“To be in his studio and see these incredibly gorgeous photographs showed everyone there that this medium could produce results that were beautiful and emotionally moving,” she said. “That really opened me up to the possibility that photography could be an important way to express myself.”
Inspired by food and wine
Skoff is well known for her photographs of food and wine from Italy and France — places she has visited alongside her husband, Kermit Lynch, and son, Anthony Lynch, both of whom are wine merchants. These photographs, several of which are part of the donation to the UC Davis Library, include landscapes, close-up photos of vineyards, and behind-the-scenes portraits of winemakers, tasters and workers from the 1980s to present.
During these wine-tasting trips, Skoff often found herself spending time in French and Italian kitchens where she was exposed to very different ways of cooking compared to her Los Angeles upbringing. Those experiences shaped Skoff’s view of food as a subject to photograph.
“I was taking portraits of carrots and tomatoes, as well as people,” she said. “I think that grew out of the time I spent in the kitchens in France and seeing the care that went into meal making; where ingredients were respected and important.”
A carrot (at left) and tomato (at right) from Gail Skoff’s “Natural Wonders,” a series of close-up, black-and-white images of plants, fruits and vegetables depicted in such a way that their form mimics human anatomy (Courtesy of Gail Skoff)
A connection with the Northern California Food Movement
In addition to being renowned for her photography, Skoff is also known for her collaborative friendships with well-known winemakers and chefs who have been integral to the Northern California food movement — also known as the farm-to-table food movement — which emphasizes organic and biodynamic farming, farmers’ markets and artisanal food making as key elements of California cuisine. Skoff has collaborated with Alice Waters, the first woman to be named Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, and her photographs appear in Chez Panisse Cooking, which Waters co-authored with chef Paul Bertolli, as well as the book Lulu’s Provencal Table, which was written by Skoff’s friend Richard Olney. Helen L. Horowitz also wrote about Skoff in the book A Taste for Provence.
Skoff’s photography joins the archives of the late activist and educator Isao Fujimoto and California chefs Cindy Pawlcyn and Joyce Goldstein, which are also part of the library’s growing collections on the Northern California Food Movement.
Using images as a way to learn
Skoff said she made the gift to the UC Davis Library because it fits with her desire to use photography to help people see the world in a new way.
“It just seemed like the perfect place for my photographs because it’s an audience that is interested in agriculture and, therefore, might be interested in learning about where I’ve been and how things we do here in California — like farming or wine making — are done in other places,” she said. “Photography can share different viewpoints. By sharing your own particular experience, your own view of things, you can open up other people’s viewpoints, perhaps helping them to learn and experience the world in a different way.”