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Food is intimate.

The human body is intimate.

Why shouldn’t these two things go together?

They are both sensual. Tactile. Flavorful.

They both give pleasure.

The human body is quite possibly the most represented subject of artistic expression. And food photography a is hot commodity, as we see from the proliferation of images that flood the web today. Now the two have been married in a new book. James Beard Award-winning Chef Tiberio Simone’s first book ‒ La Figa: Visions of Food & Form, with photography by local Seattle photographer, Matt Freedman,  will debut this weekend at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival (May 20-22) .

The book is filled with stunning photos of nude bodies artistically decorated with fresh food, delicious recipes for sharing food and touch with a loved one, and Tiberio’s amusing stories of growing up in Italy, his life-long love of food and how he has come to be the “Pleasure Activist” that he is today. I  recently got a sneak peek at this unique book and had the opportunity to speak with Tiberio and Matt about La Figa.

Tell me about La Figa. What should people know about this book?

“When I think of beauty, I think of art, food and touch as the basic ingredients. That’s what it is all about. It is a playful book, full of recipes for food, love and life.”  – Tiberio

I read that it took you five years to put this book together. Why so long?

“We took our time to find diversity in our models. It was very easy in the beginning since we used actual models, but we soon discovered that it was important to us to show a variety of body types. Fruits and vegetables are different shapes and sizes, and so are people –  a wide range of ages, shapes, and colors are represented in the book.  When we would find the right ‘real’ people it was difficult to convince them to actually take their clothes off. (Of course, now that the book is coming out and people see what we have done, they are lining up to model for us!) In addition, each shoot was very time intensive, after finding the right model and food, testing each particular body to food sensitivities and then creating the look, a shoot could take anywhere from two to six hours to find the perfect pose. We were looking for that one shot. Matt and I sometimes did not agree  – but we learned to compromise. ”  – Tiberio

What has been the reception to this new concept among those that you have shown it to?

“People love it! Though women seem to be more comfortable with it than men. We are too taboo about nudity. The most beautiful thing that I have seen is people sharing the book with their kids. I do hope that we will see more of this. We need to start to show nudity in this county. It is just the human body without clothes. In Italy children will see this book, it’s just part of the culture.  ” – Tiberio

How did you get your ideas and what was your creative process like?

“I would be at the grocery store and I would look at some fresh produce, and then I would see a woman and I would think, ‘how would this look on that body?’. ” – Tiberio

“We had a sort of synergy working together. I would fine tune the lighting and we would shoot from every possible angle and get every pose we could. Eventually we would find it.” – Matt

What were some of your biggest challenges in creating this book?

“Our biggest challenge really was finding models as I mentioned before. But another one of our big challenges was using fresh food. The body is organic and we chose to use fresh ingredients that are also organic – fruits and vegetables mostly, and the body would just suck out all the juices so that the food would dry out. We also had to play around quite a bit with the ‘glue’ that we used to adhere the food to the body. I use only natural, edible ingredients, and it could be difficult at times to find the right glue that worked with the model’s skin oils and the particular food being used. What would work on one body with one food item wouldn’t work for another combination. But actually, by using some of the various types of adhesives to create designs on the body, we ultimately ended up with some of our favorite shots.” – Tiberio

What foods did you find most troubling to work with?

“My least favorite food to work with was anything that ended in the word, ‘apple’, like ‘apple’…’pineapple’. It just doesn’t work well on the skin and doesn’t look good. ” – Tiberio

What was is your favorite photo in the book?

“My favorite photo from the book changes. Recently it’s been the cover image, but when I look at the book again I will see a photograph differently, and have a new favorite. It used to be that my favorite was the very first shoot that we did where I covered a woman’s body completely with cucumber slices like scales on a fish. This photo reminds me of the playfulness of food – like when I was a child and we would put cucumbers down our pants and stand on the corner, laughing and waiting for others to notice us.” – Tiberio

I was struck by the simplicity of the recipes.

“Yes, the ‘recipes’. They are not truly recipes but more guidelines for how to share food with your loved one. You will notice that there are no quantities given. For instance there are instructions on how to make a raspberry necklace. You can’t really make a recipe for that. I can do more complex stuff, but these are all the foods I use for seduction and I just wanted to show the simplicity of the food.” – Tiberio

You have been called, and now use the title, “Pleasure Activist”. What do you want to tell me about that?

“What else would he be?” –Matt

“I am a chef who is very passionate about sensuality. I give pleasure though food and I receive pleasure by giving pleasure. With this book I hope to give more.  Food and the body – two basic ingredients for pleasure. One for the inside and the other for the outside. It is very simple. People need to do two things – eat well and make love.” -Tiberio

La Figa: Visions of Food and Form will have its world premiere at the 2011 Seattle Erotic Art Festival the weekend of May 20-22. The La Figa Café – will feature a 600 square foot art installation (and working café) built around the project. You will see their photos in a format like you have never them seen before; be hand-fed a selection of Tiberio’s sensual chocolate and citrus treats; become the art as Tiberio decorates festival-goers with food; and of course get your copy of La Figa signed.

  • Book Signing
    Saturday, May 21 – 4:30 to 6pm
    (They will be available to sign at other times as well – just ask)
  • Live Food Art
    Friday, May 20 – Noon to 4pm, and 8pm to 10pm
    Saturday, May 21 – Noon to 4pm, and 8pm to 10pm
    Sunday, May 22 – 11am to 8pm