Giving a Fresh Eye to a Classic—and Quivery—Dessert

Some parts of this photo series by photographer Jarren Vink look like amberized sap straight out of Jurassic Park ; others could be torn from a 1950s cookbook. But all of them give a fresh eye to Jell-O, a classic childhood dessert—and surprising food-photography challenge. The stuff jiggles and slides, which makes for a very ornery subject. Vink specializes in still life and food photography, so we asked him about the process and the tribulations of shooting the quivering confection.

I had an industry friend text me a long time ago and it simply said: JELL-O. He is in the fashion side of the industry, but follows my work and is inspired by still life. He was sort of baiting me into working with something non-traditional, although I think we all have a little nostalgia for Jell-O. I wrote it down with the rest of my personal work ideas and it sat on that list for a little while until I started assembling a team of stylists that I thought would be good for this.

Michelle Gatton and I have worked on a number of different personal and commercial food projects and I knew she would be up for creating some funky Jell-O molds. Matthew Gleason is a fantastic stylist and I knew he would bring great props and source some off-beat wallpapers that would make this project pop. From there it took us about a year to get our schedules to align and make it all happen—and once that happened, we shot it in one day.

For this project, Michelle actually used Knox Gelatin, a brand older than Jell-O that was created by Charles Knox before the turn of the century after watching his wife make gelatin at home. There weren’t many troubles with shooting the molds from a lighting perspective. I worked with strobes and kept the lights further away to avoid any overheating. The largest challenge rested on Michelle: she created the molds and ensured they remained intact when being removed.

After we got our styled shots, we went a little crazy and smashed the molds and ended up shooting some abstract ‘pieces’ of gelatin. — As told to Anna Alexander

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