Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
A new series by photographer Henry Hargreaves explores consumers’ relationship to sugary drinks.
During the hullaballoo over super-sized, sugar-riddled sodas—and the ensuing enactment and overturning of a ban in New York City—Brooklyn-based photographer Henry Hargreaves wondered what it would look like to represent that sugar content in a visual way.
He headed to his local bodega to stock up on beverages such as Mountain Dew, Powerade, and Snapple. Then he boiled the water content out of the drinks and poured the remaining sugary syrup into lollipop molds.
“I figure that’s essentially what you’re getting,” he tells CityLab. “Candy in costume as a soft drink.”
The resulting photo series, titled (de)hydrate, depicts the sticky, caramelized substance that’s left behind. The vivid hues pop against the white studio background. There’s something playful about the colors and simple shapes but repulsive about the sticky puddles crowding the frame. It’s not unlike the drinks themselves: appealing, but saccharine.
Food is a recurring theme in Hargreaves’s work, which often explores “how we interact with it and what this says about us,” he says.
“I had plenty of soda as a kid,” Hargreaves adds. “As an adult, I would have it more as a mixer.” He’d recently heard a health professional refer to the beverages as “the cigarettes of our generation.” Now, he says, “I’ll be an even smaller consumer.”