Photo Exhibit

What does food security mean to you? The Feeding Cities Photography Exhibit features images that illuminate the complex systems of food production, distribution, consumption and nutrition in the face of rapid urban population growth and climate change.

Contributing artists were asked to submit a description of the conditions under which each photograph was made,  describing his or her relationship or arrangement with the photographic subject, as well as the “who, what, where, and when” of the photograph. Read through the image descriptions below.

1. Lettuce Shank Design: To increase growers' profitability, the University of Arizona Agriculture Extension Program conducts research and education programs on food safety, fertilizer, pest control, mechanization, and seed stock. Yuma Extension Officer Kurt Nolte explains that some crops resist mechanization—"No machine is as good as the human eye at harvesting head lettuce, broccoli and celery"—so human harvesters and their tools are also studied. Experimental lettuce knives with different shank designs are being tested in an Agriculture Extension lab to determine the relationship between shank shape and rates of E Coli contamination in harvested lettuce.

2. Walls: The concrete walls surrounding Maputo’s informal neighborhoods are commonly painted with bright, commanding food advertisements. Food product marketing is often directed at children and young adults who are considered more responsive to the socialization of diet preferences by food companies and retailers.

3. Night Market: Bright white lights have replaced candles and duller, less efficient lights in many outdoor markets in Delhi, India.

4. Nepali Food Cart: A woman is selling food off of a small cart – a very typical scene in many countries in the developing world. In a country like Nepal, there are very few Western-type supermarkets, and most food is sold either in open-air markets or off of carts like this one.

5. Livestock Auction: Cajamarca is a major dairy-producing center in the highlands of Peru. People bring all kinds of animals – cattle, pigs, sheeps, goats, chickens, turkeys, llamas, alpacas – to the auction to sell, and it can become quite packed on any given day!

6. Mexicali Canal: Workers construct a new canal in one of the Mexicali valley’s hardest hit irrigation modules.

7. Mexicali Crop Duster: A crop duster sprays a green alfalfa field in an aquifer-reliant area of the Mexicali valley.

8. Cans: Taken at SHARE, an Emergency Food Distribution Center, the composition of the wrapped plastic stretched to the edge indicates that these cans could go on forever.  I was interested in the plastic’s ability to shield the inner cans from full recognition of what they might contain.

9. Beak Trimmed Chicken: Beak-trimmed chicken at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.  Modern climate and disease-controlled enclosures house thousands of beak-trimmed birds and supply a reliable and cheap source of protein to the food system.

10. Gather and Distribute: Periodic food drives collect packaged foods to be given out to those who simply cannot afford to buy daily food staples. Community support networks rely on those who can afford to give, and in tough economic times there are often inconsistencies in the ratio between donations and need.

11. I'm Lovin' It: Luxor, Egypt, is a city on the Nile popular with tourists because of its stunning ancient temples and tombs. Looking back now in the context of the current political activism and unrest, it's fascinating to see little snippets of American consumer culture embedded in my shots. The many Mickey D's did solve one particular tourist challenge, however: the restrooms were always open.

12. Harare Heaps: Waste management is not a priority in some urban areas in developing countries. Communities have carved out roads and paths amongst trash in this neighborhood outside Harare, Zimbabwe.

13. City Green:This garden highlights the duality of Philadelphia: there can be green even among concrete.

14. Food Preferences of Broccoli Eaters: The invasive African water bug Bagrada hillaris arrived in Los Angeles County in 2008 and has rapidly expanded its territory in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. The bug prefers to feed on cruciferous hosts in the Brassicaceae family (broccoli and cauliflower), key rotation crops in the Southwest. Feeding preference studies like the one shown are used to explore possible modifications of broccoli seed to produce plants that are less appealing to the African water bug, but still palatable to humans.

15. Interviews: Over the summer of 2012, the Rebel Gardeners maintained a plot in the largest community garden in Philadelphia, the Eastwick Community Garden. Along with planting and harvesting, the Rebel Gardeners also interviewed their neighbor gardeners to document and learn from their vast experience and wisdom.

16. Pots and Baskets: Repeated forms of boxes and pots occupy the shelves right before a member pickup of vegetable shares.

17. Namdaemun Market: One of the most famous markets in the country.  Vendors sell fresh fish at local stands in the alleys between the vendor shops. The fish is delivered daily to the market as locals and tourists flock for the wares and authentic eating.

18. Sprinklers and Seed: Increasing irrigation efficiency is not a vital concern of growers in the southwestern United States. The prices of other farm inputs have climbed, driving innovation in technology and practice, but public subsidies and management of water reduce pressure on individual growers to adapt to drought and supply volatility. Sprinkler irrigation is used widely only before seeds germinate. Once sprouts and roots are established, raised furrows are flood-irrigated.

19. Ham, Beans & Salad: Main Street in front of a small church. The car in the reflection was the only car outside.

20. Traditional Fish Boil: Fish are caught locally in the lake and then, after a fire is lit in a large pit with wood, are boiled in a cast iron pot and served fresh with potatoes.

21. Pelkey's Blueberry Farm: Pelkey’s Blueberry Farm in Charlotte, VT, has over a dozen blueberry varieties and offers U-pick blueberries at $2/pound. They also have a blueberry wine line that is divine. They know every variety, will guide you through the vineyards, and are grateful and delighted about their family business.

22. Cook: A cook trying to kindle a fire in his stove.

23. Fruit Market: A shop owner with produce that comes exclusively from Puerto Rico at a local fruit market just outside the Caribbean National Forest in Sabana, Puerto Rico. Fresh food is a staple for every meal in Puerto Rico.

24. Chips and Feed: Byproducts from Herr’s potato chips production are fed to dairy and beef cattle. If you look closely, you may recognize some of the snacks we like to eat – chips, Cheez Doodles, Chex Mix. Byproducts from many industries are fed to livestock, making great use of food products that would otherwise be thrown away. 

25. Buy Local: When I asked her opinion about the issue of food security, the woman selling produce at the local farmer’s market who grew these vegetables simply stated “No farms, no food.” With many farmers selling land to housing developers because the economics of farming has changed, this statement is on the minds of many.

26. Allmende-Kontor: The “Allmende-Kontor” garden sits on the far eastern side of Tempelhof, Berlin’s abandoned center‐city airfield. The 365 vacant hectares are currently in the process of becoming a park via the design initiative Tempelhofer Freiheit, which encourages “pioneers” to develop interim-use projects to bring new life to the site on designated “pioneer fields”.

27. Über Lebenkunst: A festival held in Berlin brought international visitors together to explore possibilities for fostering comfortable, modern sustainable lifestyles in the city. Upon returning from a tour of Berlin’s traditional urban garden spaces, the tour group encountered models of hydroponic agriculture: lettuce growing on the water filled entrance of the festival headquarters, Das Haus der Kulturen Der Welt (House of World Cultures).


Congratulations to the award winning photographers!

Congratulations to: Catherine Brinkley (Beak Trimmed Chicken) - Outstanding Submission Food Production; Jacob Rivkin (Cans) - Outstanding Submission Food Distribution; Serena Stein (Walls) - Outstanding Submission Food Consumption/Nutrition.


The Penn Institute for Urban Research, in partnership with a university-wide faculty steering committee, organized the exhibition. An interdisciplinary jury evaluated all submissions, selected works to be included, and awarded the three prizes.

Selected images were included in Feeding Cities, a juried exhibition, originally held March 7th-21st in the Morgan Fine Arts Gallery on the UPenn campus (205 South 34th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104).

Thank you to all the Penn Staff, Students, Faculty, and Alumni who submitted their work.

For background on the exhibition content, read our "Food Security 101" overview.