Food waste might be the last thing patrons expect to see on display at this year’s reimagined Saratoga Wine & Food Festival—but when it’s as beautiful as photographer Terri-Lynn Pellegri makes it look, it’s hard to keep one’s eyes off it.
As you might remember, Pellegri unveiled her composting series back in May at Uncommon Grounds, where it stayed for the entire month. The series that ran at Uncommon will be getting an encore, along with a number of never-before-seen images, at this year’s festival, which takes place October 4-5 at the Saratoga Spa State Park and will be hosted by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).
“I’m exhibiting a collection of photographs that many people would consider garbage,” she says, with a laugh. Pellegri, who captures photos of organic waste in the kitchen (mostly her own), has mastered the art of stunning still life photography, with works that pop with vibrant colors and display tremendous complexity. (Yes, we’re still talking about moldy avocados, cherry pits, watermelon rinds and everything else you’d toss in your compost pile at home.) Pellegri’s work turned out to be an easy sell to the festival’s organizers. “[President and CEO of SPAC] Elizabeth Sobol invited me to participate in the festival,” says Pellegri. “She loved the images, and with the festival’s new theme of nature, of sustainability, everything just fell into place.”
On Friday night, in time for the brand-new farm-to-table harvest dinner event, Pellegri’s 33 photographs will be on display, 14 of which will be mounted on large canvases (about 24 x 30 inches) spread out across a 50-foot wall. (They’ll also be there Saturday, too, for the Grand Tasting.) The other 19 photos will be displayed throughout the same space as framed panel images mounted on pillars. In all, the exhibition will highlight a mix of work from Pellegri’s previous Love Compost collection, as well as seven never-before-seen photos from her most recent work, entitled COMPOSiTions, which features food waste from Saratoga Springs’ restaurants and businesses that compost as a regular practice. “The original works [from Love Compost] were personal observations of my own home cooking,” says Pellegri. “These newer photos are a bit different [and] reflect the businesses that compost here, such as Caffè Lena or Saratoga Tea & Honey.”
Pellegri started composting regularly six years ago and says she was “jazzed” by the results and reduction in her at-home waste. And then, one morning, the glass jar full of compost she kept in her kitchen caught her eye in a new way. “The light came through it by the kitchen sink, and I said, ‘Wow, I like what’s happening there,'” says Pellegri. “I grabbed my phone and began photographing it. I found myself doing it again and again and again until I realized that I’d found some beauty somewhere.” Pellegri turned this little compost-shooting obsession into a daily practice that eventually yielded Love Compost and now her second, more collaborative collection, COMPOSiTions.
Three years in, and Pellegri’s still finding inspiration in her compost. She’s looking forward to, perhaps, sparking some interesting conversations about her work at the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival. “I’m so excited to be a part of it, because I love photographing food,” says Pellegri. “It’s just another way to see food differently and see the beauty in what we usually perceive as waste.”