While my mind keeps getting fuller, I try to get my drawers emptier. I had been holding onto a collection of restaurant condiment packets since graduate school at Ohio University with the idea of photographing each one. I think I was going to undertake this project as an independent study to tackle a 4"x5" view camera, but instead went for a more modest approach with a medium format camera and just photographed bar toilets instead. At any rate, I had carried these little packets of memories around long enough. These were photographed with a 50mm lens and some macro filters. I was - and still am - captivated by these little items for many reasons. They are ubiquitous objects which are overlooked, disposable, and easily forgotten, yet serve a utility that speaks to our cultural habits, typographic trends, graphic design, packaging, and even business and agricultural infrastructure. (These all came from Athens, Ohio USA. Ever wonder how far away your strawberry jam was made?)
Even now, some of these designs are dated, and I find my favorite ones are the ones that I am sure still look the same now as they did then, and I suspect have looked that way for years if not decades before. My guess, and my hope is that some of these are still sitting on the counter at the Pita Pit, China King, and Souvlaki's - and not just for sentimental reasons. Some of these beauties demonstrate sound and practical design tactics. Graphic design trends come and go as much as the marketing strategies that dictate it, (strategies which are in turn governed by our cultural biases, desires, and insecurities) especially when communicating what we eat and the ideas the reflect the notions of the time. Is what looked tasty even a handful of years ago, look tasty now? Did it ever? I guess the same holds true for hot sauce as many things in life; what once was good will always be good.
All items collected in Athens Ohio, USA in the winter of 2004. By Todd Roeth.