It’s hard to find a quotidian activity, event or scenario that hasn’t already been touched, and then fancified, by a fashion photographer or a creative director. There’s Arthur Elgort in a grocery store’s parking lot with Kate Moss, Steven Meisel in a racquetball court or at a bus stop, Peter Lindbergh walking dogs with Naomi Campbell, Bruce Weber on a camping trip with Kate and a bottle of insect repellent. There’s Zoe Ghertner in a tire yard with a Chanel bowler hat or in Proenza on a trampoline, Venetia Scott shooting hoops with Lindsey Wixson, Elaine Constantine at a child’s birthday party, Will Davidson with Camilla Deterre at the dry cleaner’s, and you know, Leandra Medine Cohen with Svetlana foam-rolling in Prada…
Is there any uncharted territory left? Any terrestrial space where fashion photography can make the everyday glamorous, posh, fantastical, in a new way?
…Which led me to this very question: Where in the name of good blouses and big earrings are the pie eating contests?
Three summers ago, from the humble grandstand of Maine’s Blue Hill Fair (the same fair that inspired Charlotte’s Web and Zuckerman’s famous pig, Wilbur), I watched the Wild Blueberry Pie Eating Contest. When a winner was declared, all the contestants lifted their faces caked in blueberry slime — a beautiful sight in its absurdity. They looked like they were in need of a buttermilk bath, the kind Wilbur used to get before showtime. And they knew it. The moment lasted a split-second before each contestant lunged in the direction of the nearest paper towel roll. And with that snapshot caught before my eyes, an idea began to brew in my head.
I attended several other pie eating contests for “research,” elbowing my way to the front of the crowd with a camera in hand, square in the sun. As a reputation developed for my bizarre preoccupation, friends and family knew where they could find me should I go MIA on the fairgrounds or at Fourth of July festivities.
This brings us to the Man Repeller Pie Eating Contest. I’ll set the scene:
In the first few moments of the contest, our characters’ names are picked at random from a hat. (Some brave sports volunteered themselves, while others fell victim to prankster pals who offered them up unknowingly.) Lined up at a folding table, shoulder to shoulder, the contestants scope out their competition. They’re wearing four alternatives to that ubiquitous off-the-shoulder blouse, plus one polo shirt if you shop in the men’s section. Further down the line, there are a couple white button-downs in the mix practical enough for the task at hand.
At the sound of a whistle blow, they dive in with hands behind their backs. Now that’s good form.
One of our fiercest contestants, Janelle, digs right into Four and Twenty Blackbirds’ Strawberry Balsamic pie, then comes up for air: “Feels like pressing your face in mud.”
Photography, Creative Direction & Casting: Edith Young
Styling: Harling Ross
Styling and Market Assistant: Elizabeth Tamkin
Production: Emily Zirimis, Louisiana Mei Gelpi & Ana Tellez
Makeup: Allie Smith & Regard Tang
Models: Lara Helmer and Sophie Debacker of Heroes Models, Makala Johnson and Janelle Franklin of Wilhelmina, Matthew Logos & Elizabeth McAvoy
Pies courtesy of: Petee’s Pie, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and Butter & Scotch