Photographer takes voyeuristic peek inside refrigerators

Mark Menjivar

Would you let someone come into your house and photograph your refrigerator? Weird, right? But also pretty engaging. I mean, talk about feeling like you're peeping at something you shouldn't. 

Photographer Mark Menjivar takes those shots. Some of them make me squirm. Some make me laugh. Some beg to have stories made up about them. 

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: You're a photographer, and there are so many things in the world you could be shooting. Why refrigerators?


Mark Menjivar

Mark Menjivar: A few years ago, I was working on a documentary with another artist and got really interested in food issues. Being a photographer, I tried photographing all different kinds of things, from dining room tables to countertops.

One evening, I walked into the kitchen, opened up the refrigerator door and was just struck by it. I photographed it. And when I got the film back, it was like looking at something I had never looked at before. I saw a refrigerator in a whole new way.

LRK: Your collection includes 12 shots of open refrigerator doors. This is pretty intimate stuff. How did you get people to let you do this?

MM: Over the course of the project, I invited 80 people to be a part of it. Out of that, only three people said no. A big part of their acceptance was just sharing with people why I was doing the project: my passion for food issues and my own curiosity.

LRK: Which ones are particularly intriguing to you?

MM: The one of the botanist in Fort Wayne, Ind., who was really living on the edge of society, experiencing pretty severe mental illness and experiencing food insecurity. There were very few things in his refrigerator: some hotdog buns, an old Pepsi container holding water, a jar of old chili.

On the other end of the spectrum, I think about a midwife here in San Antonio, who has a refrigerator stuffed full of luscious green vegetables from the local farmers market.

With each photograph, there is a little bit of information about the owner -- just enough to be a starting place for the imagination.

LRK: You have one photo of a bartender's fridge that is stuffed with Styrofoam takeout containers.

MM: This guy lives the reverse life of the rest of us. As our days are winding down, he's waking up; as all of us are getting our morning going, he's going to bed. When we were photographing this refrigerator, it stunk so bad we had to close the door three times during the shoot.

But I just went back and photographed some of the same subjects again, and this individual -- he was pretty overweight -- has lost over 100 pounds.

LRK: What does his refrigerator look like now?

MM: All of those takeout containers have been replaced with fresh foods, vegetables and breads. He has completely changed his eating habits.

The 12 featured photos below are just a selection from thousands Menjivar has exhibited at museums and universities across the country.


Owner of Defunct Amusement Park | Alpine, TX | 1-Person Household | Former WW II Prisoner of War


Bar Tender | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily


Carpenter/Photographer | San Antonio, TX | 3-Person Household | 12 Point Buck shot on family property


Construction Worker/House Wife | San Angelo, TX | 4-Person Household | Wakes every morning at 4AM to cook breakfast for family


Delicatessen Attendant | Daphne, AL | 4-Person Household | Disowned by parents because of her interracial marriage


Engineer | Lower Pottsgrove, PA | 17-Person Household | Italian-Puerto Rican Family Reunion


Documentary Film Makers | San Diego, CA | 3-Person Household | Efforts have helped send millions of dollars to children in Uganda


Food Artist | Brooklyn, NY | 1-Person Household | Runs small vegan bakery from her apartment


Midwife/Middle School Science Teacher | San Antonio, TX | 4-Person Household (including dog) | First week after deciding to eat all local produce


Retired High School Principal | Pottstown, PA | 3-Person Household | Is living with Type 2 diabetes


Short Order Cook | Marathon, TX | 2-Person Household | She can bench press over 300lbs


Social Studies Teacher/Secretary | Portland, OR | 2-Person Household | Tries to only eat foods found within 100 miles of home

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