Even before Janine Mapurunga immersed herself in a project to photograph chefs and farmers, she knew exactly what it would look like.
She created a makeshift studio with a plain white background on the front porch of her east Sacramento home. She would have all of her subjects, one day after the next, arrive wearing white T-shirts. The light would be the same for each photo. They would remove their glasses. They would not smile or frown or perk up in any way for the camera.
Now that she has finished with 50 of the subjects and posted them on a website, sacramentofarmersandchefs.com, Mapurunga has the makings of a visual history of the region's farm-to-fork mission that goes beyond the new and ubiquitous marketing slogan.
To some, the photos are stark, like mug shots. Many of the subjects seem pensive, contemplative or just plain worn out. There is no glee, no levity.
"Usually what I've always done is to document - to go to the farm and photograph the farmer doing his thing," said Mapurunga, a professional photographer who has traveled extensively doing documentary-style work. "But I really wanted the challenge of creating a more conceptual image."
Mapurunga has been at it for months and is working at a clip of 12 chefs and farmers per week. She also interviews each subject and then transcribes the exchange in an effort to create a document of the people who make farm-to-fork a reality.
What may be most striking about the series of photos so far is that it is impossible to distinguish between the farmers and the chefs.
"By looking very closely at the features of the person's face, I start making a story in my mind of the life this person has had. The idea is to present each individual as kind of a map that you can look into and somebody you can relate with.
"My goal is to present each person as I see them - each person as they are. That's why I don't have anyone smile. That's why I have everyone wear the same white T-shirt," Mapurunga said.
She hopes the project, once completed, will have hundreds of photographs and interviews, and could possibly turn into a book. In order to keep the effort going, farmers and chefs have offered to pitch in for a series of fundraisers, the first of which is this Saturday at Feeding Crane Farms, featuring chefs Aimal Formoli of Formoli's Bistro and Adam Schulze of the Waterboy. Complete with outdoor tables on the farm property, the event costs $120 per person, with proceeds going to the photo project.
Also involved in the dinner is Craig Haarmeyer of Revolution Wines; Teresa Urkofsky, a culinary arts instructor at American River College, along with several students from the college's Oak Cafe; the crew from Feeding Crane Farms; Jason Griest of Old Soul Coffee; and backyard chef Liza Madigan of Sacramento Basket.
Along with Feeding Crane, purveyors for the dinner are Passmore Ranch, Sunh Fish and Reeds Gourmet Meat Co.
"I'm happy to be a part of it. Sacramento is moving in the right direction," said Formoli. He and Schulze recently brainstormed to come up with a menu for the al fresco dinner. There will likely be a gazpacho, racks of pork and, it goes without saying, Formoli noted, that the focal point of the dishes will be the produce grown and picked mere paces from the dinner tables.
Referring to the photo project, Formoli said, "A lot of people are saying they look like mug shots or something scary. But she's catching everybody exactly how they look - a little tired, a little worn out.
"What I really like about it is you don't know who the chef is and who the farmer is. We're all the same."
One of the many non-smiling farmers who participated is Suzanne Ashworth of the highly regarded Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento.
"I think it's a valuable project for farm to fork," Ashworth said. "She has a really artistic interpretation of what farm to fork is all about. It's a really nice statement."
EAT & GREET
What: A five-course farm-to-fork dinner and wine pairing that will raise funds for the Sacramento Farmers and Chefs photo project by Janine Mapurunga.
When: 7-10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Feeding Crane Farms in Rio Linda
Cost: $120 per person, limited to 30 people
Information and tickets: www.sacramentofarmersandchefs.com
Call The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter © Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.