10. Cleansing of the temple (Cleanse)

“The sad fact we’ve uncovered at the Conscious Cleanse is that most people take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies” (The Conscious Cleanse, 2015).

It was the day she’d been dreading-

remembering that drive to the house

where she’d spent her summers

crumbling at the seams.

She let herself in, unguarded,

into those familiar cobwebbed rooms,

where gossip and barking dogs

echoed through the plaster.

A week’s work, condensed into four days’

continual heavy lifting

into bags and bins and skips,

keeping those dusty photos

those ugly china knick-knacks,

giving clothes to the charity shop:

blouses and skirts long out of fashion,

stripping everything else,

vacuuming the memories:

feeling guilty about what she had left

gutted out like a fish.

This poem explores the theme of cleansing by displacing the word from the context of food. Like the quote from the wellness blog and book The Conscious Cleanse which compares caring for our cars to our bodies, Cleansing of the Temple uses the theme of clearing out a house after a relative has died as a metaphor for the cleansing process of our bodies. I chose this theme because of certain resemblances to the attitudes promoted by the health-food movement: the idea that cleansing can provide a ‘new beginning,’ existing alongside spiritual or religious connotations of guilt, redemption and sacrifice.

Within the health-food world, cleansing has become a means to purify, detoxify, and sanctify the body. Cleanses can be used for different purposes and undertaken in different contexts. For example, author of Honestly Healthy Cleanse Natasha Corrett (2015) provides recipes for a number of cleanses, which involves following a strict diet for 3 days up to a week comprising mainly of juice. Ranging from the “feel good” cleanse, to the “life changing” cleanse, this book offers to not only alter one’s health, but one’s entire state of mind.  Unlike fasting, in which the lack of food provides spiritual enhancement, cleansing offers its spiritual solution through the added nutrients you will receive.  Deliciously Ella says she “honestly felt like a different person at the end,” after partaking in a 3-day juice cleanse, as it filled her body with “goodness” (Woodward, 2015).  I made a stark contrast to this with the sad theme of the poem, where instead of being filled with goodness, the house is left “gutted out like a fish.” Yet they also share similarities in the spiritual themes of new beginnings; the poem depicts a “life-changing” and meaningful occasion.

The title Cleansing of the Temple alludes to the biblical reference in which Jesus is angered at the temple’s conversion into a market. “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:1213). To me, this story resonates with themes within the health-food world, where “unclean” foods are seen as dishonest or deceitful like the items in the temple. Secondly, I wanted to use the play of words on the idea that “the body is a temple” (Corinthians, 6:19). The relative’s old house in the poem is used as a metaphor for the body, yet the word “temple” clashes with the imagery of a crumbling, cobwebbed, and empty house.  This contrasting imagery extends to the comparison between the bleak and depressing job of clearing out a house and the allegedly uplifting and positive experience of cleansing the body. These contrasts are in place to provoke thought about why this trend has become so popular, and consideration of the dangers or negative connotations to cleansing the body. I particularly question the sense of guilt that is associated with the modern discourse of healthy eating. Whilst cleansing in the food context is normally associated with being “good” and reducing guilt, this poem shows the opposite. By placing the cleansing of the body out of context, I inquire what the moral connotations of cleansing might be.


Corrett N. 2015. Honestly Healthy Cleanse. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.

The Conscious Cleanse. 2015. “Why Cleanse?” Conscious Cleanse. URL: http://consciouscleanse.com/whycleanse/. Accessed July 2015.

Woodward E. 2014. “About.” DeliciouslyElla. URL:http://deliciouslyella.com/?s=healthy+eating. Accessed June 2015.


9. Fish Tank (Alkaline)

“Think of your body as a fish tank….what if we throw in too much food or the wrong kind of food (acid-producing food like dairy, sugar, and animal protein) and the fish are unable to consume or digest it all, and it starts to decompose and putrefy” (Young, 2006).


This passage is from Dr Robert Young’s book The pH Miracle, the food-bible for all alkaline-extremists. In this pioneering book, Dr Young proclaims that pH is the most important measure of health, more so than any other biochemical or physiological test.  Just like measuring the pH of a fish-tank to keep the fish alive, our pH is must be controlled to keep us healthy: Young believes that over-acidity is the single cause for all cancers (Young, p. 3 2006). Although Dr Young was arrested for fraud in 2014, (Allyn, 2014), his alkaline legacy has continued: a book talk and signing by alkaline enthusiast and author Natasha Corrett in Waterstones, Manchester in March 2015 saw Natasha speak of how influential Dr Young had been on her career. The almost exclusively female audience seemed engrossed by Corrett’s description of how the alkaline diet had healed her “toxic” body and have the ability to cure “incurable diseases” (Corrett, 2015).

The bit about fish almost seems reasonable in comparison…

The alkaline diet is founded on the belief that our bodies become acidic by eating unhealthy foods, as well from chemicals and toxins in our modern environment.  I illustrate this in my piece by measuring the pH of ‘modern’ substances: bleach, alcohol and descaler rather than just foods. Their advice is not only a radial dietary change (similar to that of the plant-based diet), but also a daily measure of saliva or urine pH. They also suggest alkalizing the body in other more unusual ways, such as bathing in magnesium flakes or walking barefoot in soil (Bond, 2015).

Just be glad they haven’t suggesting drinking bleach.

 Despite the fact that alkaline dieters ignore the body’s physiological mechanisms for balancing pH, and the fact that litmus paper cannot accurately predict saliva or urine pH (Dwyer, 1985), alkaline dieters seem convinced of its powerful health benefits.

My piece, a stop-motion video Fish-tank, is an interpretation of how the alkaline diet is visualised, assessing the body’s physiology through strips of litmus paper and Young’s analogy of the body as a fish tank.  It allowed me to explore how the “inner geography” of the body is encouraged as part of our everyday imagination in the discourse of healthy eating (Lupton, p.75, 1996). A well-known example of this is when yogurt adverts make us picture the “good” bacteria in guts as “combatants…of our immune system” (Varul, p.10 2011). Likewise, alkaline foods are seen to actively fight against the “toxic acid” that builds up in our bodies as if it were the stagnant water of a fish tank (Young, 2006).  I used stop-motion in this piece because its interrupted quality can be likened to the inaccurate, disordered or confused way in which the alkaline diet thinks about the body.

In this piece, the process of visualising the pH of the different substances made me realise how difficult it was to translate these colourful strips of information into any form of meaningful, let alone scientific understanding of pH balance. Furthermore, the colour that the litmus paper turned does not necessarily correspond with its internal pH: lemons are alkaline inside the body despite their acidic appearance. Therefore, my video demonstrates how the alkaline diet offers misleading visual representations of the body, but also how powerful these visual concepts have been in fueling the belief that the alkaline lifestyle is a better way of living.


Allyn R. 2014. “Controversial alternative health provider pleads not guilty to charges.” CBS8.URL:http://www.cbs8.com/story/24544235/accusedfakedoctorpleadsnotguiltytofelonycharges. Accessed July 2015

Corrett N. 2015. Honestly Healthy Cleanse. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.

Dwyer J, Foulkes E, Evans M, Ausman L. 1985. “Acid/alkaline ash diets: time for assessment and change.” J Am Diet Assoc 85(7):841–5

Varul MZ. 2011. “The Healthy Body as Religious Territory: Health Consumerism as New Religious Practice?” In Emerging geographies of belief, ed. Brace C et al. 239-254. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

Young RO. 2006. “Disease is Acidity! pH Miracle Living: Discover the alkalarian approach to optimal health.” URL:http://www.phmiracleliving.com/Articles/20061028DiseaseIsAcidity.html. Accessed July 2015.

8. Baptism (Purity)

“Holiness and impurity are at opposite poles” (Douglas, p. 7, 2002).


In Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger, purity is posed as a cultural concept that helps to enforce ideas of “good citizenship” (Douglas, p.4, 2002). Although the “pure, white and deadly” nature of sugar has vilified it as a poison in contemporary society (Yudkin, 1972), pure foods are generally seen not just healthier, but more morally acceptable.  By comparing coconut water to blessed water in staged baptism for myself, I consider how health-food marketing uses the idea of purity to make draw on these moral themes by making an absurd statement with my photograph.

Cultural beliefs about purity were affected by how the body was perceived.  By the end of the 20th century, increasing knowledge about infection and immunity saw the perceptions of bodily cleanliness move from being externally “disinfected” to internally “detoxed” (Greenhalgh and Wessely p.208, 2004).  Purity could then alter the inner self, right down to each cell. Contaminating our bodies with impure convenience foods offered new risks to our health, whereas pure foods like coconut could nourish and clean our bodies.

Within the religious context, diet and purity are closely intertwined. By imitating Christ’s suffering through strict dietary restrictions, one could become closer to Christ (Bynum, p.5, 1987). The Eucharist is a physical means to link Christ to food: the purest kind of food possible. Eating luxury foods was seen as gluttonous and sinful, whereas self-control over desires demonstrated holiness.  It is hard to ignore that these morals still exist today; we are still made to feel bad by overindulging, but if we resist, we can reward ourselves with honour.

Medieval scholar Caroline Bynum argues that diet plays a far larger role in the relationship between women and piety than originally believed (Bynum, p. 182, 1987). Given that the health-food crusade today is dominated by women, this makes an interesting comparison. The rejection of normal food and the desire for extreme fasting was a way for women to gain control and their sense of belonging. I suspect that modern food bloggers are trying to establish their sense of belonging, too.  The 14th century Saint, Catherine of Siena shows how extreme this ideals could be, starving herself to the point of “holy anorexia” to prove her piety (Bell, 1985). These comparisons between dietary control and piety, are what I am interested in exploring in my photograph.

The connection between dieting and holiness persisted throughout the 20th century.  The culture of dieting was based around a discourse of discipline and control, in which the “slim ideal” of the female body resonates with Bynum’s analysis (Peeters, p. 228, 2011). Furthermore, the increased popularity of the vegetarian diet, in which lighter, purer, low-fat diets were idolised, encouraged the feminisation of the diet (Peeters, p. 234, 2011). Coconut water conforms to this: brands are covered in feminine labels of floral and tropical imagery, with claims of being low in fat or calories.

I also chose coconut water as the focus for this piece because most brands of coconut water include the word pure on their packaging. My focus group also proposed that coconut water was the product most akin to purity and it is even suggested in the book Organic Way to Health that “there is no purer food available than the coconut” (Bernard, p. 34, 1996). In the health-food industry today, coconut products are given a special status. Coconut oil is the favoured cooking oil and coconut water is a musthave for juices and smoothies.

My photograph Baptism explicitly shows the way in which religious morals have entered the discourse of healthy eating. By using the process of baptism, it also plays on the way people “convert” to the health-food crusade.  Staged in a local church, I was lucky enough to be able to arrange the scene with the help of a local vicar. I choose a traditional white alb and a purple stole to contrast with the rich red colour of the font carpet for my model to wear. Then, the baptism candle was lit and I placed the bottle of Vita Coco coconut water on the font. Editing the photo to give myself a glowing halo, this parodies how those partaking in the health religion, and eating pure foods are given a higher moral status in society.

There’s no going back now…I am officially admitted into the health-food religion. 


Bernard RW. 1996. Organic Way to Health: Nutritional Value of Organic Foods and Sea Vegetation. London: Health Research Books.

Bell RM. 1985. Holy Anorexia. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Bynum CW. 1987. Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Douglas M. 2002. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge Classics

Greenhalgh T, Wessely S. 2004. “’Health for me’: a sociocultural analysis of healthism in the middle classes.” Br. Med Bull 69(1):197-213.

Peeters E, Molle LV, Wils K. 2011. Beyond pleasure: cultures of modern asceticism. New York: Berghahn Books

Yudkin J. 1972. Pure, white and deadly: the problem of sugar. London: Davis-Poynter.

7. “It’s the bloodiest job we do” (Detox)

“Detoxing is even more important today because we live in a world that is becoming ever more polluted, the food we eat is more and more processed…the air we breathe is full of harmful gases and pollutants and the stresses of modern life are playing havoc with our health” (The Modern Detox, 2015).

It's the bloodiest job we do!
It’s the bloodiest job we do!

The gory job of cutting out a lamb’s liver is “the bloodiest job we do,” the butcher said as I asked to buy a liver. I couldn’t help but to chuckle to myself. Detoxing seemed the perfect contrast to this: a way to cleanse, purify and de-stress the body; the recovery process we are meant to feel during a detox couldn’t be more different from the bloody massacre that goes on in the butchers.

My photograph consults how the detox craze has entered into the public discourse of healthy eating. This is undoubtedly linked to the way the detox diet is marketed as a way to lose weight.  The “fat panic” originating from the Judeo-Christian moral’s forbiddance of sloth and gluttony has remained a central part of our food culture today, culminating in the “explosion of interest in the obesity epidemic” that has occurred the past 10 years (Lebesco, p.75 2010).  Detoxing offers a quick solution to this; it promises rapid weight loss and improved health. Detoxing can also oppose the sinful implications of gluttony and indulgence by offering its volunteers “purification and redemption” (Klein and Kiat, p. 8, 2014). The modern discussions of detoxing generally involve either liquid-only juice diets, or limiting the diet to “clean” foods: inextricably linking the language of the “detox” to that of substance abuse. The extreme potential of detoxing to offer a dietary overhaul is exploited by marketing: the brand Pukka, for example, writes on their detox tea: “shrug off the old and embrace the new.”

In addition, this photograph questions the “science” behind detox-ing, by presenting a fake science experiment using a lamb’s liver.  Ignoring the natural functions our livers and other organs have in ridding “toxins,” health-food literature suggests that our bodies need help (The detox kitchen, 2015).  I filled beakers, jars and dishes with some of the most common detox-ing substances such as lemon, juices, cucumber and ginger, as well as some more unusual ones. Consuming Epsom salts and charcoal show the extreme lengths people go to in order to detox their bodies. Finally, I included chemical instruments- some genuine such as the pipettes along with household equipment to show how “science” is entering the kitchen.

I enhanced the brightness of this photo to create clinical appearance, but also to evoke to a sense of holiness or purity. This religious feeling links detoxing to my next piece, based on the word purity. Detoxing and the consumption of pure foods both offer a sense of spiritual healing based around food restriction. The modern detox only advocates for the consumption of the purest substances.


Klein AV, Kiat H. 2014. “Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence.J Hum Nutr Diet. 18. doi:10.1111/jhn.12286.

Lebesco K. 2010. “Fat panic and the new morality.” In Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality, ed Metzl, J. M. and Kirkland, A. New York: New York University Press.

The Detox Kitchen. 2015. “The Modern Detox.” URL: http://detoxkitchen.co.uk/blog/themoderndetox. Accessed July 2015.

6. Wired (Energize)

“Wellbeing provides the policy paradigm by which mind and body can be assessed as economic resources” (Davies, 2011). 

This is my call to arms,                            

I want you to join me,  

When we live energised

We can all change the world.

Amped-up, young, naive face,

A job to make mum proud,

On top of the world:

high  on the commuter train.

Polished brogues, fitted suit,

my handshake and my charm

hides the comedown it seems

I keep running into.

Wake-up need, caffeine hit,

mind wired into a screen

digits speed into lunch

quick! It’s hard to relax.

Crystal-clear, I’m lit up,

I know I can impress

board room executives

who treat people like shit.

Synapse click, plug me in,

harbour my desires

no time to stop and think:


should I be doing this?

From the end of the 19th century, the interest in nutritional science was growing, not only to improve the health of the nation, but also to increase the productivity of the workers. Almost a century later, the discourse surrounding nutrition was dominated by metaphors of work and economics.  Food was fuel which became “energy” (Lupton, p. 72, 1996). The wellness movement today remains focused on helping people work to their maximum because “healthy bodies are productive bodies” (Cederstrom and Spicer, p. 4, 2015). Therefore, illness is a “failure in terms of work ethic” (Varul, p. 5, 2011). Subsequently, pain-killers use marketing slogans such as “get you back to being yourself,” to allow people to continue being productive (Metzl and Kirkland, p. 28, 2010).  Wired questions the relationship between energising and work. By revealing a sinister side to the word energised, I show how the health-food discourse feeds into a moral imperative connecting health to work.

My poem was inspired by reading a website called LiveEnergised, founded by a writer and food coach Ross Bridgeford. The ‘about’ section of the website, entitled “Ross’s mission,” describes his dream to “ENERGIZE the world.” Throughout this piece Bridgeford uses persuasive and dramatic language, believing that he can “change the world” and improve all aspects of life with his dietary advice (Bridgeford follows the alkaline diet) (Bridgeford, 2015). The first stanza of my poem, in bold text, was constructed using quotes from Ross’s mission. For the remaining five stanzas I continued writing in a similar type of rhetoric, but written about a very different meaning.

Since the first two lines of the poem, taken from Ross’s mission both had six syllables, I decided to make all lines of the poem six syllables long, and to write six main stanzas to add a sense of control and discipline, mirroring that of the health-food world. However, it also adds a disrupted rhythm to the poem which reflects the chaotic lifestyle of the character. The poem depicts the drug habit of a young, busy and stressed city banker: whilst a productive worker, he is an unlikely symbol for health. Whilst his preoccupation with being energized imitates the discourse of modern foodbloggers such as Bridgeford, his eventual unhappiness shows a far more complex relationship between work, energy and health.

In addition, I was inspired by a drawing produced in my focus group. Energize (Fig) was produced during an activity in which each participant drew one of my 12 words for the rest of the group to guess which word it represents. My poem uses the idea of being charged-up; the character is “wired” to a screen using the phrase “plug me in” as a reference to his next drug fix. These metaphors show both his need for energy to participate in a successful work life, and the need to feed his drug addiction.

Energize, Drawn by focus group participant, June 2015.
Energize, Drawn by focus group participant, June 2015.

This drawing also offered me a different way to look at the discourse of health-foods, when applied to the rhetoric of health-foods like ‘Ross’s mission.’ We are told we must get more energized by “plugging” into the health-food world, and following their extreme dietary rules. I’d rather stick to the coffee, thanks. Yet it also de-romanticizes food. Food becomes a way to ‘charge’ up our energy reserves rather than something with cultural and social meaning.

The references to drugs in this piece are relevant to the moral discourse of healthy eating. For example, the stigma of eating bad foods is compared to that of drug use. For example, sugar is framed as an addictive habit that gives you highs and crashes, and my next piece about detoxing also uses the same name as that in substance abuse.


Bridgeford R. Ross’s Mission. Live Energised. 2015 [accessed July 2015] Available from URL:http://liveenergized.com/about-ross-energise/

Cederström C, Spicer A. 2015. The Wellness Syndrome. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Davies W. 2011. “The Political Economy of Unhappiness.” New Left Review, 71, Sept-Oct. 

Lupton D. 1996. Food, the Body and the Self. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Metzl, J. M. and Kirkland, A. 2010. Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality. New York: New York University Press.

Varul MZ. 2011. “The Healthy Body as Religious Territory: Health Consumerism as New Religious Practice?” In Emerging geographies of belief, ed. Brace C et al. 239-254. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

5. The Silent Germ (Gluten-free)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (John 6:35). 

The Silent Germ
The Silent Germ

Bread: the food that symbolises the very embodiment of Christ, for Christ’s sake. Grains have been the staple food of most cultures for centuries, giving life to communities and providing energy for us to function.  The milling of grains into a digestible, adaptable, and storable substance could ensure a sustainable food source. So much so, the etymology of the word flour even describes it as “the finest” (Palmatier, p.136, 2000).

My photograph explores the connection between the historical appreciation for gluten and the modern disgust towards it, or, as author of White Bread: A Social History of the Store-bought Loaf Aaron Bobrow-Strain asks: “how did white bread become white trash?” (Bobrow Strain, p.1 2013) Evidence for Bobrow-Strain’s statement can be seen in the rising suspicion of gluten products, and the dramatic increase in availability and sales of gluten-free products: within the UK, 10% of homeowners think gluten is bad, and the stock of gluten-free snack bars has more than doubled in the past 2 years (Fasano, 2015). The gluten- free diet has not only become normalised, but it is fashionable too, promoted by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Miley Cyrus (Fasano, 2015).  A number of recent publications such as neurologist David Perlmutter’s The Grain Brain shows how extreme the fear of gluten has become:  he argues that the gluten has a devastating impact on health, causing brain disorders from depression to dementia (Perlmutter, 2015).

Critics of the gluten-free trend argue that gluten symbolises the “fear of social decay” (Bobrow-Strain, p. 5, 2013).  After the publication of Grain Brain, Alan Levinovitz released his book The Gluten Lie, labelling the fear of gluten as “quasi-religious beliefs…based on superstition and myth” (Levinovitz, p.1, 2015).  The pose of my model supports these religious references: her hands held up akin to a saint receiving the stigmata. Whilst there is still uncertainty about the prevalence of gluten sensitivity, the modern discourse of healthy eating has polarised gluten as “bad” for everyone. As a cultural phenomenon, Levinovitz goes as far as to suggest that gluten phobia has become a form of “mass sociogenic illness” (Levinovitz, p. 14, 2015).  This hysterical response to gluten also fed into the set-up of my photograph.

Whilst my own conclusions on the potential harms or benefits of gluten have not become clearer, I have seen how culturally and historically bound this issue is. My photograph is entitled The Silent Germ: a phrase Perlmutter uses to describe gluten in his book. I chose this phrase because it links the cultural fears of a ‘silent killer’ to medical fears of ‘germs,’ showing how extreme gluten phobia has become.  It also links neatly the themes in Silent Spring, where the fear of “hidden” dangers exacerbates cultural fears about food.

I took the photo in one of the few remaining working watermills left in England. The 17th century mill originally provided flour to Petworth House, but is now part of the Weald and Downland Museum in Sussex, using the force of the River Rother to grind the wheat into flour.  I chose the watermill as the setting to provide a historical context to the gluten debate as it would have provided a vital food source to the local population.  I contrasted this with the modern exclusion of gluten, and the medical discourse of infection and germs. Wearing protective clothing, my model cowered from the bag of flour that had been produced that day. Although the watermill showed me how important gluten products used to be, gluten is clearly no longer the best thing since sliced bread.

Gluten-free organic sprouted rye bread anyone?


Bobrow-Strain A. 2013. White bread: a social history of the store-bought loaf. Boston: Beacon Press

Fasano A. 2015. “The great gluten-free diet fad.” BBC. URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine33486177. Accesssed July 2015.

Levinovitz A. 2015. The gluten lie: and other myths about what you eat. New York; Regan Arts.

Palmatier RA. 2000. Food: a dictionary of literal and nonliteral terms. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Perlmutter, D. 2013. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

4. Agony in the Garden (Organic)

“The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Agony in the Garden
Agony in the Garden

In the biblical story Agony in the Garden Christ experiences extreme emotional anguish, becoming aware of his fate before his arrest. I chose to base my photograph about organic food on this story because of the intensity of emotions and opinions that is afflicted with organic farming.  Despite the number of individuals buying into organic products being relatively small, those who do, do so with great passion. For instance, the health-food industry incriminates fruits and vegetables that are the most “pesticide-riddled or contaminated” with the label the “dirty dozen” (Corrett, 2015).

The modern agony surrounding the discourse of organic foods is expressly bound by its history. During the 1970’s and 80’s, the organic diet was promoted on the grounds that it was safer for our health. Whilst in the past, the concept of organic farming would have meant risking parasitic invasion, food poisoning and a lower yield, the dangers shifted to non-organic produce, notably the fear of cancer from “growth hormones, viruses and antibiotics” (Lupton, p. 454, 2005). Organic foods could offer safety and redemption, to improve the health of the “body and soul” (Coveney, p. 145, 2006). This spiritual and emotional connection to organic foods is something my photograph hopes to capture.

My piece was also inspired by the literature during the end of the 20th century. One key influence was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Following its publication in 1962, the concern over environmental hazards and their implications for health were cultivated; the book’s exposure of the risks of DDT led to the pesticide’s ban (Smith, p. 22, 2011).  Silent Spring reveals the scale to which the public were concerned with their health. I related this to Christ’s suffering because it provides a universally recognisable symbol for anguish and pain. Whilst reviews of Silent Spring were predicted to be dominated by fears related to war hazards, instead they focused on health: commenting largely on Carson’s “concern for human health” and on related health scares at the time such as the effects of thalidomide (Waddell, p. 10, 2000).  Concerns about health are also notable in the BSE scandal of the 1990’s which led to the “organic boom” in 2000 (Nicholson-Lord, 2001). Therefore, like Agony in the garden, the organic food movement seems to be largely motivated by fear.

Fig 2. Maddox W. Agony in the Garden. 1844. Beckford Tower Trust, Somerset. Source: Public Catalogue Foundation [online].
Fig 2. Maddox W. Agony in the Garden. 1844. Beckford Tower Trust, Somerset. Source: Public Catalogue Foundation [online].
I based my photograph on a painting of Agony in the Garden by Willes Maddox in 1844 (Fig. 2), as the open-armed gesture and desperate look up to the heavens provided a simple yet dramatic way to represent the anguish that surrounds organic farming and health. In a wheat field, my model holds a bottle of pesticide and herbicide spray in each hand. Yet unlike the painting by Maddox, her face remains shadowed and solemn to reflect how the unresolved and strong moral position of the organic debate in society.  By choosing the title Agony in the garden–but taking the photograph in a large crop field– I show how the large-scale farming had entered the house-hold discourse.


Corrett N. 2015. “What are the Dirty Dozen?” HonestlyHealthy. URL:http://www.honestlyhealthyfood.com/blogs/honestlyhealthyfood/17970085whatarethedirtydozen. Accessed July 2015.

Coveney J. 2006. Foods, Morals and Meaning: The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating. London: Routledge.

Nicholson-Lord D. 2001. “The future of food: safety first for agriculture; the foot-and-mouth and BSE crises have forced a reappraisal of the way Britain produces food.” Organic Consumers Association. URL:https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/madcow/future7601.php. Accessed June 2015.

Smith M. 2011. An Alternative History of Hyperactivity: Food additives and the Feingold Diet. London; Rutgers University Press.

Waddell C. 2000. And No Birds Sing: Rhetorical Analyses of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.