There are countless discourses today about food and everything that revolves around it. A quintessential anthropological object enshrined in the expression ‘we are what we eat’, food has become a matter of great cultural and social importance that is studied at the highest level and given prominence in the media and publishing industry.

The ‘food system’ and the talk that surrounds it fulfil the requirements of leisure and entertainment, while also acquiring the status of a phenomenon that cuts across various disciplinary fields. Food, gastronomy and restaurants all have a culture, history and social code. It is these multidisciplinary issues that the various articles in this dossier section address in response to a world in which culinary sophistication and the elevation of chefs to the status of celebrities, or even demiurgic artistes, serves as a highly eloquent symptom of our times. Today, the vast amounts of money circulating in the world of food and gastronomy must be contrasted with the major environmental and political impacts of the agrifood industry, and seen as two sides of the same coin: hedonism, ostentation and cosmopolitanism on the one hand; the environmental and social absurdity that the system feeds on the other.

Electra invited six international photographers from the prestigious Magnum Photos to collaborate in this dossier and to create original images about eating and food. In Boston, Alex Webb photographed vegetable gardens and the inside of hydroponic containers, emphasising the different forms of agriculture found in the city. The photographer and fisherman Jacob Aue Sobol lives in Horslunde, a small town on the Danish island of Lolland, and he recorded his daily activities in an intimate series. Cristina de Middel takes us to the markets of Mexico City where she lives, highlighting the visual abundance of food and the plastic packaging used in its distribution. From the most exclusive restaurants of Saint Petersburg and Moscow, Gueorgui Pinkhassov offers us an up-close view of the world of haute cuisine. Martin Parr, in his series British Food, which was conceived while he was quarantining at home, focuses on typically British cuisine and looks at certain food items in terms of Brexit. Finally, Lindokuhle Sobekwa shows us the various ways in which food appears in Johannesburg and Thokoza, in the Gauteng province. From the countryside to the city, and from street food stands to large supermarkets, what stands out in these images is the infrastructure that supports food chains. Through a diversity of perspectives, this collaborative project with Magnum is a visual interpretation of food, and demonstrates its global significance.