Picturing Monoculture: The Separation Between Us and Food

Photographs by Henrik Spohler

Rows of young corn line a German research laboratory in below-freezing temperatures.

Fifteen years ago, Hamburg-based photographer Henrik Spohler embarked on a journey to capture the divorce of the human element from industry. His most recent book, “The Third Day,” looks at the impersonal world of commercial agriculture and how monocultures, or the practice of growing only a singular crop on a large acreage over consecutive years, are changing the landscape around us.

“In a world where you can find everything you want to see on Google Images, I think it is important to produce photographs that are disturbing,” says Spohler. “These photos are sort of grim and barren and that’s part of the story.”

Spohler says the separation between us and food — from sterile research laboratories in Germany to the plastic landscape of Andalusia’s greenhouses — has never been greater than it is now.

Discarded chemical canisters are reused as floats for an intake pipe in a water reservoir outside a greenhouse in the rolling hills of Andalusia, Spain.


Rows of lettuce bake on a September afternoon in the hot California sun.


At a German research laboratory, these cereals are robotically photographed to carefully observe everyday fluctuations in biomass. The blue material acts as a green screen to allow precise documentation.


Young cacti grow in the middle of the desert in Borrego Springs, California.


Picturing Monoculture: The Separation Between Us and Food