Extravagance on the Half Shell

How photographer James Wojcik found wild and crazy beauty in the lowly oyster on the shores of his own backyard.

James Wojcik
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When a rogue bag of oysters washed ashore near James Wojcik’s home in Shelter Island, New York, in 2009, he took it as a sign. Three months later, the still-life photographer was deep in Cornell’s Long Island Southold Project in Aquaculture Training program, learning oyster cultivation. Today, Wojcik is the owner of Dinah Rock Oyster Company (dinahrockoysters.com), a small farm and photography project that he hopes will bring awareness to the link between shellfish restoration and clean water. Whether the images are of culled oysters swirled in sand or on the half shell topped with ingredients as varied as gold leaf and enoki mushrooms, or whether they’re portraits of the invertebrates barnacled on his daughter Tiki’s dolls, Wojcik has embraced bivalves in a way that is unexpected, even for him. “You’re growing rocks,” he says. “It’s the hardest thing to photograph. I didn’t think they would be pretty enough.” On the contrary. Here, Wojcik works with food stylist Brett Kurzweil to create oyster dishes that both look lavish and ... actually taste good. “The combinations are about color as much as flavor,” Wojcik says, adding, “Salmon roe doesn’t have to be on top of the sevruga, but it sure looks striking.”