on food photography and why I don’t.

You may have noticed that my blog is almost entirely photo-free. There are a few reasons for this. For one, I’m incredibly lazy. I’m not interested in taking pictures of everything I make, making those photos pretty, and throwing them up on the blog in a visually appealing way. I don’t know how to edit photos (not that I’d want to) or how to lay out web pages, and I have no interest in learning. For two, I’m not really a photographer, and when I am it’s certainly not of food. I like taking pictures of buildings and cities and urbanscapes. I am utterly uninterested in becoming a skilled food photographer. For three … well, see “for one.” I’m lazy, it’s my blog and i dun kurr.

That said, good food photography is considered an indispensable part of building your food blogging brand (good thing I have no such ambitions), and a lot of my frequently-read blogs talk a lot about doing it well, their personal growth in the field, ways they’ve learned to be better at it, etc. Pioneer Woman, she of the long-windedness and predominantly shitty recipes, has a whole section on her blog devoted to photography, and has recently taken to comparing old and new photos of the same food items to make explicit her personal growth as a food photographer. (I’m not linking any of that because I’m sick of her.) White on Rice Couple, Todd and Diane, actually make their living as professional food photographers, both taking pictures and leading workshops on food styling and picture-taking. What’s food styling, you ask? It’s making the food look pretty. And now we’re getting to the heart of why I’m writing about this at all.

Food photography as a discipline makes me very uncomfortable because I get the distinct feeling that after all the energy lavished on making the food look good, that lovingly plated food doesn’t get eaten. And you can’t blame them, right – that food looks like it gets manhandled. I don’t know that I’d want to eat something that many people had touched or that had been sitting out for as long as it may take to get a good photo. But that makes me really, really uncomfortable.

I’m not a food-waste-Nazi by any means. I wasn’t raised to clean my plate, and my dad’s philosophy on eating out has always been, “Hey, the money’s already spent, so what happens now is irrelevant.” If something doesn’t taste good, I’m all in favor of dumping it rather than angrily shoveling unpleasant mouthfuls into my resentful face. But little gets me crazier than, say, unrefrigerated perishables. Or someone saving something for themselves that others could have enjoyed, and not eating it. Or having to throw away something I’d happily eat later for Reasons (i.e., I have to travel and there’s no refrigeration on route). It’s explicit and thoughtless waste that sends me through the stratosphere. There’s no particular reason for it; I didn’t grow up impoverished or hungry, and my parents weren’t at all strict about such things. I just don’t like it. I love that I’m fortunate enough to operate at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of food needs, and I see no reason to be ragingly douchey about my good fortune. And on some level, that’s how the whole phenomenon of food photography and food styling workshops strikes me. You are so food-secure that you can prepare food just to take its picture.

Maybe I’m wrong and all the food at food styling workshops gets gobbled up by delighted eaters, in which case, style away, I guess. Good food photography can certainly be compelling; Todd and Diane’s blog is proof positive of that. I just don’t think it’s worth the potential waste.

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About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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One Response to on food photography and why I don’t.

  1. SWNC says:

    Great post. I tend to agree with you about food photography. I don’t think your blog suffers at all from a lack of food photography–at least personally, it’s not something that influences whether or not I make a particular recipe. Even if the recipe turns out to be fantastic, my meals never resemble the pictures anyway.

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