What's with all the food photos?

Courtesy mullingitover/Flickr

Lately, whenever I open my facebook account, scores of photographed meals beckon invitingly from photo albums with such "creative" titles as "Food," or "Delicious Food," or "Yummy Delicious Food."

Facebook and Flickr, among others, seem to promote food worship with (aptly named) groups like I Ate This and Natural Cooking Food Photography Club.

Indeed, hundreds if not thousands of websites and blogs (one favorite: parlafood) are devoted to photographing food. Food porn—that is the glamorized styling of food—is very big right now. According to the New Yorker "The point is to get very close to what you are filming, so close that you can see an ingredient's "pores" (you should believe the dish is in your living room).

Travel shows like No Reservations and Bizarre Foods are dedicated to the glorification of food. Even travel blogs dedicated to showcasing meals seem to be popping up left and right with a goal of taking you on the road, one juicy mango-and-lamb shawarma at a time.

There are food photography courses, food photography fan clubs, and food photography books. We document everything from our gourmet cooking feats to our romantic candlelit meals to our adventurous culinary trysts. Traveling in particular seems to warrant the immortalization of meals.

I even see this in the small Austrian restaurant in the West Village where I wait tables. At times the cameras are discreet—iPhones and blackberries disguised as texting tools—and at others they are ostentatious digital numbers that capture every crumb.

But what is it about food that makes us want to snap photographs like there's no tomorrow?

The French philosopher Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." By that token, perhaps in photographing our food we are creating a history of where we have been; a timeline of who we are over the years captured in meals. Foods we eat while traveling mark adventurous and daring periods in our lives. Our culinary battles at home indicate a nurturing, protective era, while our expensive restaurants dinners mark those special, once-in-a-lifetime events.

But even if this is so, I'm guessing who sees the photos has a lot more to do with it. Eating is such a social affair, that bragging about the food we eat seems like a natural extension of the communal dining experience.

Or maybe it's just easier than ever to take photos at meals now that every practically phone comes equipped with a digital camera?

What do you think? Do you photograph your food when traveling? At home? Why? Are you sick of seeing food photos or do you lust for more?

— Madeline Grimes


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