This blog was created for me to photograph food and never to get on any soapbox but I was drawn to respond on Twitter to a post “Food Porn, Instagram & the Desire to (Over)Share”Â by my friend Ishay where she was asked some questions for an article in Marie Claire SA and her own subsequent research. It still had me thinking about the subject quite a bit after my initial response and I felt it necessary to elaborate on here instead of hijacking her blog.
I have not read the Marie Claire article but was struck by a line in bold: “Nobody ever took a Polaroid of their dinner and dutifully carried it round to their friend’s house to show them”.
We are living in an era where the practice of sharing has been made incredibly easy and instant. And I don’t quite understand why food seem to be singled out more often when feeds and timelines abound with pictures of sunsets, babies, rather unfortunate looking dogs, cats and people who only posts photos of themselves.
I think it is safe to say that there are two kinds of people. Those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I have friends who will happily take a tablet every morning because they feel that eating is an inconvenience. For as many people for whom food is something they have to eat to survive there are as many people for whom food is linked to a way of experiencing life, how & where they travel and a form of artistic expression and enjoyment.
Why can we not look at a beautiful plate of food taken at a restaurant or a beautifully styled photograph from a blog which could inspire us to make the most mundane midweek meal just a bit special? Surely these are ways of getting us excited about a daily task a lot of us has to do. A not so interesting recipe book written by someone who you don’t really know much about costs at least R350 these days. Yet on Instagram and Twitter and sites like Foodgawker we can take our taste buds on a pleasure hunt of photos from cultures and people and places we will possibly never visit or meet. Many of those pictures inspiring us to create our own magical meals for loved ones or just ourselves.
I do believe that photographing food and sharing it is a wonderful way of documenting how we eat. It helps us understand other cultures and ways of life through an informal visual format where you as the viewer can decide whether you are interested in exploring it more. I have not done any research on the matter but I would guess just from my own experience that “food tourism” is as real as what adventure tourism is.
I travel to eat. I personally want to experience and discover a city through its food. From the street food to the markets to the hole in the wall menu-less restaurant that serves whatever seafood was caught that morning to the ones that has made it onto the “best list”. Each tells a story of the place where they are situated and the people they are serving. Be it in a language you do not understand, drinking a Tunisian beer on a wonky plastic table just hoping for the best or watching a kitchen and service brigade work with the flow of a beautifully conducted symphony while sipping on a complimentary glass of champagne because your table was 10 minutes late. These are all experiences that give us an insight that we can document with a camera more readily available than ever before. And which we can and should share.
Food is an experience. It engages all our senses. It can intrigue, surprise and make us smile. Let’s enjoy what the professionals and all the amateurs out there are creating and sharing with the rest of us.Â Do I want to look at an endless stream of badly taken photos of bad food? No. Do I want to be inspired, intrigued and amused? Yes! And I will seek out those people who will provide the imagery that resonates with me as much I will avoid the bad stuff.Â Don’t like it? Unfollow/Delete/Hide.
Gotta run. I have a fruitcake in the oven. And yes, I will photograph it and I will share the photographs. (I might not share the cake though.)