Food: nourishing, fun, vital. We are all consumers of this necessity of life. We see the tempting images all around us on billboards, on the store shelves, in magazines and on the menus we order from at our favorite eatery. As photographers, we also can see beauty in the interaction between light and a superbly prepared and styled entrée. Visually communicating and creating the desire is what the professional food photographer does.
As technology advances, cell phones have become ubiquitous; restaurant-goers now have the ability to document a special dish from their favorite restaurant by using their cell phone. And as cell phone technology advances, the image quality continues to get better. This has sparked debate among chefs, diners, journalists and bloggers. Chefs complain that cell phone picture-snappers are missing out on what should be central to the dining experience: the food. Bloggers argue that sharing their experiences with a larger online community augments their appreciation of the moment. What cannot be disputed is that pictures of food have gained new prominence in the visual landscape.
In an April 19, 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times, staff writer P. J. Huffstutter noted, “Flickr, the photo-sharing website, has seen the number of pictures tagged as ‘food’ jump from about half a million in 2008 to more than six million today, according to company officials.” These millions of photographs provoke inquiry into various ways of representing and describing experiences with food. Many of these images draw on similar visual conventions: most often the photos feature a meal at the diner’s table, illuminated by available light, using a tight crop and selective focus. As one advances in the craft of photography, the lines between documentary photos and commercial images becomes more evident.
More of this article can be read in the Spring 2011 issue.