Food Photography: Have you had your fill?

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Everything he ate

Back in 2004 it was a novel concept. Tucker Shaw snapped a photo before taking a bite of every single meal for a full year and published the collection as Everything I Ate: A Year in the Life of My Mouth.

The book fascinated on a number of levels. We gawked at Shaw’s love affair with the dizzying array of dining options in his hometown of New York. We were charmed by the inside joke of his nearly nightly bowl of cold cereal. It was quirky and tedious and funny and repetitive, and it challenged you to put it down before you looked up what he ate on your birthday that year.

Then came the imitators.

Photographing, cataloging, and blogging about every meal, snack, sip, and chew has grown into a full-fledged phenomenon. We have What I Ate this Year, What I Ate (the series) What I Ate for Lunch and Why, What I Ate this Week, and Everything I Ate Yesterday. Some sites accept reader submissions like What I Ate and Eatly, and Flickr’s I Ate This group has more than 20,00 members sharing images of last night’s dinner.

Restaurateurs are conflicted. Of course they appreciate the exposure provided by diners who blog, but flash photography annoys the other customers. Some restaurants are now offering blogger diners complete with backdrops and light boxes right in the dining room.

Like Tucker Shaw’s opus, most photographic food journals are in turn, hypnotically dull and delectably compelling. We’re not even going to talk about the couple that plans to document their tour of every Sizzler in America.

See where it all began with this summer’s exhibition at Los Angeles’ Getty Center. In Focus: Tasteful Pictures traces the 150 year history of food photography.

Look beyond the gustatory navel gazing of most food journaling. Time Magazine’s photo essays Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (Part 1 and Part 2) illuminate the global forces that determine diets around the world.

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6 Responses to Food Photography: Have you had your fill?

  1. Janice says:

    And your dinner companions thank you. There is nothing more annoying that sitting at the table with your dish cooling and wilting while one of your group is primping plates for the camera.

  2. Ah, if only I lived near LA, that exhibition sounds fascinating!

    My ‘food photography’ first started from quick snaps at the restaurant table but I do much less of that now and the majority of my pics are now of my own recipes – mainly because I just cook more now and enjoy trying to make them look nice (not always possible!), but also now only take photos at restaurants if the dish is really well presented, rather than just snapping a photo for the sake of it.

    Hungry Jenny x

  3. Janice says:

    Beautifully styled and photographed food is certainly blog-worthy. Unfortunately all too many of the food diarists are merely documenting with artless snaps.

  4. I look at this completely differently than the first two responses, and there is no wrong or right answer or comment here, just a difference of viewpoints.

    Food and cooking was always something I loved since I was small child and my first cookbook was given to me by my cousin Patricia. I still have it and although it is very dogeared and old with time, it is still in one piece-(I guess you could say that the book and I have some things in common!) ha ha

    Anyhow, after being a piano teacher for 20 years, I find that the world of food and making a living with it is always different, always changing, and I learn more than one thing new every day about it.

    I want to land a job in a major magazine and with every article I write I hope that I am telling the world that I have a passion for something that brings us all together several times every day-the food on our plates.

    If I can make that time more enjoyable, make you think about it in a different way, then I am doing something very worthwhile.

    And if I “inspire someone to try something new and different” or “go beyond their normal sphere of familiarity”, then I have just accomplished one of the greatest things on earth.

    Paulette Le Pore Motzko

  5. I look at food photo with a divided mind. On one hand I completely agree…enough is enough already. On the other, there I am staring at Food Gawker admiring the beauty and art that comes from something that originates in simplicity–the need to eat.

  6. Thanks for another really intriguing post – your posts are a welcome change from the foodie norm and I love that you’ve given so many interesting links!

    Can’t disagree that food blogging has become somewhat “navel gazey” but I’m in, I’m hooked and really not about to kick the habit *sigh* What can I say? I’m a FOODIE!!

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