(Food photography has gotten such a bad rap so why do people do it?)
Your body only needs two things to stay alive, oxygen and glucose.
Luckily oxygen is free so we only have to hunt, forage, or buy our glucose in the form of food. And the beauty of food is in its immense variety. You can take a fine cut of filet mignon but what are you going to do with it? Its flavor is going to depend on how the cow was raised, how fresh it is, what temperature was it cooked it at, butter or béarnaise, type of pan, length of time on the grill etc. And these characteristics go for all types of food and its preparation. Once you combine it with other ingredients you have an infinite number of beautiful possibilities of how to eat food.
Then in the 21st century came the rise of cell phones and everyone taking the prodding Facebook question “what are you thinking?” way too seriously. Now that we have this little camera in our pockets we can visually record all of our memories. Then we realized we could share our experiences with others (even if painfully mundane) via social media to tighten our community. So why do people take pictures of their food?
Whenever there’s a great celebration, you want to get to know someone, or go out with your friends it’s always centered around food. Why? Because food is a necessity for survival and it’s a bonding experience for humans. We are herd animals and the way we show love and community is to offer/share food with another. That’s why when people come over your house you ask if they want something to drink. By taking a photograph and sharing it with your friends on social media it has that similar effect in our brains. And photographs of food cause a psychological response much like photos of beautiful women. Since some of our favorite experiences are linked to food and celebration it’s nice to have a visual record of these memories.
We are an incredibly overworked country. We work 60-hour weeks and only have two weeks of vacation a year that we rarely take. We then “save time” by buying fast food or cooking frozen bricks of carbohydrate preservatives for all of our meals which contributes to skyrocketing obesity rates. All of this leads to a decreased amount of time we have in a week to cook our meals. That’s why when we finally get time to cook a proper meal that we put love and care in to we have an immense sense of pride and want to share it with the world. Food is a form of art and that’s why we get bombarded with it on Facebook around brunch every Sunday morning.
Then there’s the last and worst reason people take pictures of their food and it’s done as a form of bragging. As in “Hey look at me I’m eating at that uppity French restaurant that no one can pronounce in the West Village” or “Hey look I’m eating wagyu in Beverly Hills because I have societal and genetic advantages that you don’t”. And yes, these people are the worst. But it’s not as bad as Four Square which is the most basic selfish form of communication because you’re essentially saying “hey everyone look at me, I’m here!” These are the people who give food photos a negative stigma. Don’t be this person.
As much as the world is in conflict over race, religion, and politics we’re all humans with the commonality that we need food for survival. As herd animals we need each other and sharing food is one of the main ways we bond. So if we all have to eat every day, then you might as well make the best choice by eating good food. Taking a couple of photos of your food and sharing it on social media isn’t as horrible as the internet makes it out to be, but don’t let your photos dominate the experience of your meal. And especially don’t be the asshole in the restaurant that uses flash.
[Photo: Dinner at the great Forage in Silverlake, California]