Take A Picture, It Lasts Longer

That some people are keeping photographic food diaries and posting them online does not surprise psychotherapists. “In the unconscious mind, food equals love because food is our deepest and earliest connection with our caretaker,” said Kathryn Zerbe, a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders and food fixations at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “So it makes sense that people would want to capture, collect, catalog, brag about and show off their food.” –“First Camera, Then Fork,” New York Times. 4/7/2010

Ever notice how these days, people  love to take pictures of their food?   Go in to any restaurant and I bet you will find someone who is snapping a picture of their sandwich before digging in.  In fact, go no further than your Facebook or Twitter news feed and I guarantee you will find someone who has just posted pictures of the savory breakfast sandwich they just ate or dishes from a lavish dinner party they recently  prepared.  It’s almost as if these photos scream, “look at my incredible culinary skills; too bad you weren’t here to enjoy them” or, “It’s a shame you aren’t as skilled at cooking as I am.”   I’ll admit, sometimes I feel a tinge of jealousy when I see such photographs.  I wouldn’t mind sampling your chicken parm or salmon ceviche next time I’m in your neck of the woods!

Before I go knocking this recent phenomenon, I’ll admit, I’m just as guilty of taking pictures of my food, too.  Due to my slight obsession with sandwiches, I will take picture of a delicious sandwich before eating so that I might forever remember its beauty and its ingredients.  I’ve been known to snap a photo of the dinner I cooked next to a floral arrangement and strategically placed glass of wine in the background and then posting them  to my Facebook or Twitter pages.    Should I feel embarrassed about taking pictures of my food before eating it?  Is taking pictures of your meals and then posting them online a little too boastful?

To gain insight into this phenomenon of food photography, I decided I needed to dive deeper into the culture of foodies and food photographers.  To do so, I got myself invited to the Wisconsin Board of Cheese’s Grilled Cheese Academy party at Cafe Soleil in Madison, WI.  The exclusive party was for food bloggers and people like myself who had won invitations from Wisconsin Cheese on Twitter.  Thankfully, my friends at Burp Blog and new friend from Cake Walk were also attending (and graciously drove me to Madison), thus granting me a portal into the world of food bloggers and food photography.

The moment we arrived at Cafe Soleil, it was apparent that along with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, food photography was also on the menu.  Food bloggers from all over Wisconsin gathered at Soleil not only to sample the cuisine, but to network with other food bloggers while meticulously cataloging the dishes of the evening.  Food photography was encouraged and done with pride.

After sampling several grilled cheese sandwiches and the beers that were paired with them, the food bloggers began to record what they had sampled.  I watched in awe as my blogger friends grabbed samples of the sandwiches and moved them to the window in order to get better lighting for their photos.  They arranged the sandwiches on napkins and placed them with their beer pairings.  After snapping photos of the sandwiches from various angles, the bloggers wrote down a list of each sandwich and its ingredients to post along with the photos on their respective blogs.

It was fascinating to read their posts about the Grilled Cheese Academy on their blogs because I had learned what went into recreating such an event in a blog post; the sampling, the photography, the write-up.  After witnessing this event, I realized that food photography is not boastful when used for a good purpose, such as food blogging.  Simply posting your food photos to Facebook or Flickr with the tag line “look what I can cook” can come across as a little boastful.  If you are going to post pictures of what you recently cooked or tasted at a restaurant, tell the story behind the photos.  People love a good story especially when food is involved.  However, if you’re not the storytelling type, at least share the recipe along with your food photographs!

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5 thoughts on “Take A Picture, It Lasts Longer”

  1. Hey SJ! Nice observations! I guess I never considered people may think I was boastful when posting pics before… reminds me of (one of many) favorite fortune cookie fortunes: “One hundred people, one hundred minds”… I like your ramblings, and have you added to my feedly so I can keep up and hopefully see you around! If you are going to 20 Brewer games, I may run into somehow!

  2. Thanks for reading. Great fortune cookie fortune, I’ll have to remember that. Re: food photography, I was more referring to people who literally just take pictures of food and then post them without rhyme or reason. I love food bloggers’ photography!

  3. First — it was great to have you along at the Grilled Cheese Academy event. So fun. And I appreciated all of your insights into the world of food blogging! Seriously interesting to all of us food hags who take it for granted! 🙂

    As for the photography of food without a context — I wonder if some people are relying heavily on the fact that “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Rather than telling the story with words, they’re using pictures. Could be they’re just minimalists. Or maybe it’s a sign that twitter has reduced all of our attention spans to whisps of their former selves!

  4. You make great points that I didn’t think of! Some people are minimalists and I agree Twitter has reduced our attention spans (or at least mine!). I think you’re right, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. However, whenever I see a delicious food photo, I want to know how to make the dish!

    I had a really great time at the Grilled Cheese Academy event and gaining insight into the food blogging world! I would love to do some more investigating!

  5. It was great to hear your perspective on this event. I know a lot of food bloggers who photograph every last morsel that goes into their mouth do it for accountability (with weight loss and such) and while I’m sure it’s helpful to them and others, It sometimes does seem a little narcissistic. I can appreciate good photography, but make sure if the photos aren’t the best they at least have a reason or story.

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