Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Photograph Your Food?

Not that long ago, I had someone say something to me about their thoughts on people who like to take pictures of their food and it really stuck with me. They said that they really don't get it and that they feel such a tendency suggests an unhealthy relationship with what you eat. They felt that pictures should be taken only of "things that matter" and a person's meals should be considered fuel to live on and nothing more.

Now as a food blogger and sometime professional food writer myself, you might be thinking that this person's thoughts stuck with me because they offended me. I clearly like to take pictures of my food and have enjoyed doing so even before it ever occurred to me that I might also like writing about it. However, you would also be wrong. The comment actually stuck with me because I really felt truly, honestly sorry for this person. How boring mealtimes must be if you think of your food as simple fuel and nothing else!

I can't imagine not making an event worth remembering out of a meal you really slaved over or a trip to a particularly good restaurant. The memories of the food I eat stick with me long after most of the other memories of a particular day have faded. If an event is truly special -- like a holiday or a birthday -- I agonize over what foods to serve or eat, because they're honestly more important to me than presents are. If I want to make a special event out of a typical day, then the first thing that it occurs to me to do is think up something out of the ordinary to cook and eat.

As for photos, they are definitely about memories to me. Like anyone, I take photos of things I want to remember and since food is such a huge part of any event worth recording for any reason, no photo set is complete without a shot or two of whatever was eaten. When I look through my "Tasty Things We Cook and Eat" album on Facebook, I see lots and lots of delicious memories and I love how even long after the food in question has been consumed, I can still remember how it looked in detail and reminisce about cooking it, eating it, and sharing it with loved ones.

By now, I think people are just totally used to me taking pictures of all the stuff I make to eat. My Facebook followers actually ask when more food pics are coming if I haven't posted any new ones in a while. Even my mom and fiance have learned to ask if I took enough pictures when I make something really good, because they know I will want them later on. It's just part of who I am to people now, I guess, and I can't say that bothers me in the least. Really, it could be anything, too. Naturally I take some pictures of the big feasts or the special meals, but there are plenty of times when I make something quick like a sandwich or a quesadilla and just think "that sure looks good" before deciding on a whim to record it for posterity. The foods I eat are my memories and I enjoy sharing them just as much as anyone else does.

One of my favorite food bloggers, Adam over at The Amateur Gourmet made a really terrific post on photographing food a while back and I loved his thoughts on the subject. Naturally people who write about food for a living (or for fun) have another use for the pictures they take of their food entirely. However, he talked all about how there is a benefit in photographing food for the sake of it, too. It makes us stop, pause, and consider what we're about to eat in a way that you really don't otherwise.

I personally don't think that people do that enough -- stop, reflect and consider, I mean. I really do believe that everything is worth thinking about and reflecting on whether it's a a beautiful sunset, a conversation with a friend, or a wonderful meal that someone cooked and plated with care. The act of taking a photo is a wonderful thing that helps us do this more often and I think anyone can benefit from that. Like Adam also said, it's the ability to consider and appreciate such things that separates us from the animals.
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