Food Photographs seem like real life while yo\’re looking at them, but step away and you realize that even the most naturalistic of them have a point of view.
Here are 10 ways you’ll see food interpreted in photos these days
The implication is that the image is as real as you can get. But the beauty in Justin Bilick’s Scanwich images is not just from the Brother flatbed. Scanned food photos can go the other way: the low-budget, grotesque descendants of Martin Parr. You’ll see both at another scanned-food site, Scanwiches.
2. ’80s REDUX
This is opulence, carefully plated. Food pictures that belong in a very heavy book on a very expensive coffee table. Like shoulder pads and Rolexes, it threatens to come back if the economy does.
3. COLD AND DARK
An S&M palette—black and blue on hard surfaces—was one of Gourmet magazine’s final statements, which might be a reaction to the warm reds and browns that most food photography goes for (and most food, too). Interesting switch, but not particularly inviting.
4. FOOD PORN
Please stop using the term food porn for any appetizing picture. (For an example of institutionalized abuse of the term, see FoodPornDaily.com.) The phrase could have a purpose if it had a narrower definition, and I propose: “too close, too graphic, almost repellent.” Nigella, I’m talking to you.
5. BACK TO NATURE
The food version of a botanical print– and not, in fact, a photograph –the black-and-white line drawing became a political statement with, or at least around the time of, Mollie Katze’s Moosewood Cookbook. You’re supposed to look at it and think, “Simple, natural.” And, “Feh to all your city slicker fanciness.” It’s still the way people communicate “back to the farm”: See Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food.
6. FOOD AS GRAPHIC DESIGN
Pioneered by Irving Penn, taken to thrilling extremes by a handful of photographers (Kenji Toma, Sue Tallon, Adam Levey), it’s a combination of bright colors, straight angles, split-second timing, and a sophisticated sense of design. True, sometimes it’s more arresting than appetizing, but the food still looks damn good.
7. AIRY FAIRY
Martha Stewart and Donna Hay manage to make globs of fat and protein look ethereal. Pastel, often shot outside, with deceptively simple-looking props.
8. CULINARY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Food in its natural habitat. Saveur does it best. With a recurring character and a test kitchen it becomes…
9. RAW ACTION!
Jamie Oliver’s approach still feels new: highlighting raw ingredients and showing himself running around shopping and cooking, with real food in real crusty pans (though he lately seems to be more concerned with the well-placed crumb).
Selective focus can make anybody into a food photographer! Just use low light, pick a molecule and get it into sharp focus, and let everything else blur out like a Cecil B. DeMille closeup.