Friday, October 12, 2012

crumbs and chaos

As you know, I'm just an inadvertent dabbler in food photography, but I do find it interesting to think about it in conjunction with the history of still life, for example. In conjunction with all the other still lifes being constructed in my home. The way that compositions and lighting of still lifes alters through time, subject matter expands, contracts.  What a still life can be has changed, has been pushed.

Food photography, too, changes. Fads arise. Tones change seasonally, I suppose - I'm no expert. I thought this article in the NYT about the photographer Laura Letinsky was interesting.  I really love her work - more can be seen here.

This idea that the photographs of food should be all cleaned up and perfect is a bit weird - when outside the frame, mess and crumbs and chaos, right?

The questions - what can be appetizing?  What can be beautiful?  What is real?

I hesitated posting these sandwich photos, for example. (This seems a strange thing to even be blogging about, but here goes). They're a bit messy. The cilantro is oddly placed maybe. But they were so good: turkey, cheddar, cilantro, mango chutney, on Naan bread. The recipe was from Fine Cooking.

 Ditto the soup.  The light isn't quite right.  I don't know.  Still, I'm compelled to photograph certain things, in a more or less haphazard way.  Besides which, the light at dinner time is next to non-existent at this time of year. And will be for the next, what 6, 8 months....ha.

Sometimes, when I'm at home at lunch, not on a library work day, it's a matter of rummaging in the fridge and seeing what's leftover and quickly throwing it into a sandwich like structure and tossing it onto the sandwich press, so that both of us can quickly get back to our 'real' work - writing, painting etc. And it's not always pretty:

Leftover sunflower sprouts, yellow zucchini squash, random cheese, and some mortadella.

We don't eat out that often, but recently went to Earl's. They're not the world's best pics, but maybe there's a different mood when you photograph things in a restaurant which I think is kind of interesting. All the mess is far away in the kitchen. There are no crumbs on the plate (at least not when the food first arrives).  

I think if I'd read the article on Letinsky first, I might have had a different approach with these. Maybe tried to capture the empty plates, the half-eaten, etc.  


  1. I love your food photography, but that article, and your words here, give a lot of food for thought, too. I have such a difficult time showing the mess in my life, although it is all around me.

  2. I am going to try those sandwiches! They looks delish! And I think the soup shot is so perfect. You are an inspiration!

  3. I've always been fond of photographing food, whether in the making or at service -- at home and in a restaurant. Initially the only thing that really mattered was getting it as perfect as possible -- much like a perfectly coiffed hairstyle. But in the past 2 or 3 years, I'm particularly fond of photographing those partially eaten bits, cakes already cut and crumbs on the plate, and so on. The difference is -- I'm a chicken. I'm most often afraid to post them on my blog or on Flickr. [insert the old Chicken Man theme from CJCA here]. I think I posted one of those once on Flickr over a year ago, but otherwise, I'm afraid to post them because I'm afraid people will think I don't know how to take photos of food! How silly is that!? I loved reading that article and have to agree with all your thoughts on the subject. I sure feel silly.

  4. I'm a chicken, too. I love those photos of the dirty dishes I've seen on Flickr. But it's so interesting to me, how difficult it is for me to even think of doing that. But if part of what I'm trying to get at in my photos, on the blog etc, is the beauty of every day life, then how does the mess fit into that? I have to keep thinking about all this too - so I'm happy that this struck a chord with all you as well.


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