On Food, Photography & Food Photography

My personal favorite type of website has got to be the Single Topic Tumblr (STT). Whether it's the classic Kim Jong-il Looking at Things (RIP Dear Leader), the short-lived Teenage Mutant Ninja Noses, the esteemed Humans of New York, or the occasionally educational I Love Charts, STTs are perfect for me because I have a short attention span. Sometimes I think my heavy usage of the internet has given me ADD. When reading a page or article I often find myself opening new tabs while I wait for the previous one to load, and before I know it there are a dozen tabs and I've already forgotten or stopped caring what the first one was about.

Recently a new STT popped up on my dashboard that hit a little too close to home. It's name? Pictures of Hipsters Taking Pictures of Food with the tagline, "Documenting the phenomenon of people taking pictures of food they did not themselves cook." I laughed as I scrolled through the photos, but inwardly cringed because I am totally one of those people. In my defense I'm not that hardcore about it, but even so, iPhoneography is not that subtle.

There are two issues at play here. One is why bother taking pictures of food in the first place? My Instagram feed is dominated by food photos, but for the most part they're all things that I made myself in class. But, hell, I was taking pictures of food long before I owned an iPhone and before smartphone cameras were even respectable. Call me a hipster, but back in the day (i.e. high school) I was taking pictures of food on 35mm film to make prints that I developed in a darkroom. I once heard it said on the Food Network that you first eat with your eyes. And now that I'm in cooking school being graded on presentation, it's become well-ingrained that food should look good. Pretty people get their photos taken all the time, so why shouldn't a nice cake or intricate latte art get the same treatment?

The other issue that POHTPOF pokes fun at is social media and technology, because you just know by looking that all of the photos of the meta-subjects will inevitably end up on Instagram. I use the photography app quite a bit myself to post pictures, but the reason why I don't use it much to follow others is best summed up by a deliciously snarky open letter to people who take pictures of food with Instagram.

Just because the picture looks artsy doesn’t mean you are. I get it. We all went through our creative, experimental stages. There is a period in all of our lives where we think we can probably make money off our pseudo-artistic talent of choice. And now, you think you are a photographer because Instagram does the work for you. - Katherine Markovich

Apps like this allow users to slap nifty-looking filters on otherwise bland, badly composed and/or out of focus pictures. But for a generation of humblebraggers artistry is not paramount; Instagramming and checking in are just about proving that you were there.

Of course this is all really just a long-winded introduction to say that on Friday night I had one of the best dinners thus far in Paris at Les Papilles. In a nutshell: four-course set menu that changes daily and surprisingly isn't too expensive. The portions are considerable (I've definitely paid more and gotten less at other restaurants) and served up family-style, like classy comfort food. There's also a great wine selection (not that I'm an expert or anything but they had a lot of really cool-looking bottles and let's face it that's generally how I judge my wines). Your waiter will tell you that a bottle for the table is 7€ than a bottle to go, but obviously it's meant to be paired with the meal so chances are you'll pay up anyways.

I hesitated to photo-document the meal because POHTPOF has made me slightly self-conscious about doing so, but...it was such a good experience I suppose I didn't want to only have memories of it after. Here are pictures of what I ate there.

As much as I complained in the beginning I don't really have a solution because I think the problem is at least partially rooted in narcissism, but I suppose every photo is meaningful...if not only to the photographer herself. So for the sake of your followers and friends, Facebook or genuine, make each picture count. Don't be ashamed to pull out your phone at the brunch/lunch/dinner table, but please take a few extra seconds to do it right. When I see the finished product I want to drool with envy, not roll my eyes and click 'unfollow.'