Before we jump in, I’d like to say that I’m not a fan of the endless “An Open Letter To….” articles that flood my Facebook feed. They’re usually preachy and condescending. However, it felt like an appropriate format for this post…. because I’m about to get my preach on.
Dear Person Who Makes Fun Of Me For Taking Pictures Of My Food,
You know who you are. You’re the group of men at the bar gawking at my buffalo-wing photoshoot. You’re the server who comes to ask how my food is, only to roll your eyes when you realize I haven’t gotten around to tasting it yet. Often times, you’re even my parents.
We were recently invited to a menu tasting at Drury’s Beer Garden, a summer-time off-shoot of Opa in Center City, Philadelphia. You can imagine my delight when we were served these loaded fries. The sheen on the yolk, the drip of the cheese, the mud-slide of succulent brisket. My friends (and followers) had to see this! Panicked, I looked around the courtyard of the beer garden searching for a sunlit spot to photograph the masterpiece before me. Dish in hand, I navigated my way through the crowd of cocktail sipping socializers, protecting my mountain of fries like a new born baby. When I found a spot where the sun rays hit the fries just right, I posted up and started my photoshoot. Lost in the beauty of the dish, I got into my zone, taking close-ups from every possible angle. When I finally broke eye contact with the glistening yolk, I looked up to find the crowd around me staring at me. Pointing. Whispering. Laughing. The boldest of the group, sun burnt and encouraged by the beer in his hand and his boys by his side, said “Are you ever gonna eat that or just take pictures?” Laughter erupted from the crowd as I smiled, stuffed my phone into my pocket, and scurried back to the safety of my shady table and my hungry, but ever-patient boyfriend. Food Instagrammers and amateur food-photographers alike will tell you that this is not an isolated incident.
We have come to find that the practice of taking pictures of food before indulging has been tacked with a stigma of being the past time of social-media obsessed, attention-hungry millennials who don’t live in the moment. As ambassadors for those social-media obsessed picture takers, we would like to offer an opposing view of our favorite hobby.
First of all, photography is an appropriate part of any celebration. The most momentous occasions of our lives: weddings, births, graduations, are commemorated by taking pictures. (Am I comparing myself taking a picture of a taco to you taking a picture of your new born baby or your bride on your wedding day?… Yes. I really love tacos.) In the spirit of loving life, why not commemorate the small things as well? For food lovers, every meal is an occasion. Each sought-after dish is a thing to be remembered, documented, and shared with family and friends. Food is a celebration of life. When we look at the food in our camera roll, we remember the experience of searching for the perfect restaurant, the friends we shared the meal with, and conversation inspired by the dish. For us, “living in the moment” sometimes means taking out our phones and saying “I want to remember this”. Or in our case, saying “I want to remember this taco.”
Second, food pictures are art too!.. Okay, let’s not take ourselves too seriously here. Although my ice cream cone iPhone pics are things of beauty, I know they’re not going to appear in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (#goals). Food photography is, however, a craft and sometimes even a career that involves learned methods and techniques. An entire culture has blossomed around our desire to search out and stare at high quality food pictures. And this culture no longer lives on Food Network or in Bon Appétite magazine. It’s happening in the high demand and constant supply of food porn on social media. It’s okay if you aren’t a part of it and it’s okay if you don’t ‘get it’. But why criticize it?
Lastly, we all benefit when people ‘gram from the restaurant table. Every customer is a food critic with a ready camera and a listening audience. As more and more people look to their Instagram feed for restaurant suggestions, chefs and restaurateurs are called to serve up picture-perfect, always-changing menu items to keep their followers interested. Um, you’re welcome.
All this being said, I’ve learned to ignore your commentary. In fact, I returned to the sunny spot in the beer garden to take a picture of this bronze and beautifully battered Moroccan-style corndog. And I did so proudly, because I like my silly, self-indulgent hobby. It makes me happy. And haters gonna hate.