In an age where everyone owns a camera, with the capability to produce photographs, we've become all entitled to partake in the art of photography, whether we're doing it consciously or unaware. And we've all been guilty snapping our smartphones and cameras on delicacies.
However, food photography did not form in the technology era. Rather, even our ancestors have been guilty of painting and even taking pictures of food.
History says: food art & visuals are not new
Food in art is not entirely new. It has actually been around since the 17th century when every painter -- pro or amateur -- would sit down with their easels and paint on a well-posed dish, or dinner set atop the table.
Food would often be used as a subject, allowing painters to harness all the criteria of what makes a good painting. The meticulous arrangement of the objects - from fruits, cooked meat, soup, wine along with utensils must be painted in such a sublime way. Occasionally one would find weird items camouflaged in the picture -- like turtles.
Next to flowers, food was the favorite subject among still life painters. Food symbolized wealth and class, and the more grandeur the set-up is, the more a painting would show off its status. Somehow, it is a story and symbol.
Even now, contemporary painters still need to practice their skills through still life.
Food in early photography
Several times had photography scholars discussed that many of the artistic principles in photography were inherited from painting -- portraiture, landscape, still life. Everything applies to photography.
Food photographs began appearing in the early 19th century; the same rule applies. Meticulous arrangements using only the most beautiful sets of fruits, utensils, objects, and whatnot. Photography is perfected realism, and artists who transitioned from the paintbrush to the camera treated the new medium the same.
Most early food photographs would have very intricate lighting, as it is essential to producing a picture. Henry Fox Talbot once photographed a fruit basket in 1842, later on making a whole series of fruit baskets and patterned table cloths, reminiscent of 17th-century Flemish paintings.
And by 1867, chromo-lithographs began gracing in cook books, being used as illustrations.
Food photography in contemporary still life
Food photography has become part of the average, camera-owning human being. Today, many continue to hold up the tradition of glorifying food in art -- whether by painting or photography.
It has become a global culture, and surprisingly we have innovated several ways of food still life photography. The flat lay, being one of the most popular styles of capturing food, is rampant on social media. We even take photographs of food that are being eaten now -- those close-up shots of a semi-devoured lasagna, hand-filleted chicken, or a bitten rice roll.
You have Sophie Calle, Stephen Shore, Cindy Sherman, Martin Parr, Wolfgang Tillmans and Nobuyoshi Araki photographing food every now and then as part of their experimental oeuvre as they mix-and-match cutlery, table designs and other things to make their own styles of still life.
It's how we photograph our food do we get an insight of our innermost pleasures; our love for wealth, satisfied palates, and warmed stomachs.
Whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack time, there's just no excuse as to why we should not take a photograph of our food. So what do our artistic efforts tell about us humans and our relationship with food and all that it symbolizes?
We humans, have always loved food as much as we love love itself.
How about you? What does food symbolize for you?
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