Aside from making steamed rice, fried eggs, and baking bread, I couldn’t cook before I moved to Paris in 2010.
During this one year in Paris, in between learning French, photographing Space Invaders and hanging out with AB, I also unlocked the mysteries of the kitchen! After all, there’s only so much of bread, cheese, and 8€ bowls of pho – AB lives near Belleville where there are many Vietnamese restaurants – that I can eat before I turn into une boulette (‘a ball’)!
The constraints of AB’s kitchenette helped in my culinary endeavours as I started with simple dishes. No deep-frying or elaborate long roasts. Little by little, progress was made.
To celebrate my culinary “achievements”, I flooded my Facebook page with photographs of meals that I had made. The result: Several friends commented that I must be a good cook since my pictures of food looked good!
Hand to heart, most of what I made turned out well – at least by AB’s and my standards. Nowadays I look at some of the things that I made in Paris and am surprised by the variety of tested recipes – from yam rice to jiao zi (Chinese dumplings), and frittata to katsu-don (Japanese rice bowl topped with fried pork cutlet, egg and onion).
The Internet was, and still is, a tremendous help with learning to cook: Want to make your own Larabar? What can you use to substitute buttered milk? Have too much dill?
These days, about 90% of my meals are made at home. As I’m working full-time again and don’t have as much free time, most of my home-cooked meals are simple compared to what I sometimes made in Paris.
I guess the novelty of being able to cook has also worn off. So my family and friends are spared from my countless photographs of food appearing in their Facebook newsfeed! I still enjoy taking photographs of food, though mostly for my personal records and to share with my family and friends what I’ve been up to in Brussels.
There must be at least a million food blogs on the Internet. Some of my favourite cooking blogs include The Kitchn and David Lebovitz, who were amongst the early starters in this area on the World Wide Web.
When I started reading food blogs some years ago, I thought that there was a fair amount of original content – in terms of the photography, writing style and creativity.
These days, many food blogs seem like a recreation of a more successful predecessor. Which feels like a whole lot of “same same but different.” If you’ve been to Thailand, you’d certainly have been approached by a tout trying to sell to you a “Louis Vuitton” bag or a pair of “Levi’s” jeans, all the while repeating to you “same same but different.”
With Instagram’s growing popularity, it seems like this situation of “same same but different” in food photography is further compounded!
Where have the fresh ideas gone?
Yesterday I came across a blog called “The Little Library Cafe” and I love Kate’s idea of baking something that is inspired by a story: Madeleines in Swann’s Way, honey and rosemary cakes inspired by Winnie the Pooh, and Harry Potter eating a treacle tart in the Philosopher’s Stone.
For something savoury, check out Megan Fizell’s blog: Feasting on Art.
Malaysian artist, Hong Yi, gave a fresh spin with her “31 days of food creativity” project during which she used raw ingredients to make art – including a Banksy and a puffer fish. I also like Lauren Purnell’s plates of art on her blog, Creative Canvas.
Do you agree that there’s a lot of “same same but different” when it comes to food photography?
Who comes to mind when it comes to having an original perspective with food photography?
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate beautiful photographs of food.
I like seeing homecooked food presented with care, matched with utensils and pretty place-mats or set against a gorgeous wooden tabletop. Whoever said that just because you are eating at home means that the food should appear like an unappetising glob?
Most of my food shots are simple with little props – though this is probably due to limited utensils and cutlery. For instance, when it come to plates, I only have 2 big and 2 small round ones.
However, I don’t like highly staged images.
Imagine: A top-down perspective of a finished dessert with the ingredients scattered around it, including a deliberate drizzle of honey /chocolate sauce across the tabletop. This is trying too hard in my opinion. And who’s doing the cleaning up? Not me, that’s for sure!
With limited props and spaces in my apartment, I try to be a little creative so that there’s some variation amongst my images.
This could mean using unexpected surfaces such as the window sill or a snow-covered table on the terrace, or playing with light and shadows.
Sometimes it’s simply the presentation of the food itself, letting the colours, shapes, or even rising steam take centre stage.
I like adding a story to my food pictures. Once, I paired a photograph of blueberries in an orchard in Hokkaido with a freshly baked Very Berry Coffee Cake.
Over the weekend, I made a triptych about deflowering an artichoke. What I like about it is that this was exactly how my table looked like when I ate that giant artichoke all by myself (which had me feeling so stuffed afterward that I could barely move!)
What about you? What is your take on food photography?
Most of the photographs above were taken with either a Fuji x100 and processed using RPP or with an iPhone and edited using the vsco cam app.