Food Photography or Food for Thought?

Food Photography or Food for Thought?

Connie Coles-Garrad discusses the racist stereotypes perpetuated by Insta-foodies

We’ve all done it. We’ve all snapped a quick shot of the delicious, Michelin-star-worthy dish sat before us. And don’t tell me you haven’t! Whether it’s one for the memories or one to make your insta-followers’ mouths water; the reality is, foodie photography has firmly found its place across social networks.

But have you ever taken a second to think about the underlying messages that these photos could well be perpetuating?

In The Racist Sandwich podcast, Celeste Noche – a Portland-based food photographer – discusses the topic of racism, with regards to photography on social media, in addition to the gender and class division within Instagram food-photography and within food-magazines.

Posting a pho-to of a steaming bowl of noodles with chopsticks or some moules frites on a chequered tablecloth with a bulb of garlic sat nearby, might not be the best way to display your dish online… After all, photography, like all other forms of art, doesn’t simply depict what it says on the tin; but instead it offers an insight into a deeper level of thought and a deeper understanding of how we perceive the world. And this is where the problem lies.

Noche believes that people have the propensity to interpret food in a certain way so that certain stereotypes may be attached to the photos; thus, potentially propagating racist stereotypes. For example, in some Asian cultures, chopsticks sticking out of a bowl, or plunged vertically into a bowl of rice “can be seen as rude and symbolic of death”.

We can’t deny that food is an exciting and constantly evolving fashion, but at times this might lead us to exotify dishes that we perhaps have little knowledge about. Noche believes that we have “never quite escaped the idea that Western is the status quo, so anything other is viewed as, well, other…”.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that for many people, food is a link to their cultural heritage and a way of life.

So, next time you decide to snap your insta-worthy dish, take the time to think about the underlying message that your image is perpetuating. Or why not take some time to actually appreciate the origins of the food on your plate.

Now there’s some food for thought.

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