Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food Pornogrpahy Vs. Food Photography

If you've been around the foodie corner of the blogosphere for any length of time, you'll probably have heard the term "food porn." This crass little phrase means exactly what it sounds like: images of food intended to make you want what's pictured. Food porn is meant to literally make your mouth water and your taste buds tingle. Food porn, quite logically, leads to food lust.

I take issue with this. When I was in the darkest time of my battle with anorexia, I was very much into food porn. I'd wander web spots Flickr's foodie groups or TasteSpotting and gawk at the splendid images of succulent foods. I told myself that it was in the interest of gathering meal ideas, of being inspired, of becoming a better cook and photographer. In reality, though, I was torturing myself by lusting after food I would never have let myself eat, much less enjoy.

Thankfully, I'm no longer in that place, and now I eat and enjoy previously forbidden foods. However, I still have a problem with food porn sites. To set food up as something to be associated with pornography is troubling. To my understanding, a person who takes in pornography is someone seeking fulfillment by means of exploitation of the bodies of other human beings, a pursuit which is neither respectful, dignified, or meaningful. Although the repercussions of food porn and lust are much more inocuous, I still think food porn is problematic. I feel that food porn encourages people to find meaning and fulfillment in "gorging" themselves on images of food that they may or may not eat. Food does not bring fullness to your life outside of gastronomical fullness. To imply otherwise, however much you are doing it tongue-in-cheek, perpetuates a lonely and empty practice.

Food photography, on the other hand, is quite the noble pursuit in my mind. As someone who has been blogging about food and cooking for a year and a half, I know that it is difficult to take a good photograph of a dish, beverage, or other food item. Framing, background, focus, garnishes -- it takes a skilled eye to be a successful food photographer. It is truly an art! To appreciate quality food art is a positive thing, in my opinion. It is only when that appreciation turns to lust, turns to the seeking of fulfillment from something that cannot provide it -- in other words, idolatry -- that you find yourself in the danger zone.

As is obvious, I am always snapping pictures of food. Whether they are shots of a completed meal, a series following the progression of a recipe, or a purchased treat, my camera's memory is constantly full of food images. Sometimes I take really great pictures. A lot more of the time, I take average or pretty darn awful food pictures. On this past weekend's treat day with the Best Husband Ever, I was delighted to find that the former occurred. The photographs I took of my vanilla cream scone and the hubby's moose bar (a bar cookie made of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and oats -- yum!) turned out fantastically. The lighting, framing, background, and, of course, the treats, all united to form some splendid images that I was really pleased with.

Do you enjoy taking food photos, or are you more of a luster? Do you have any thoughts of the dangers of food porn versus the virtues of food photography? Do you think I'm right on the money or downright crazy? Post your feedback in a comment. I'm eager to hear what you have to say on the subject!

To learn more about food photography, visit these sites:

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