Sunday, 2 September 2012
This was my breakfast. As you can see, I'm photographing food, but I'm not a food photographer. At least, not yet. If I were a food photographer, that banana wouldn't have a raggy-looking stalk, a mark where it has been squished against the fridge shelf or any dubious brown bits of skin. The satsuma would be devoid of tiny little black spots and the flesh inside would be plump, glistening and bursting with juices. That's because food photography isn't about photographing real food. It's about presenting an ideal.
Most of us have read about food styling tricks such as spraying the salad with a glycerine mix to give it a lovely freshly-washed appearance. You can't use real water - it drips off and dries out too quickly. No sheen. There are myriad others involving everything from hairspray, deodorant, motor oil, water-soaked tampons, blow torches, cardboard boxes, toothpicks and boot polish, all designed to make rapidly-cooling hot food look like it's still hot four hours after it came out of the oven, or frozen ice cream look like it hasn't turned to a milky-looking soup.
But my little project isn't about presenting food for a recipe card, or promoting a restaurant's fine wares. This is about real food. The food I eat. Sometimes I eat food that someone else might have deemed fit only for the compost heap. Sometimes, the supermarket only has the ingredient I'm after in a rather bruised and insipid looking specimen. Sometimes I wonder if I really should eat it. But this is the food that we all eat. Supermarket adverts show you the glistening apples, the slightly frosted looking grapes, the bouncy bread rolls. But we all know that when we unpack our bags-for-life (you ARE using a bag for life, aren't you now?) there will be bashed, squished, bruised and flattened things in there that we have to try and turn into attractive, appetising meals. And if you're like me, there will be a few yellow-stickered reduced things that nobody else on the planet wanted. We've all seen the difference between what fast food restaurants want you to believe their food looks like and the burger you eventually unwrap as you peel away from the drive through.
My photographs aren't touched up. Oh, I may have tweaked the levels a little, given the contrast a boost. Just as a session in the dark room can give a flat negative a whole new lease of life, RAW files respond well to a bit of fiddling in Photoshop. But the food you see in the shot is the food I ate. I'm hoping that these photographs, the act of taking these photographs, will give me pause to think about what I'm eating, make better choices for my health, truly enjoy the indulgences and appreciate good raw ingredients when I have them. I'm not seeking perfection - in myself, in my food or in my photography. I am seeking a certain sense of realistic honesty. In all three.