How Food Photography Has Changed over the Years
Food has always been a part of history, but the way it has been captured in cookbooks and the media has changed wildly over the years. Different styles, techniques and aesthetics have emerged, changing how the art has played a role in our society.
In the new food photography book, Feast for the Eyes (available June 15), writer and photography curator Susan Bright explores this evolution dating back to the 19th century. She covers how food was first photographed as a subject, rather than something in the background, by photographers like William Henry Fox Talbot in his work A Fruit Piece (1845).
Throughout the book, Bright references how food has been a part of important topics, like religion and politics. For example, during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, young black Americans were photographed sitting at a whites-only diner counter across from white waitresses who refused to serve them. And while the layer cake in between them is not the main subject of the photo, it "becomes a very physical barrier between the young men and the women—between black and white," she writes in the book.
Bright also discusses how food, especially "cookbooklets" and cookbooks, have been scribed and photographed in a certain way to sell a gender-focused lifestyle. "Many cookbooks are still marketed mainly at women, though not as blatantly as they were,” she says in an interview with British Journal of Photography. “Look at Jamie's 15-Minute Meals. Before you get to the recipes, there is a spread of photographs of [Oliver's] family." Bright says the photos signify how his wife has everything under control at home, serving her family delicious, healthy meals, even though she's busy, all while under the man's supervision.
"When you look at the very best photographs, you want not only the food, but also the tableware and cutlery," Bright writes. This translates to today's age, when people use platforms like Instagram to showcase food and restaurants to sell an image.
Check out the slideshow for some of our favorite photos from the book, then get the book here.
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