Food photography seems simple on the surface—photographs of culinary and edible delights which aim to entice or whet our palette, ranging from elaborate feasts to macro cheesy pizza shots. But appealing to our senses is just one of the goals of food photography throughout the decades. It also acts as a way to communicate values about gender, society, race, politics, and even our ideals for the future. The fact that images of food conjure the senses of taste and smell, two particularly visceral sensory experiences and the two most closely tied to memory, makes it one of the most powerful mediums through which to communicate and persuade.
In the 1900s, food photography embarked on an evolution as a visual medium which, along the way, has acted as a mirror for historic and social changes in America. Food photographs after WWII reflected American values of abundance; photographs of international cuisine in the 1980s projected white colonial narratives; and contemporary food photography often must grapple with technology and globalism. Of course, the art of photographing food and drink is only as old as photography itself, originating first as simple still lifes of foods arranged in echos of Dutch paintings. However, food photography quickly embarked on its own path as a visual medium, and began to fundamentally change how we view eating, dining, and cooking as part of our collective identity.
We'll take a look at food photographs decade by decade to see what aspects of American society and culture can be gleaned, and attendees will have a chance in breakout rooms to analyze food images, working with each other to develop their own analysis of social or cultural issues that emerge in the styling, lighting, and food choices of a culinary photograph.
Teacher: Allie Wist
Allie Wist is an artist, writer, photo editor, and educator whose work is anchored in food systems, food culture, and global landscapes. She is a part-time faculty member at both The New School and NYU, where she teaches Food in the Arts and Food and Media.
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Nov. 24, 20208 p.m.
Nov. 24, 2020
Think Olio | Conjuring the Senses: Food Photography and American Society
Food photography quickly embarked on its own path as a visual medium, and began to fundamentally change how we view eating, dining, and cooking as part of our collective identity. In this Olio, We'll take a look at food photographs decade by decade to see what aspects of American society and culture can be gleaned through analyzing one of our favorite photography subjects.