Friday, February 27, 2009
Hey Man Nice Shot
So only about a couple weeks into this endeavor, and I already find myself at a crossroads. To shoot or not to shoot? Every red-blooded eater loves them some food porn. I'll readily admit that among my favorite things about many of the blogs I follow are the pictures. And next week I'm off to Spain, the culinary equivalent of ... well, let's not play out the porn analogy any further.
And yet - there is a part of me that really wants to avoid becoming "that douchebag taking pictures of his food." It can annoy other diners. It can annoy chefs and other restaurant staff. Sometimes, there seems to be something of a self-righteous sense of entitlement that because you've mastered the rudiments of WordPress or TypePad or flickr, every restaurant should bend over backwards to let you snap away.* Somehow, nobody ever thinks they're "that guy" but rather they're all models of discretion and subtlety in their photojournalistic stylings.
Besides, it is no false modesty to say I have no photographic or general artistic skills whatsoever. I am capable of operating the most rudimentary functions of a point-n-click camera, but that's really about it. The results are rarely much to look at. Even were I to try to take some good food pix, the product would likely be amateurish at best and embarassing at worst (again, the porn analogy comes to mind).
But perhaps even more importantly, I'm concerned with the potential dissociative effect - the loss of the opportunity to actually experience, rather than merely critically observe and document, a meal. When a dish is brought out to me, I don't want my first reaction to be "Is the lighting right?" Despite my interest in chronicling great meals, I've always found it fairly easy to write something later by merely paying attention, sometimes taking a couple notes, and saving menus. A good meal usually provides both a visceral, hedonistic satisfaction and an intellectual satisfaction as well, though the weight of each type of reward varies considerably depending on the type of meal. I'm concerned that the addition of a camera into the equation has the potential to screw up that balance.
David Chang, who got some flak for banning photogrpahy at Momofuku Ko, said, "It's just food. Eat it." (There's some interesting comments from several other chefs and others in the same article.) Though I'm not sure it's quite that simple, I understand the sentiment.
Our lineup for Spain includes Viridiana and Goizeko Wellington (or possibly Kabuki Wellington, we'll see) in Madrid, Arzak, Akelare, and lots of pintxos in San Sebastian, and Dos Palillos (new restaurant from Albert Raurich, former El Bulli chef de cuisine) in Barcelona. Would I love to come back with hundreds of beautiful pictures of fantastic food? Sure. Will I do it? We'll see.
*This is not any sort of general knock on the site linked to, which I often find is a very good read.