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Food

The Politics of Restaurant Photography

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My name is Elise and I take pictures of food. There, admitting the problem is the first step towards recovery. I know my hobby borders on the peculiar, if not the insane. I was recently snapping a few shots of a take-out carton behind a bar. The drunken regulars pointed and laughed, “Har, har! That girl just took a picture of a SANDWICH!” I am certain that’s what will be engraved on my gravestone. “She took pictures of sandwiches.” Even in the most obscure little restaurant in Monterey Park, my Mandarin-speaking friend interpreted the dining-room chatter for me, “They think you are funny because you are taking pictures of your food.” So that sentiment crosses all cultural and linguistic boundaries.

My husband and long-suffering friends have learned that dining out with me means waiting patiently to eat their food until after I have photographed it. In my defense, I try to do it quickly, and I photograph their food before I photograph mine so they can eat it while it’s hot. They obligingly turn their plates 180-degrees and hold out their sandwiches enticingly towards the camera. They joke about spotting their hands in some of the photos I publish. But I do have rules, and try to respect people’s boundaries. I don’t take anyone’s picture without their permission.