Food Porn vs. Still-Life

Before my ‘official’ post, apologies for being away…had a lovely vacay-cay with my family, so blogging took a bit of a back seat. But I’m back now 🙂 And so, onward…

Has anyone you know facebooked a photo of their dinner recently? Yes? Then, congratulations! You’ve been food-porned! Wayne Beynon at The Guardian writes of food porn: “There are lots of theories about why people like to share pictures of food. In most cases, people are simply documenting their daily lives, of which mealtimes may be a highlight. As eating is one of society’s most essential communal activities, sharing food photos is a natural extension of this in a digital age. Some simply love beautiful “food art” shots, while others suggest that food has become a status symbol, and by sharing a photo of a meal, particularly from a high end restaurant, you raise your social media hierarchy.”

Lots of people hate food porn, and I can understand why. The superficiality of it trivializes our lives, and it seems horribly decadent considering that hunger is still the world’s number one health risk. So I’m not here to justify our penchant for snapping pictures of our dinners, but rather to…let’s say, add to the conversation. For whilst food porn is condemned by many as a symptom of contemporary greed and narcissism, we forget that it’s not actually a new phenomenon. Still-life paintings have been capturing the sensuous and inviting aspects of food since…well, since we’ve had still-life paintings. In fact, the first ‘still-life’ we know of is a Roman wall painting and, guess what? It features an artfully arranged bowl of fruit. And have a look at this beautiful Chardin, with its pearlized cherries and dusky plums.


Still-lifes of  food have functioned variously as reminders of our fragile lives in the Dutch vanitas style, as status symbols, where tables heave with not just food but trinkets and treasures, and – as with Chardin I think- reminders of the simple pleasures of life. We’ve always celebrated food and eating, and if cameras had been available back in the day, I reckon there would have been a lot of pictures taken of food. So snap away…just don’t humblebrag them all on Facebook!