Omnivore - Purty pics of plated food

I'm sure you're diggin' this mouthwatering picture of my leftover $64 Porterhouse bone at the new Kevin Rathbun Steak. (More about that farther down.) Yes, I'm making a statement.

Perhaps you have noticed that I don't take a lot of pictures of individual plates of food, as many bloggers do. There are a couple of reasons. The first is that I'm not that skilled as a photographer.

The second is that two decades ago I spent a couple of years as editor of a glitzy home-and-garden magazine. I got really sick of looking at complexly styled food (as well as interiors, gardens and architecture). Basically a still-life composition, the usual photo of a plate of food seeks to be seductive rather than representational. (And you would not believe some of the crap professional food stylists use to "preserve" and enhance a plate of food for a photo session.)

Of course, presentation is part of what makes food appetizing, but the food photograph, styled by a professional, is an art quite independent of the chef's art, no matter how good she is at plating. "Photographs beautify," Susan Sontag wrote. You can't intelligently look at a food photograph without thinking about "authenticity" of depiction. Just take a look at the fast-food images I linked to last week to see how far that can go. (It's also true, naturally, that a bad photograph can as easily misrepresent a chef's work.)

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