A History of Food Photography – Part 1

Great! Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year - a competition celebrating food photography. Until recently, food photography was considered crass and unworthy of artistic attention, yet food is much more than nourishment in our consumerist culture.

As no history books cover the subject of food photography, I’ve examined various sources on my own blog http://hgvthompsonphotography.blogspot.com/ and share some of my findings here with you.

Food has been a photographic ‘subject’ since the early 1800s, but the genre’s methods, equipment and style have significantly changed since then.

Before examining the history of food photography, we must first look at still life paintings. Arguably, food photography has developed from this art tradition.

Painters of the 1800s used key aspects of interest that contemporary food photographers have adopted - effects of light, composition, allegory and meaning, and indicators of lifestyle and class. Old paintings drew attention to food’s ‘natural beauty’. Food was often the subject matter. Painters meticulously arranged objects and boasted painterly skills. Italian, Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio composed realistic depictions of fruit. Such paintings highlight key aspects in still life and techniques that all carry over into food photography.

From time to time over coming months, I’ll examine other influential still life painters but you can also read more about the history of food photography on my blog.


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