Foodie Underground: Where There’s Food, There’s a Camera


This post should definitely begin with an admission: I have a full blown food porn addiction. A combination of a love for aesthetics and cuisine, a food porn addict’s favorite utensil is their camera and having it along is as important as accompanying an excellent meal with a good glass of wine.

According to the New York Times, “the number of pictures tagged ‘food’ on the photo sharing website Flickr has increased tenfold to more than six million in the last two years.” Take a quick peruse of the site and you’ll find hundreds (if not thousands) of groups merely devoted to food photos. Snapping photos of food has never been hotter, but it’s not just a form of artistic expression; food photos are becoming tools for foodies on the lookout for the latest and greatest in cuisine, and taking part doesn’t necessarily require a digital SLR and a photo portfolio.

Thanks to smartphones, dining out has become a shared experience, allowing foodies to document their gastronomic adventures and push them out via social networks. Take Foodspotting, a popular iPhone application with the tagline “find dishes, not just restaurants.” The application provides a visual local guide to hot food spots, not just focusing on reviews, but giving users access to photos of exactly what they can expect.


Applications like Foodspotting are based on the idea that good food can be found anywhere, taking the focus off high-end five star locales and letting users decide what they think is best. Like underground food markets, the phenomenon of food porn obsession is just another example of culinary culture becoming more and more accessible to everyone.

Across the Pacific, our European foodie friends just recently launched Yumit, deemed a “social network about gastronomy.” New to the scene, the site is small, but has lots of room for potential growth, and with a European following, you can certainly expect a wide variety of mouth watering photos.

Not everyone is pro food photography however, and sometimes capturing the best shot entails a bit of creativity. On a recent trip to San Francisco I was excited for the chance to get in on some authentic Tamale Lady action at the Zeitgeist. As anyone obsessed with food photos, I wanted to fully document the meal and hadn’t noticed the large “no photography” sign at the back of the outdoor seating area. I managed a shot of the tamales (see above), but unfortunately capturing the charm of the Tamale Lady was cut short by a waiter who yelled at me as soon as he saw my clunky black Canon DSLR.

Banning food photography isn’t uncommon and opinions on the matter are divided. Many cite the distraction to other customers, but banning food photos certainly doesn’t stop crafty, wiley food bloggers who manage to sneak in their cameras and iPhones nonetheless. Food porn simply can’t be stopped.

No matter how much you enjoy beautiful food photos however, being good porn obsessed does come with its risks, most notably, taking less time to enjoy food and more time to photograph it. Table-mates can cringe every time you pull out your camera to document the event, and with good reason: being a foodie is ultimately about relishing what you’re eating.

But with a little social grace and an awareness of your eating to shooting ratio, photographing and sharing your meals can help in forwarding the underground food movement, promoting smaller locales that pride themselves on local and organic goods and finding the small gems that mainstream media easily overlooks.

Editor’s note: This is the third installment of Anna Brones’s new column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Photo Credits: Anna Brones

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.