Am I the only one who likes food pictures on the Internet?

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Over the last few months, I’ve read article after article about how Instagram and similar apps are fucking up the world of photography, allowing anyone to declare themselves a photographer. Replace “fucking up” with “disrupting” and “photography” with “publishing” and you’ll have a pretty good sense of how just about every blogger on the planet is perceived by “conventional” writers and journalists who haven’t realized yet that their industry is in upheaval.

They’re both specious arguments, because they presume that laypeople can’t assess quality over quantity. And we can.

Democratizing things like publishing and photography are more beneficial than they are detrimental. Sure, some people take photos of what you or I might call the exceedingly mundane, but those people are taking pictures that aren’t intended for you, or a general audience. Sure, they’re using social technology to document their lives, but that doesn’t mean they want every single person on the planet to pay attention.

They’re doing, inadvertently or not, what any communicator or content creator on the web is doing: either what they want, or what their intended audience is interested in. Sometimes that means taking pictures only of sunsets. Or shoes. Or every single meal they prepare and eat.

And that’s perfectly OK. Because as annoyed as you are at all the food porn on the web, Internet-user-who’s-totally-over-it, thousands if not millions aren’t. Because despite the fact that most people will preface a link to a photo with at least a brief description — so you could quite confidently know that by clicking the link you’re going to see food — you fucking click it anyway.

And the best part, Internet-user-who-fancies-himself-a-writer-now, you use tools of authorship like Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook to register your disdain, saying things like, “Ermahgerd, so-and-so is NOT a professional photographer,” or “Instagram doesn’t make you god’s gift to photography” — causing a ripple in the Internet-time continuum which causes old, salty journalists to harumph about how having a Twitter account doesn’t make you god’s gift to writing.

Calm the fuck down. It’s a picture, and it’s probably not intended for you, anyway. You just have access to it thanks to the public nature of the web.

I love pictures of food. I loves pictures of cats. I love pictures of everything that anyone wants to post on a public timeline. You know why? It’s a glimpse into that person’s life that I wouldn’t otherwise get. By scrolling through my Instagram feed, I can see that:

  • People are spending time with their pets, who often do hilarious things
  • People are going out for nice meals, and spending quality time together
  • People are going out for walks, and finding strange objects, signs, or people on the way
  • People are getting married! They’re in love, and fuck you for being cynical about it
  • People are having a great time. They might be getting hammered, playing a board game or reading a book

The web has provided us with amazing opportunities: to connect, work together, and experience other cultures. Sometimes that involves words, and sometimes it involves pictures. Of food. Often it involves much, much more.

So relax. If you don’t like food porn, that’s fine. Don’t look at any. Unfollow the people who constantly post it. But stop using it as fodder for blog content.* It’s getting way beyond old.

*I am completely aware of the hypocritical nature of that final paragraph (and in fact the whole post), and I promise never to speak of it again.

Photo by Neal Lantela on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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5 Responses to “Am I the only one who likes food pictures on the Internet?”

  1. Not Leask
    August 29, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Any argument that boils down to “you’re wrong to enjoy ____” is one of the things that gets me the angriest. I honestly don’t understand what it is about other people enjoying something that gets so many people so upset, but trying to make them as bitter as the accuser is themselves just feels like poison to me.

    The worst part about the anti-Instagram/food pictures arguments is that they’re so totally specious. Having an iPhone doesn’t make you a photographer? OF COURSE. I’ve literally never run into someone who made that argument. People don’t post to Instagram because all of a sudden they’re a photographer; they do it because they like taking and sharing photos, something that companies like Kodak and Fujifilm have been exploiting for over half a century. The analogue to Instagram isn’t professional photography; it’s the personal photo album, and pretending it’s not is either colossal stupidity or dishonesty. It reminds me of the “God! Just play a real instrument!” anti-Rock Band/Guitar Hero arguments in terms of how utterly it misses the point.

    It’s true that having Instagram doesn’t make someone a photographer. However, complaining about it makes me respect the complaining professionals a lot less; tearing someone else down to reinforce one’s own sense of value isn’t a way to build a professional reputation because it actually lessens perception of the plaintiff’s craft as a result.

    • Adam Rozenhart
      August 29, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Fantastic comment, James. In my mind, the absolutely worst-case scenario from the democratization of photography — amateur photography — is that maybe one or two (or several hundred) of these smartphone snappers because interested in photography and winds up with a successful career in the field.

      How is that even remotely a bad thing?

  2. Alyssa
    August 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    What annoys me more are people who say instagram is for “hipsters” and that you’re lame for documenting your life in a series of piddly images.

    You know what? I’d rather spam my images of piddly things on instagram because that’s what I enjoy. And it is a more accepted medium as compared to throwing up all over facebook and twitter.

    I’m a visual person, so I like to play around with filters and post pics of my life, and like you said Adam, to get a peek into the lives of friends and acquaintances.

    Great post! Loved it.

    • Adam Rozenhart
      August 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      It’s weird how the word hipster has become synonymous with, “people others seem to hate.” Even I’ve been guilt of using that dubious label.

      But if documenting one’s life with “piddly” images makes me a hipster, then it made my parents hipsters all through my childhood. Guess what? Human memory is terrible. So we photograph and record and write. Social media makes that way easier (and more artful, speaking of filters) and it means lots of people have access to it.

      Let’s stop pretending this is new.

      Thanks for the comment, Alyssa!

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