I know, it’s a title that makes me sound like a spoiled brat. You might have visions of me stomping my feet and tossing my iPhone to the ground in the throes of a tantrum because I can’t have my way to take a picture of my sweet potato and chickpea tagine with jewelled saffroned rice. That’s not quite how it might seem, I promise.
Last week, the New York Times reported on the growing number of eating establishments that are prohibiting their clientele from photographing their food. No iPhones at Ko in New York and no flashes at Seiobo in Sydney or Shoto in Toronto. It’s all becoming too distracting and disturbing, for diners and staff alike, especially when people start rearranging furniture and standing on chairs. Their houses; their rules. And with behaviour like that, I’m not surprised that restaurateurs have called time on wannabe Bon Apetit photographers or people who are too involved in Instagram to actually enjoy their slow roasted pork belly properly.
So I’m here to plead for a little moderation.
I’m the first person to stand up for no flash; apart from it being a terrible disturbance to other people who are eating or working, it does horrible things to images of food that can make them look distinctly unappealing as opposed to wickedly tempting. If you want to do justice to the raspberry and mascarpone creme brulee with brandy tuile, that you’re meant to be enjoying and a pastry chef has burned his fingers making, you’ll switch off your flash. We don’t want slimy looking custard, thankyouverymuch.
As for people who think that they can stand on a restaurant chair in order to get the perfect overhead of their grilled seabass with steamed vegetables, they can go to bed with no supper. You wouldn’t do that at a dinner party hosted by a friend, so why do you think it’s acceptable when you’re in public? Besides, by the time that you’ve finished faffing, your meal will be cold, you’ll not enjoy it as much, and it will have been a waste of time, effort, money, and a dead fish.
Furthermore, if you’re meant to be enjoying delicious food, wonderful wine, and charming company, why are you pansying about on Instagram or wittering on Twitter?
But not allowing a discreet smartphone snap or a compact camera capture? That feels a little draconian to me. Without doubt, I’m biased. I take a lot of photos of food. I love cooking and eating, and obviously I love photography: I photograph food that I make and I photograph food that eat when I’m out. I do it because I’m proud of what I’ve created, because I think that what I’ve been served looks beautiful and I want to capture that, and because I like to make memories of my restaurant experiences.
I don’t want to disturb other diners and I don’t want to ruin my own enjoyment of my meal, especially if I’m paying a lot of money for the privilege. What I want is a swift image to revel in. No flash, no furniture rearrangement, no Instagram. Just a discreetly snapped picture that I can look back on years to come to help me recall how perfect that grilled halloumi salad on a terrace a few hours outside of Auckland was.
When I take photos of food in a restaurant it’s a compliment. Please accept it as such.