Why do I photograph food?

A picture can evoke your deepest memories, transporting you to a different time, or a different dinner table.

Shanna Mallon’s post on photographing food, as well as Jacqui’s from Happy Jack Eats, got me thinking about why I personally photograph my food.

For a while, I got a little stumped when trying to think of an answer beyond the obvious – to put photos of food on my food blog so people could see the outcome of my cooking adventures.

Then I let myself soak in the idea of food photos Рnot necessarily perfect pictures of food such as those by Cannelle et Vanille or A Beautiful Day Рbut photos which are shot quickly before Juan  and I dig into our meal, our stomachs clutched and famished with hunger, or pictures which capture the spill of freshly boiled soup on the table, with the bright kitchen lights casting an overly white-glow on the food.

DSC05596

Why do I photograph food?

I’m still a long way off from being a good food photographer, but there is something appealing about shooting pictures of food that has led a revolution in Asia, where in almost every restaurant, you will certainly find people snapping pictures of the food before them. Plenty of people like posting what they’ve just eaten on Facebook or Twitter, particularly if they’ve just been to a Michelin-star restaurant, or sometimes just photos of street food from the food cart round the corner.

An obsession with snapping food photos..

Even before starting this food blog, and documenting the process of creating a dish through photos, I found it especially alluring to snap pictures of food that I would eat. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t going to post it online or send the pictures to my friends. I just wanted a photo of what I had eaten, and to store it in my memory. And since so much of our lives are spent gathered around tables with friends and family, tucking in this delicious dish or that amazing dessert, it naturally evolved that food formed a large majority of my photos. This obsession to capture food in a frame started so long ago that I can’t even pin-point an exact time when it started.

I believe this need to photograph food stems from a deeper desire and longing to make our memories tangible, to create something beautiful to hold on to.

Thinking about the reason behind all the compulsive snapping pictures of food, I realized, that it has much more to do with memory and freezing a beautiful shared moment in time. When I re-look at the photos that I’ve taken, I’m swept over by a wave of nostalgia, bringing me back to the moment, and I experience the joy and the happiness all over again.

Memories from all over the world…

From Hong Kong, to Singapore, to Germany and to Buenos Aires, the food pictures that I’ve taken in these places hold more than just a picture of a dish – they are the key to a flood of memories and beautiful feelings,¬† and a constant reminder of how blessed I am to be able to travel, to make new friends across all borders and cultures, and try out different foods. And I’m reminded over and over again, of how much better my life is because of all these experiences.

Here are some frames of my life that I’d like to share with you – I hope you enjoy them too!


With my most amazing sister Valerie when she and Jasmine visited me in Buenos Aires in Sept 2011 – this photo always reminds me of our meat buffet at Siga La Vaca after horse riding and how much our butts hurt, but what a delightful afternoon and dinner we had together. I am also so thankful that she came to visit me – I love you Val!

with val at siga la vaca


With Jasmine & Valerie at Juan’s Granny’s (Trini) house – this photo, of food filling up the entire table, is a constant reminder of Trini’s love, kindness and generosity – often extended even to those outside of her family. It captures the essence of Trini’s warmhearted soul, the precious moments we had with her before her fall, and how much I love her.

with trini


During our Chinese New Year reunion dinner at my granny’s house in Singapore, in 2011. It was the first time I had returned after relocating to Buenos Aires, and the familiar smells of chicken stock and the ingredients simmering in the steamboat pot tranported me to Heaven. Homemade chilli & rolls – this is proof of my granny’s love for everyone, a reminder of our Chinese traditions, and the importance of families, and the gathering around a table full of food.

Steamboat CNY 2011


My lovely brother Ronald stuffing himself with Hong Kong’s famous ice lemon tea and claypot rice – heavenly clay bowls of steaming hot white rice with Chinese sausages and pork and fresh vegetables. Hong Kong has been the destination for countless family holidays, and for that it will always have a soft spot in my heart.

claypot rice in HK


Meat hanging from a metal rod in a tapas bar in Barcelona. This was during a trip taken when I was on exchange in Europe, and I had traveled to meet with some friends in Spain with an exchange mate, Raymond. I remember endless plates of tapas (snacks) which came free with each bottle of cava we ordered! And then the dancing in the streets after we got a little high…!

Tapas Bar - Barcelona


Cheeses in a store in St Gallen, Switzerland. This was during our pre-exchange travel, with Faye, Raymond and Nadine, and where we met one of the sweetest couples ever, who invited us to stay in their house, and feast on cheese fondue.

Cheeses in st gallen, Switzerland


A Bavarian brunch with my hostel roommates in Mannheim – complete with weisswurst, butter pretzels, and plenty of German beer!
Bavarian brunch with roommates


At Oktoberfest in Oct 2007, having a chocolate-coated banana for dessert. I still remember Munich so vividly – the crisp night air bursting with shouts and life, Germans dressed in traditional clothes and stomping on chairs to German songs. Sinful amounts of food, sweets, and of course, rich German beers.
oktoberfest

felicia | Dish by Dish

Felicia is a Singaporean who's currently located in Buenos Aires, also known as the "Paris of South America". After moving to Argentina because of love, she found herself grappling with the mysterious concept known as cooking. Starting this blog has helped her explore the kitchen, the effect cooking has on our lives, and generally helped her make more friends with people like you! Please stay a while and explore!

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Lovely comments

    • says

      Hi Shanna! exactly! Food is so intertwined with so many life events that inevitably we associate certain memories with a particular dish.. and it’s a perfect balance!

      Thanks for dropping by shanna! And thanks for inspiring this post!!

      felicia

  1. says

    Love this– made me think….I’ve always been addicted to photographing my food…my friends and family are so used to it that they know not to take a bite until I do. I think its beautiful. Like some people feel a sunset or a baby or a bald eagle is beautiful? I think a layered sandwich or a perfectly cut cheesecake is beautiful….something I have to capture before its gone. To capture is perfectly? With a touch of caramel dripping over an edge or drops of water on the lettuce…? It makes me unreasonable happy :) My form of crazy I guess! Loved your photos from all over the world and love your blog!!!

    • says

      Hello Ruthanne!

      thanks for your thoughts!

      I totally understand what you mean about your family and friends waiting till you take a bite before they do…I’m still trying to train my bf not to dig in until the perfect shot has been taken, but he still forgets once in a while! I love how you always add the extra touch in your photos – the dripping caramel or crystal water drops, and the beauty of your photos really show the effort you put into it! I’m so glad we live in this century – where digital photos allow to capture countless moments in time before they are forever gone!

      xoxo

  2. says

    I agree with you completely! I love food photography! I’m rather obsessed with it..glad to know that I’m not alone ;). You’re absolutely right! We’re capturing those memories, those special moments that cannot be recreated otherwise. Whenever I snap pictures of my food at restaurants, people stare at me like I’m crazy. However, when I’m in Asia, it’s no big deal. In the beginning, I felt embarrassed busting out my camera everywhere I went, but now I’m totally over it. The way I see it, they don’t know what they are missing out on ;)

    • says

      Hello Min!

      Yeah! only when I go back to Asia do I feel completely normal snapping every single piece of food in my way! It’s something Asians have cultivated to be very much our own! And I completely agree with what you said – that it doesnt really matter if others look at us funny or think we’re weird! The memories captured will be worth so much more than their snooty smirks!!

  3. gracelimsaifong says

    I am very thankful for the many photos you have taken that brings back wonderful memories. Ah, this is good reason for you to upgrade your camera for great pictures Ha ha!

  4. says

    I loved reading that post about photographing food on “Food Loves Writing” as well – and I love that you decided to think about what it means to you as well! It’s all about getting the discussion going. I feel where you’re coming from in terms of food and memory; even writing that post I did for my Dad’s birthday and seeing the photos of the Hostess cupcakes, I felt transported back home to the day I made them. I know people sometimes laugh when we all eagerly take photos of our food in restaurants and before dinner, etc, but I think it speaks to how important food has become (and should be!) in our lives. It’s so much more than survival – it’s a gateway to our souls.

    • says

      Hey Jess! you’re hit it right on the spot! It’s not just snapping pictures for the mere sake of doing so: it’s more of grasping on to that fragment in time which gave us so much joy and happiness, and then putting it into a time capsule that we can revise every so often! :) Love the phrase “it’s a gateway to our souls” – it sheds new light on food photography!

  5. says

    So great you wrote about this. Certain food do bring certain memories. A lot of the time when I hangout with friends while eating, we talk about what food we will be eating next time we get together. It’s so ridiculous but I realize how important food is to create great memories. Thanks for sharing the ingenious thoughts, Felicia!

    • says

      Irene,

      I find it so amazing how food has the ability to bring people of all cultures, races and nationalities together, from dishes on the dinner table, to blog posts about food – imagine that we would not have met each other if not for our food blogs!

      And food makes up such a large part of our lives and memories, it’s the perfect homenage to photograph food for the moments of joy and beauty it brings to our lives!

      glad you liked these thoughts! thanks for your opinion too!!

  6. says

    Just found this through Shanna’s blog and I love that you continued the discussion here! Food is such a big part of our lives that it makes sense to want to hold on to those memories just as tightly as any other moments in time.

    • says

      Hi Jacqui!

      thanks for popping by! Loved that you were one of those who started the discussion which led to Shanna’s post and then eventually mine & many others! Yeah, I never imagined I would use food to hold on so much to memories, but just like you said, they make up such a big part of our lives! These are moments to be celebrated! :) Happy friday!

      p.s. love your blog! (i pop by once in a while – found u through Shanna’s!)!

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