12.10.2012

When we photograph our food

As an instagram-endowed people, capturing every beautiful moment of life in pixelation is part of the way that we make meaning in this world. We morph the images with filters and cropping, casting an instantaneous nostalgic sheen on the moment as it is happening. Our desire for belonging and beauty is constrained and distorted until it squares-up with the pre-imposed proportions of a tiny screen.

This phenomena and its absurdity is profoundly evident in our desire to photograph our food from this angle, with that filter, with the drizzle of sauce and a fork perched on the side of the plate. All this so that our faithful friends and following might know that what we eat looks as good as it tastes. All that while knowing that your animal-style burger from everyone's favorite West Coast chain is only a teensy bit less uninteresting than tomato plant flowers.

But this is not the wail of an uninterested and still complicit social media user, this is the wail against the injustices of which I am quite guilty.

When we photograph our food and declare it's greatness into the cyber-abyss, we lose sight of food's primary purpose in our lives--creative sustenance. Food becomes an object of our ego and not of nourishment. Food becomes about our individual greatness and not about the planet and the people that made the nourishment possible. The act of eating food is not only intrinsic to our body's survival, but it is a declaration of dependency on fertile soil, farming hands, and skillful kitchen work. The act of photographing food deadens our hearts to the nourishing and communal activity of growing, making, and eating it. It removes food's creative and sustaining qualities and morphs it unto yet another distorted device of exerting our wealth and privilege.

Access to nourishing food is not a given in our world. Hunger and malnourishment is a reality on our planet, in our country, in our communities. The privilege of copious consumption is to be confessed and not to be flaunted. Food is to be shared in the flesh, passing the plates and casserole dishes around the table, not on the screen, as a scrolling image of roasted vegetables and grilled meats. Food is the simplest way to nourish another person, to bring meaning and purpose to your relationship with them.

Food is the means by which God continues declare Jesus is enfleshed in this world, nourishing the people. When photographed, the body of Christ appears simply to be bread, no filter or accoutrement can morph it to appear otherwise. But when passed from one hand to another, the bread is the body of Christ, nourishing hearts, minds and souls so that they the nourished will go and do the nourishing--one weeding and water, one inevitably messing baking session, one meal at a time.

No photograph can ever do that.


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