It’s hard to explain how happy this shit makes me.
So, for that matter, can keytar music.
But like the keytar’s ubiquity in 1980s pop music, food photography suffers from accessibility and mistaken egalitarianism.
I have a camera and I have this food; ergo, I am a food photographer.
Let me just tell you–food photography is hard work, for the simple reason that it combines the already difficult craft of photography with another difficult craft. Google “food styling” and you’ll see. Any restaurant chef will tell you there’s a difference between plopping a lot of comestibles on a plate and constructing the kind of thing that makes people half-orgasm when it arrives at their table.
Which brings me to another issue–the orgasm issue. “Foodgasm,” as it’s known, gives me the willies. I’m old-fashioned–I prefer sexual thrills to remain, well, sexual. Put another way, you’d think it was a bit off, wouldn’t you, to see someone convulsing in erotic ecstasy at the sight of a cow grazing in a field, no matter how Vermeer-esque the light that fell upon him? What makes it not weird to have that sort of reaction to the dead cow upon your plate?
I digress. (But that’s why you love me…isn’t it?) The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not professing to be an ace food photographer; I don’t have the natural skill and I certainly don’t have the, er, drive.
But a market photographer…now that ambition I can get behind.
The colors (some so brilliant that I had to Photoshop some of the saturation out of them), the meditative expressions of people who buy, the beatific expressions of people who sell, the vibration of thriving local commerce that you can practically see rising from the market square like life force radiating from a qi-gong master’s hair… All o’ dat. I love it. It thrills me, in a Norman Rockwell Christmas-multiplied-by-Van Gogh’s irises kind of way.
Sometimes so much that it lasts until I get home.
And that’s when you get my attempts at food photography.
The day after I arrived in Portland, I had lunch with the inimitable Allison Jones, who I met over the social medias a few years ago when she was just slightly less of a big deal. She is now an inarguably big deal, running the world from her editor’s desk at Portland Monthly as arbiter of all things in Rose City that are, in her words, “so tasty and real.”
(Isn’t that the best descriptive couplet you ever heard? Come on, it is.)
We ate that day at Clyde Common and, over fried egg sandwiches and duck confit, she regaled me with proof of Portland’s preeminence when it comes to food. The Saturday market, she declared, is the best in the country. It may have been the influence of French fry-induced serotonin, but I believed her, right there and then.
And still more, when I actually visited the market.
The thing that really singles Portland farmers out–and possibly is the clinching feature in their bid for first place–is how uncondescending they are about their excellence. They don’t assert their superiority through disparaging other regions of the country; still less do they assert their products’ worth by shaming those who come only to sample but not to buy.
Having worked at farmers’ markets for a couple of years, I harbor what I think is a healthy sense of guilt about taking samples when you’ve no intention of buying.
But the PDX people practically push them on you–if they’re not standing out front of their stall with a tray in their hand, they’re calling to you from their booth like a street corner psychic.
“You should try this!” wheedled one elderly gentleman. “It’s really good!”
And when they find out you’re not from that area…well, all I can say is, native PDXers ought to use that ruse as long as they can, because people are so eager to engage with you and tell you about why their town is the best ever and their food is primary proof of that.
Cappuccino macaron from Two Tarts Bakery (NW Kearney Street)
Taylor’s Gold pear and Winesap apple from Kiyokawa Family Orchards
Winter greens from Winter Green Farm
Eggs from the Dancing Chicken Farm
Vintage Remington typewriter from my friend Joy’s apartment.