Bad Restaurant Food Photography: Art or Not Art?

Art is everywhere; especially hanging in the windows of restaurants. I love when restaurants display amateur photos of their food in their window to entice people to come in and eat what’s on their menu. Blurry, badly lit, out-of-focus, maybe shot with a disposable camera, or just plain poorly framed, this genre of photography is deserving of a little recognition from the art community.

With camera in hand, I went out to find the best (worst) that bad restaurant food photography has to offer. To show the artistic side of these hideous culinary portraits I recruited a famous art critic (name withheld) from ART FORUM magazine to critique each image.

There’s a certain art to bad restaurant food photography – let’s enjoy!

TITLE: Rainbow Trout $8.95

MY TAKE: This restaurant photo screams: “Nope, we don’t want your business.”

ART CRITIC: You have to admire this photographer’s interpretation of his masterwork entitled, “Rainbow Trout $8.95.” This food image–possibly a fish dish, possibly some sort of hardening yellow liquid–brings to mind the surreal work of 20th century photographer Man Ray. Nice use of double negative effect to bring out the phosphorescent greens.

TITLE: Discovery Channel Chicken

MY TAKE: It was either hanging this photo in the window or a sign that says: Sorry! We have no need for customers!

ART CRITIC: I love the natural realism –like a Discovery Channel documentary where they have microphotography and insects are filmed up close so they appear giant. Much like an enlarge photo of a praying mantis, you can actually see each individual hair on the chicken, as it glistens unnaturally on the plate next to some out-of-focus cooked carrots.

TITLE: Black Death Comes To Poultry

MY TAKE: Is this what happens when chicken contracts the Bubonic plague? Brick up this poultry inside a house and hide the children…

ART CRITIC: Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pisarro, and Cezanne. Add one more name to this list of famous impressionist: the man who took this photo! The artist was clearly trying to convey an “impression” of what chicken actually looks like. Note the emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, and unusual visual angles. If this photo were taken in the 1800’s it would have been declared radical by the art world – and placed in a museum. Instead, it simply placed in front of an establishment hidden away in the Bronx; oh how the times have changed.

TITLE: Global Warming

MY TAKE: Didn’t I see this dish in the Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth? Surely this has got to be one of the horrific after effects of global warming. Poor creature: struck down in its prime due to a hole in the ozone layer. Bon appetit!

ART CRITIC: This portrait immediately brings to mind Vincent van Gough’s The Potato Eaters. Note the minimal use of color and light; depicting an era when life was hard, depressing, and unforgiving. 

TITLE: Vagina Infection

MY TAKE: This is like hanging a sign outside your restaurant that says: “We love it when no one comes and eats our food.'”

ART CRITIC: A very Georgia O’Keeffe inspired portrait. On the surface it could be interpreted as an open pita bread sandwich; but much like O’Keeffe’s work, there’s something very vaginal about this work – suggesting to the viewer a bad vagina yeast infection.

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