The Art Of Bad Restaurant Food Photography


Who doesn’t love when restaurants take photos of their food and then display these images in their window? I know I do. The result is often the opposite of what they intended; it actually makes the meal look less appealing. Chinatown or Skid Row eateries are a great place to marvel at these culinary-displeasing photographic works of art.

Blurry, badly lit, out-of-focus, or just plain poorly framed, maybe shot with a disposable camera, this genre of photography is deserving of a little recognition from the art community. So here’s a brief sampling and critique of the marvels that is…….Bad Restaurant Food Photography!


1. Excellent use of lighting by this budding photographer with his work entitled “Bagel With Ham and Egg Sandwich $3.85” The contrasting use of shadow juxtaposed with extreme harsh light brings to mind the post-Apocalyptic horrors suffered after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The aftermath can be seen between the two halves of the bagel.



2. You have to love and admire this photographer’s interpretation of one of the entrees served inside this eatery, with his masterwork entitled, “Rainbow Trout $8.95.” This food image—possibly a fish dish or 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.



3. Have you ever seen those Discovery Channel documentaries where they have microphotography and insects are filmed up close so they appear giant? That’s what this photo-work is reminiscent of. 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. Bon appetit!



4. Come on into this restaurant and get a sandwich from the 1970’s! The photographer took a retro approach with his aptly named work, “French Dip.” The use of muted darks and shadows reminds one of the cinematography in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. This sandwich was eaten when bell-bottoms were in style.


Harmon Leon is the author of The American Dream

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