Food Forgery - Trick Photography in Food & Wine

Looking at pictures from harvests all over the northern hemisphere can really show you how naturally beautiful vineyards are.  There’s no need for trickery.  You can get a lot of mileage out of some relatively cheap amateur photography.  You don’t have to touch up or photoshop your pictures later on.  Vines are just pretty.  And wine is just beautiful.

Clos des Fées, 2010

Trick Photography in Food

This strikes me as important, especially after reading Good Grape’s review of Food Styling.  The book is written by Delores Custer, a prominent food photographer, and it’s got a lot revelatory insights about advertising photos you might take for granted.  How do photographers get cereal to float perfectly on top of the milk? (It’s not milk; it’s Elmer’s Glue.)   How is that beer bottle always dappled in the perfect amount of dew?  (Again, not dew.)  And the truly gross tool known as a T-28 which makes fresh cooked meat look steamy… (Just read Good Grape’s review for this one).

All in all, there is a lot of deception in food marketing.  And on the whole, I’m really happy to work in a field where taking beautiful pictures is pretty effortless.  I mean, there are parts that are less pretty.  And some professional equipment will definitely make your press photos stronger.  But artisanal winemakers don’t have to lie.  Even the least romantic parts of the job (assembly line work like sorting tables and bottling lines) look pretty good without any effort.  The picture to the left is a perfect example from a bit south of here at Domaine Gayda where even the boring jobs look great.

I should mention that Food Styling does contain some wine trickery.  If there’s no wine on hand, the photographer can fake it by diluting Kitchen Bouquet with water.  You might wonder why a photographer would happen to have Kitchen Bouquet around but not a bottle of wine.  Well, they also use this brown thickening sauce to fake coffee, to dye poultry, etc.  It’s a part of their tool box.

Dolores Custer and her colleagues are masters of food forgery in a way.  And I’m sort of glad I don’t need to use their services.  While much of the food and beverage industries are driven to advertise that one fleeting moment where a product looks perfect, wine tends toward a more long-lived appreciation.  Maybe that’s why we’re more candid?

Anticipating a moment vs. Enjoying The Moment

There’s a time lapse video I saw on Edible Geography:

It’s a clever conceit, but also — I imagine — functioned as a visceral reminder that our obsession with only buying flawless fruit and vegetables over-prioritises a single, freeze-framed moment in an organic cycle.

–Edible Geography

By recreating a 17th Century still life painting in reality and watching that still life die and live and die again, Grahame Weinbren sort of calls into question our fascination with immortalizing short moments of food porn.  Really, a lot of the things we consume are still alive.  This is especially true about wine.

Wine is alive and changing all the time and it can be enjoyed at almost any moment.  You’re not obligated to wait for some fetishized, fleeting seconds when the wine will be perfect.  You can drink young wine to appreciate certain characteristics of youth or you can wait and drink older wines that feature more aged characteristics.  Whenever you open it, there it is, waiting for you.

But maybe some of you think I’m getting too philosophical here.

And heck, some people might even think I’m dead wrong about wine photography.  After all, it’s hard to flip through a wine magazine without finding three pictures of wine being poured.  Is that our obsession?  The moment it comes out of the bottle?  Are there photographers who pour Kitchen Bouquet into the bottle so the wine will look thicker as it streams out in front of the camera?  Not at O’Vineyards.

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards is just a few kilometres north of Carcassonne. GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Domaine O’Vineyards
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou until the D118 (the last straight road) and the Dyneff gas station on the roundabout.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which goes up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire.
  4. At the last juction, bear left at the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.