I wrote earlier about food photography, but I was quite unprepared for Hong Kong. The night markets and the profusion of eateries there turned out to be a parade of food photos like no other.
Chinese eateries are known for their long menus but plastering every square inch of the walls with food shots gives these places an unusual atmosphere; as if you’re part of some massive photo exhibit. This comprehensive plastering seems to serve both purposes – point-n-shoot ordering and wallpapering, and of course if you’re not Chinese it gives you the barest hint of what you might expect. The photographs are quite good (if all in a vary straightforward, angled topshot style). The plates are artfully arranged and properly lighted, there are the usual colourful touches of lettuce or artful sauce splashes, and its all printed in large, sharp colour on photo-quality flex or paper.
The interesting part is - I can’t imagine cheap eateries actually investing generous amounts on photographers and equipment, so the only choice seems to be advertiser driven (as in most other places) or stock photos (given that most restaurants serve essentially the same menu anyway). Except that I never saw ads on the walls or the pictures look exactly the same in any two restaurants – different bowls, different backgrounds, different arrangements each time. I saw in particular, a row of large eating places at the night market that seemed to be made entirely of temporary seating and plastic walls covered with food pictures. Every restaurant seemed to have similar menus but slightly different pictures. Think of it – here’s a place that’s little better than a temporary shack, selling food at HK$20 a plate (about Rs 100) that somehow manages to hire a pro photographer to shoot something like a hundred photos?