This photographer captures images of the real food people eat around the world — and it’s a lot less glamorous than what you might see on Instagram

caption
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 2003
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Photos of food are now everywhere, thanks in part to the rise of wacky food trends and Instagram.

But if your Instagram feed is filled with food photography, you might unknowingly be experiencing “visual hunger”, a sensation that can have some of the same effects on the body as actual hunger: increased heart rate in anticipation of eating, salivating, and other neural activity across a network of brain areas.

A recent study published in the scientific journal “Brain and Cognition” argued that this form of “digital grazing” could have an indirect link to obesity, saying that “humankind is not doing such a great job in terms of optimizing the contemporary food landscape.”

Photographer Martin Parr has been observing that landscape for over 25 years, taking photos of the food he’s found aesthetically amusing from around the world. His new book, “Real Food“, features photos of more than 200 dishes from 36 different countries.

Instead of feeding what he calls the food “propaganda” machine, Parr’s images of popular foods are a bit less flattering, but all the more revealing.


“You can tell a lot about society, who we are and what we like doing, by looking at the food we eat,” Parr told Bloomberg Pursuits in a recent interview.

caption
Tokyo, Japan, 1998
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Source: Bloomberg Pursuits


The obesity crisis has often been blamed on addictive foods packed with sugar, salt, and fat.

caption
New York City, New York, USA, 2001
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Today, with ample access to food images — from Instagram to cooking shows — our hunger is triggered more often than necessary.

caption
Stara Fužina, Slovenia, 2004
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

The study in “Brain and Cognition” found that many people are more likely to want to eat the often unhealthy foods they see on TV, in ads, or in photography like they see on Instagram.

caption
Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, 1995
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Source: Brain and Cognition


But unlike most contemporary food photography, Parr’s images aren’t trying to glamorize his subject.

caption
Tijuana, Mexico, 2003
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

“I am showing food as it really is because we are surrounded by images in magazines where you see food looking glorious and beautiful,” he told Bloomberg.

caption
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 2003
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Parr partially blames self-proclaimed “food snobs” for the current climate within the food world — something that his images “try to puncture.”

caption
Wells, Somerset, England, 2000
source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Parr’s “Real Food” is available from Phaidon now.

source
Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Real Food