By Cathleen Elise Rossiter
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.”
– Jim Morrison –
Sitting at my table by the window on this hot, summer day, I glance up and catch the alluring stare from across the room. Perfectly tanned, well-dressed, oozing charisma – the glistening melted cheddar dripping enticingly over beef so moist I want to reach out and wipe down the picture glass, all in perfect proportion to the ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise exuding down the sides of the burger from under the bun. “I’ll take that one, Alex!” I exclaim to the waiter in breathless anticipation of the first bite.
I speak, my friends of the fine art of food photography and styling – in this case, that of the classic American cheeseburger. It is the job of the food photographer to present the menu item to the consumer in as enticing a way as possible; to use whatever visual means available in order to present the menu item in its best, most consumable light. As the perfect shot does not always happen with the first click of the shutter, food shoots may take as long as couture fashion shoots.
Additionally, as food does not perform on cue, the photographer will have to hire a food artist or modeler to sculpt the menu item of materials that will behave as needed, yet look as real and enticing as the actual food item. For example, shaving cream often replaces whipped cream, lard or shortening is a standard stand-in for ice cream, and lipstick is a go-to fruit ripener.
While waiting for my order, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I have taken the same approach to how I present myself to the world; how often I have sculpted, molded, colored, and shaded parts of my life with characteristics foreign to my natural self in order to project a perfect image of myself to my target audience. Recalling specific instances, I realize that those times when I continually reworked – molding, sculpting, morphing – myself to get the perfect shot, were times when I was most unhappy and exhausted with all the subterfuge. What is wrong with being imperfect? Some of the sweetest fruits are the ones with a blemish or a bruise, the one that isn’t perfectly round or red or radiant. We all ripen at different rates and by different processes.
Perfection is overrated. After all, people and things are rarely what they seem. Even an imperfect looking cheeseburger can surprise you with interior perfection and depth of flavor. I’ll take interior depth and flavor every time.