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During the last few years the changes and evolution that Peruvian gastronomy has undergone have been recorded through the lens of several specialized photographers. Although my contact as a foodie with gastronomy started since I was a child, that time when Europe was the model to follow, I was lucky that the person who introduced me to gastronomic photography was the Chilean Miguel Etchepare, photographer of the famous book ¨La Cocina Peruana¨ by Tony Custer, a publication that marked a before and after in the plating of Peruvian food, where white backgrounds and minimalist aesthetics set the trend during the early years of the local gastronomic boom.

This book was followed by white tableware that defined a line and made our cuisine more elegant. Homemade Creole food was stylized and new forms of plating appeared in a neater and more harmonious way. In the 2000s, the round white piece gave way to the square plates that invaded Lima and all of Peru. This style of greater care and elegance is followed by the detail, the tucked-in, appetizing shot, where the food is in the foreground, the backgrounds are almost unnoticeable and in many cases the ingredients accompany the preparations.
Digital photography slowly begins in Peru. Film and polaroids are beginning to be replaced by digital files, which makes the work much more agile. It is no longer necessary to wait hours to shoot a photo, and in the case of gastronomy it helps to make the dishes more real because the food no longer has to be left for a long time under the lights before being photographed.

Around 2008, the first food blogs appeared in the United States and Europe where food photography took on a strong role. People could cook at home, create beautiful and perfect homemade dishes, photograph them and share the recipes online. This gave rise to a more realistic photographic style, natural light became important and the rustic, textures and homemade dishes were the stars. In the case of Peru, around 2010 tasting menus arrived and restaurants began to tell the story of Peruvian cuisine and Peru with them. Tableware made by local artists, or textures that evoke regions of the country where the food served comes from are used in these menus. The restaurants have solid concepts and what is sought with photography is to enhance and show them. Whether it is with the lighting, the tableware or the textures on which they are made.

I arrived from Spain in 2012, after being part of this boom of gastronomic blogs that told family stories around food. I learned to cook, style dishes and photograph them. I started thanks to that to look at the textures around me where I wanted to photograph my dishes and make them stand out. I fell in love with the zenithal, open shots where the dishes could be shown as paintings. That year I arrived in Lima with a very marked style of photography that was beginning to arrive in the city. The floors, wood, majolica tiles and trays became the backgrounds where I placed the plates for the photos, many of them taken with natural light simulating an afternoon window light. The important thing was to highlight the style of the restaurant and it didn’t matter if I had to use the textures of the floor to do so.

Social networks have become more and more important during all this time, everyone has a camera in hand on their cell phone and they photograph their food with it. The pandemic and the costs of looking for textures and setting a photo give way to images with flat backgrounds, with lots of color. Wooden textures are replaced by brighter colors and a more midday sun lighting, with strong and more urban shadows, especially in fast food and fast food. Hands and consumption occasions bring the proposal closer to the diner. Haute cuisine continues to opt for a more minimalist style to this day. Whether in light or dark illuminations that reflect the proposal of the local, where ceramics are part of the concept and the textures on which it is photographed as well. Even the input and the producers become a protagonist and part of the photographs of the premises. We will see what comes in the next few years, where Artificial Intelligence has just made a strong entry into the market, and videos are gaining more and more relevance.

America Latina
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Jimena Agois
Guest author

Photographer and Food Journalist, Perú

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