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Chicken or beef? The strange appeal of airplane food photos

28.3.2016 at 06:00
A meal served up in the clouds may be a standard part of the flying experience, but that hasn’t stopped people from taking – and staring at – photographs of them.

In-flight food may not be the most glamorous photography subject. But in an age when Instagramming your breakfast, lunch or dinner before you take a bite has become rather standard, they’re as worthwhile a subject as any.

The Berlin-based artist Joachim Schmid, for instance, has accumulated countless snapshots of these mile-high meals for Other People's Photographs, his ongoing creative project. Assembled between 2008 and 2011, this series of 96 books features images found on photo sharing sites such as Flickr. The pictures were then collected to form a library of contemporary vernacular photography in the age of online photo hosting. Airline Meals is just one of a handful of groups – others focus on dogs, parking lots and coffee – born out of Schmid’s desire to trace recurring visual patterns in recycled images.

Then there’s, a website dedicated entirely to photographs of food on trays in planes around the world. Each shot is an intriguing variation on the same theme and reveals the similarities and differences between meals served across all cabins of up to 700 airlines worldwide. Future anthropologists – or those with a special interest in airline catering – will surely find the site fascinating.

Up in the clouds, these compartmentalized trays of food items seem to become more compelling to the eyes and, if you’re lucky, sometimes more appealing to the palate. With their boxed-in, Mondrian-like presentation, in-flight meals are oddities at 35,000 feet. No wonder people like taking – and staring at – photos of them.

Read also how in-flight meals are planned.

Photo caption: Airline Meals Courtesy of Joachim Schmid