Fact: New Yorkers aren’t like everyone else. Most of them cohabitate in tiny apartments where an official “dining table” doesn’t exist. Many of them work overtime and eat takeout at their desks or on their couches at home. It’s safe to say that, when they’re finally sitting down for dinner, the majority of New Yorkers are focused on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tinder.
In her series Dinner in NY, photographer Miho Aikawa captures the diversity of New Yorkers and their various mealtime environments and rituals. Aikawa observes the former sorority sister-turned-young professional eating Seamless on her bed, the teen checking Instagram while eating a sandwich, and the modern-day office worker eating pizza and beer at his desk. Aikawa writes,
“The question is: What is a quality dinner? When you enjoy mealtimes, you’re more likely to eat better. Let’s think what we can do to enhance the pleasure of the table.”
A recent study in Public Health Nutrition shows us that we now do almost 50 percent of our eating while concentrating on something else. Eating as a primary activity has declined significantly in the past 30 years.
We chatted with Aikawa and asked about her background and what inspires her photography.
How did your upbringing influence you as an artist?
Ever since I was a child, I loved creating things and was surrounded by art and fashion because my mother was a fashion designer—but I wasn’t particularly interested in photography. I guess my creative vision came mostly from my mother.
What sparked your interest in photography?
I wanted to get involved with reporting something and telling stories to people, so I decided to major in journalism at college. During my college years in Tokyo, I was always wondering which media would best suit my needs to communicate with people. I’m definitely not the linguistic type, and was naturally more drawn to visual communication. During my freshman and sophomore years in college I traveled to many places and enjoyed taking pictures a lot. When I had a camera in my hand, it gave me the courage to speak to the locals to photograph them, while without a camera I would have been too shy to do that. I believe a camera gave me a magical power and encouraged me to explore the world.
What’s your primary focus as a photographer?
I concentrate a lot on capturing moments that people never pay attention to in their daily lives and on telling the precious story that lies in each moment through photography.
When did you realize this would become your full-time profession?
I wanted to be a person who reports something and tells a story to people, so I decided to major in journalism at college in Tokyo. I went to the University of Miami for a year to study visual communication and photojournalism. The experience was exciting and totally different from what I had done before. I became fascinated with taking pictures and decided to become a professional photographer. Almost 10 years have passed since then but I still remember strongly how taking photos became my passion. The inspiration and the excitement I received in Miami form the very basis of my motivation as a photographer.
Who are your favorites photographers?
Do you feel a special connection to food?
I love cooking and eating food.
What other publications have you contributed to?
The photos of Dinner in NY are part of THE FENCE 2014 exhibition at the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Atlanta BeltLine. My work has also appeared in The Kitchn, The Oprah Blog, LA Weekly, Feature Shoot, Co.Design, Soura Magazine, Design Taxi, Burn Magazine, i-ref, and Cribeo.