JUNE 18, 2013




The quality of Instagram is not strained: While photos of food might boost business, some restaurants have banned taking photos of their food, which is both completely understandable and also hilarious. We can’t stop people from taking pictures of anything. Even by asking nicely.

Maybe someone will create a forcefield or some kind of photography death-ray, or maybe we’ll all learn to leave food photography to the professionals. Until that day, we are living in Mark Caszchew’s strange world of expertise.

Mark Caszhew (pronounced Cashew, like the nut) sells pictures of food that are intended to go into your Twitter or Facebook feed and make you look like a foodie superstar. How is it possible that you had cronuts for breakfast, momos for lunch, and Momofuku for dinner? You’re either me, or you know Caszhew.

“It’s far from lucrative,” he admitted to me, “But it’s not insubstantial. I started Instagraming my own food few months ago, and then I said to myself, ‘Hey. There could be money in this.’”

There is not much money in this. Specifically, about nineteen dollars this month, up from seven three months ago. “I’d like to think that at some point maybe more people will just do it in a hipster ironic way. Like how everybody buys Pogs at Urban Outfitters now just to be cool.”

I haven’t ever walked into an Urban Outfitters, and until just now googling the word, I thought a pog was a kind of flattened peg used for building an armchair or something useful. Alas, it seems very unfair that this is a word, whereas “sadfuriated” is not. Because that's how I feel after learning about pogs.

While I don't mean to hurl accusations, this is more akin to counterfeiting than selling a product, however useless it may be. And Caszhew admits that many people are simply befuddled by the presence of food in their Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, errm (I dislike this word), feeds.

For a long time, I was one of them. It's off-putting to go to the site, one dedicated to the fleeting thoughts of your friends, relatives, and passing acquaintance, and then find that instead of them, there's a picture of big gooey sundae. Has anyone else seen that Monty Python sketch about the dessert that eats people? It terrified me as a child.

If you read Facebook closely, you eventually understand that the sundae was eaten by your friend. At least, that is my sincere hope.

Caszhew’s counterfeits travel. A picture of a cheeseburger from the West Village’s Hongrae has been all around the world, showing up in the feeds of people from Beijing, Amsterdam, and Newark. A shake from Shakey’s Boxcar in Queens has shown up in Cleveland and Texas. A spinach beard from The Beardsmeal showed up in Peru yesterday even though the restaurant mercifully closed last month due to profound lack of interest.

After interviewing Caszhew, I realized that I had stopped thinking about his images as counterfeits. I thought of them as more of a dumb prank, like snakes in a can or a joy buzzer, and decided that I might enjoy purchasing thirty-seven of them at once and posting them in my own Facebook feed, letting people think I’d gone on a mad eating spree. But after going to his website yesterday, it appeared that the forces of Instagramapol had taken offsense, and shut down Caszhew’s website indefintely.

Have no fear, Caszhew is at work on his latest enterprise: Pogs of Instagrammed food, coming to an Urban Outfitters near you.


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