When I spotted Diner Porn a site by Tom Smith on Tumblr, I quickly became a fan. What is it about diners that make them so special? Some people say it’s the nostalgia but I never grew up going to diners and yet I love them. Maybe it’s the people that work there or the menu…oh the menu of everything that you want from a restaurant or maybe just the old-timey feel of it. Whatever the reason, I love diners.
What I love most about what Tom is doing, is that he is spending time with the people in the diners. Getting to know them, know their stories, and the history of the diner. Each person is unique and so is each diner.
Q. Can you tell me what you’re trying to capture when you take your photos?
A. I try not to try at all. I like to become part of the scene and let the camera do the observing. Sometimes I’ll separate myself from the camera for a few minutes while I have a conversation. People really relax once they see that you (the photographer) are not a stranger. I studied documentary film at Emerson College, and what I loved most about the medium was the authenticity and the character that filmmakers could capture when barriers are broken down between the observer and the observed. If I’m photographing a table of food, I might add or subtract a plate or a side dish but I try to keep things as authentic as possible.
I love talking to people I don’t know. It’s really inspiring to find out the the strangers around you are going through the same problems. We’re all in this together. Corporate chain restaurants don’t have this sense of community that diners have, where you can be friendly and talk across the room. My friends and I call it IBC: Inter-Booth Communication. It’s an amazing thing.
Q. How did Diner Porn come about?
A. I have a sentimental attachment to diners. I grew up in New Jersey where going to a diner is like being in the comfort of your own home. I knew the waiters, the owners, and the menu like the back of my hand, and I would go just to sit and have coffee every afternoon. When I started taking pictures of the decor and the food, I called it “diner porn,” and one day I decided to make it a blog.
Q.Have you always been interested in photography and has it evolved ever since you started Diner Porn?
A. My father taught me how to use a camera when I was very young, and I’ve always tried to apply my creative technical skills to meaningful community projects. I was photographing and publishing my family’s monthly newsletter when I was 10, filming interviews for a documentary about my hometown on a VHS camera when I was 12, and publishing the town library’s newsletter at 14. Photographing people in public places, or in their everyday lives, has always felt natural to me.
Q. Any food photography heroes? If not any photography heroes?
A. I don’t lend my inspiration to other photographers, really. I try not to obsess over photography—I’m more interested in people and stories. My heroes are my parents, my grandparents and my incredible girlfriend, all of who inspire me to keep creating in this modern world.
Q. Best meal so far in 2014?
A. The breakfast tacos my girlfriend made this morning were definitely the best thing I’ve ever eaten: Monterey Jack shredded over salsa, over easy eggs, and corn tortillas.
Q. What’s your favorite thing to order at any diner?
All photos courtesy from Tom Smith of Diner Porn.