Cafe Culture

What is lens based image making?

Lens based image making doesn’t always mean a camera, there’s many many ways in which you can make an image.
Such as:
Film Cameras
Digital Camera
Phone camera
Basically anything where you are able to take an image using a lens.

This is why , during this assignment, i have experimented with various lenses such as a film camera lens on a digital camera(50mm) and i have also used my phone to take images inside a cafe

What do i really know?

Here are a list of Q & As i have asked myself, researched/thought about, and then responded to.This is so that i know more about my subject before i head out and photograph it.This could open up many new ideas and viewpoints for my benefit.


What is my theme?

My main theme is of course, ‘Cafe Culture’, whereas my sub-theme is still somewhat undecided.
I want my images to be spontaneous yet informative,so i was thinking of my theme to be ‘How people live’ and capture what kinds of people go to cafes,what they drink/eat in cafes and what they do/who they do it with in cafes.

What do i already know about cafes?

At this moment in time, i admit i don’t actually know much about cafes.
Off the top of my head, all i could tell you is:
-They sell tea(Some places offer herbal tea), coffee and usually cakes and biscuits.
-They often have tables and chairs for people to drink in.

What else could i learn?

I could attempt to find out the origin on cafes and what that really do consist of.I could try and figure out why they are so popular amongst the public.I have generated a list of questions to answer later in this post.

How could i find it out?

My main source of research would be use of the internet.
Other sources can include going to the library, and also going to a cafe and finding out this information primarily.

What am i going to produce?

I wish to produce a series of documentary images of various kinds of people doing a variety of things in the same place. A cafe.
I want the story i am trying to show to be clear as i am wanting to show the viewers the fact they a cafe isn’t just for one kind of person, nor are you obligated to do the same specific thing if you are the sit inside a cafe/coffee house.People go there for their own different reasons, each with a different kind of guest accompanying them , if any. In example, a couple, a family, a group of friends.They also buy different things and act in a different way.No matter how different all there people are from each other,i want to capture the fact they are all doing this in a cafe.My story showing a cafe is for everybody.

What photographers may influence new ideas?(Future research)


Robert Frank
Diane Arbus
Martin Parr
Robert Doisneau
Henri Cartier Bresson
Bruce Gilden
Thomas Ruff
Joel Sternfeld
Peter Marlow
Daniel Arnold
Nadav Kander

What techniques shall i use?

I have a choice between candid,scened,street and landscape photography.I think with my theme candid photography would be the best choice so that i can capture everyday people going about their life.
I also have the choice of working in digital or film,which i cannot decide between.
Working with film, not only do i love the beautiful black and white contrast it creates, but with it being in black and white, the images seem more serious, rather than being considered as ‘fun’ with the variety of colours scattered around.Nor do i with it to be considered some kind of fashion photography if there is somebody at the cafe wearing an article of clothing which stands out.


What is a cafe?

‘Cafe’ may not refer to a specific kind of shop.It can refer to a coffee house,bar,tea room,restaurant or transport cafe.Typically, i associate it with a coffee house, which is an establishment witch primarily focuses on providing customers with hot beverages and an assortment of cakes and biscuits.Although nowadays, a coffee house can serve cold beverages.By this i don’t mean things like coca cola,but things such as an ‘Iced Latte’,’Iced Tea’ and various other beverages.
A cafe in England may seem way different from a cafe in somewhere such as the Middle East due to the fact that over here in the UK, our cafes generally consist of the usual hot beverages and light snacks, whereas cafe houses in places like Turkey will offer shisha / nargile (Flavoured tobacco smoked using a hookah).
Either way no matter what kind of cafe/coffee house it is, places like these are largely considered meeting places and serve as a centre for social interaction for each and every kind of relationship.You can go there with the family, friends, partner or even soon to be partner as it is often a good place to go on a date, so you can get to know each other over a coffee.
Coffee houses are not only used to go out for a drink, but to congregate amongst one another, talk, read/write, and to simply pass time.

But why ‘ Café ‘?

How long have they been around?

An Ottoman chronicler called İbrahim Peçevi wrote this in his writings between 1642 and 1649 relating to the supposed first coffee house in Istanbul:

‘Until the year 962 [1555], in the High, God-Guarded city of Constantinople, as well as in Ottoman lands generally, coffee and coffee-houses did not exist. About that year, a fellow called Hakam from Aleppo and a wag called Shams from Damascus came to the city; they each opened a large shop in the district called Tahtakale, and began to purvey coffee.’

Alternatively, i have also found out that there was a coffee house which opened in Damascus in 1530 that influenced Cairo to begin building coffee houses.

Why do cafe houses associate  hot beverages with light snacks and cakes?

I have attempted to find a more advanced reason for this through research but my attempts have failed.So in my opinion, i think that they sell treats to go alongside your beverage as it is a great combination.The classic food & drink.If you have gone out for coffee, you are already treating yourself to a luxury in life, so why not supply the customers with another little treat?
As you could obviously tell, this would provide more money to the cafe as if they had a snack, they’d usually get thirsty or have a drink to wash it down.
So,what is tea?

The actual word for tea goes far into the chinese language, but i’ve found out it eventually translates to ‘bitter herb’.

Tea is originally from China,and likely began during the Shang Dynasty where it was provided as a medical beverage.It was introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China in the 16h century,Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century.

Tea is made from leaves of the plant ‘Camellia sinensis’.
Camellia sinensis is native to East,South and southeast Asia.(So basically,Asia.)
It may be interesting for you to know that fresh leaves contain about 4% caffeine.

The high-quality tea we find in markets today are high quality due to the way the tea plants have been grown.Surprisingly, to achieve a richer and stronger tea flavour in the leaves, it isn’t chemicals or fertiliser that they add to the plants, but the plant is grown at a high elevation of up to 1,500 meters as this leaves the plants growing slower and therefore acquiring more flavour.Ironically, you can compare this to when you leave a tea bag in the water for longer so that it’s stronger.

White,yellow,green,oolong,pu-erh and black tea all come from this species of plant, but to create the different kind of tea it is processed in its own way to achieve a different level of oxidation.Herbal tea refers to the making of tea without the actual tea leaves, making it an infusion of herbs and fruits such as chamomile.Although i have seen herbal teas which include green tea, to this would not be 100% true as there is some herbal teas out there created with tea leaves.

But the leaves aren’t only used for tea,they are also used in traditional Chinese medicines to treat things such as asthma.
Recent research shows that tea (mostly green tea) has various health benefits. Apparently, drinking tea has a chance to reduce the chance of getting cancer amongst a change in cholesterol levels with antibacterial properties and positive effects for weight loss.This is due to teas high levels of catechins, which is a type of antioxidant.
But don’t just assume tea is great for you and you should drink it all the time, it also has a few negative effects such as over consumption of caffeine amongst the presence of fluoride and oxalates.

So, why is it traditional for us in Britain to drink tea?

The wife of King Charles II of England,Catherine of Braganza brought the tea habit the GB around the 1660s when it tasted by Samuel pepys.But tea wasn’t widely consumed in Britain until the 18th century,which was a time where tea was expensive until later in that century.But the reason it was widely consumed in Britain whilst still being expensive, was not because we were rich, but because in the 18th century tea was being smuggled into Britain, making it cheap and affordable to the general public.It’s importance eventually influenced the Boston Tea Party.
Eventually the tax on tea had been eradicated by the government, stopping the smuggling of tea by 1785.
In Britain and Ireland, tea has became an everyday beverage and is consumed by all levels of society by the late 19th century.It was originally consumed as a luxury item for special occasions but due to the price decreasing to make way for new luxury tea ( Indian Tea ) ordinary tea had become an affordable beverage.

In our current day, in the UK it is considered one of Britain’s cultural beverages.If you have a guest in your home it is considered good manners to offer them a cup of tea upon their arrival.

What about coffee?

Coffee is made from brewing roasted or baked seeds of several species of an evergreen shrub of the genus Coffea.
‘Coffee’ derives from the Ottoman Turkish ‘Kahve’ and possibly the Italian ‘Caffe’ which in turn derives from the Arabic ‘Qahwah’ or ‘Quwwa’ meaning ‘power’ and ‘energy’.
The two most common sources of coffee beans are from the Coffea arabica and the ‘robusta’ form of Coffea canephora.
Coffee is slightly acidic as its pH is 5.0-5.1 sand it gives us a stimulating effect when we drink it due to the caffeine content.
After research, it has been found that moderate coffee consumption is only mildly beneficial to our health, but the diterpenes may increase the risk of heart disease.

Coffee cultivation began in Abyssinia,the earliest evidence of coffee drinking appeared in the 15ht century in the Sufi shrines of Yemen.In the Horn of Africa and Yemen, coffee was used in local religious ceremonies,conflicted with the beliefs of the christian and ethipian churches.

According to legend, ancestors of the Oromo people were the first to discover to energising effect of coffee.
This lead to the story of Kaldi, an Ethiopian goatherd who found his goats became highly exited after eating these beans.So this lead to these beans being used to stimulate animals.
The story of how coffee was found to be a good beverage is rather interesting.
Apparently,Sheikh Omar was once exhaled from Yemen to a desert cave near Ousab, where he began to starve.So he chewed on some berries from a nearby shrubbery but found them to be bitter, so he attempted to roast them on a fire to improve the flavour, which made them too hard, so he boiled them so that they would soften, which then lead to him creating a brown liquid substance which was fragrant.Upon drinking it he found himself revitalised and sustained for days.Which gave these seeds the title of the ‘Miracle drug’, so when he returned to Yemen, he was made a saint.This lead to it being introduced into the Arab world through Yemen.
During the spread of Coffee around the globe, the efforts of the British East India Company, coffee was made popular in England which inspired thee Queens lane coffee house in Oxford, established in 1654.

Due to research and medical testing, the only evidence that coffee gives you heath benefits is that a research was ran studying the lifespan or those who drink coffee and those who did not, proving theta those who drank coffee lived longer. This only applied through drinking healthy amounts of coffee though and not drinking too much as the death rate is high on people that drink too much coffee.However, lots more research is being done so that it can be proven that this is merely coincidence that these people live longer due to the proven facts that coffee leads to  potentially harmful effects upon consumption.
However, there few studies suggesting that coffee can help the risks of many medical conditions due to its anti-oxidants.

In 1996, drinking coffee was negatively associated with the risk of developing clinical depression.Apparently this is due to the fact coffee drastically alters your energy levels, to recreate a bipolar effect.You will be energetic for a short time and then all your levels will drop until your next coffee.
The fact that this was actually referred to as a drug aids in the comparison between coffee and drugs and the fact they are both addictive, and both act by stimulating your body for a short time before you experience what is known as a ‘come down’ which is basically a hangover, just not from alcohol(Coffee may not do this so drastically, but it still happens subtly).This is the after effects of drug use,which usually leaves people wanting to sleep and cry.Is it any coincidence that this is also symptoms of depression?

Conclusion to my research:

I’ve found that researching into tea and coffee has helped my work a lot as now i have found a difference between the people which drink tea and the people which drink coffee.
The people who drink coffee will be more active people, drinking coffee for the stimulant side that the caffeine provides and will either not be aware or not bothered of the heath issues coffee could do to their bodies,whereas the people who drink tea will be more calm and relaxed due to the relaxing ingredients in tea and will also be more aware of their health and in control of their bodies due to the many benefits on your health of drinking tea.
This means that when i am in a coffee house i can compare the variety of people and their drinks and hopefully translate the visible differences between the two and how they both live companied to one another.
For example, if everybody in my images of a cafe are drinking coffee, this shows that the tea drinkers are probably relaxing in the comfort of their own home instead of in a loud noisy coffee shop.

There’s many articles online which also argue this point, such as

Personally, i love the facts this person has provided,i’m not saying i am biased to tea, but it sure is making me.

1 comment
  1. Ash, some excellent, in-depth research here. I hope you can continue to use research in this way to help inform your photography!


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