Science of Taste

9 Jan 2017 2016 OUTDOOR

It begins when a food molecule touches a microscopic taste bud on the tongue. Brian Finke captures our scientific, sensory, and emotional experience of taste.

Featuring: Brian Finke

Presented by

National Geographic

Curated by

Todd James


What tastes good? What tastes bad? Why? The answers to these questions are of intense personal interest to chefs, scientists, and the parents of picky eaters. It inevitably leads to this question: Where does flavor reside‚ÄĒin the food we eat or in the subjective multi-sensory experience of eating? And what is the evolutionary value of taste? To prevent us from eating something harmful or to encourage us to eat high-value food?

Our scientific understanding of taste has lagged behind what we know about our other senses, but that is beginning to change. To see how scientists are exploring taste and how chefs are exploring science, photographer Brian Finke traveled to 10 locations from New Zealand to Denmark, visiting research labs and test kitchens searching for a deeper scientific understanding of yumminess. “The Science of Taste” appeared in the December 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine.


Raised in Texas and schooled in New York, Brian Finke defined himself as a documentary photographer at the World Press Photo Masterclass in 2001 and was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for Photography in 2004. The author of 2-4-6-8: American Cheerleaders and Football Players, Flight Attendants, and U.S. Marshalls, Finke has exhibited his work in New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Chicago, and Houston, among others.

Finke takes a documentary approach, often spending years following his subjects, immersing¬†himself in their lives in order to capture carefully framed yet candid moments that comment¬†upon contemporary culture. He aims to¬†“create images that heighten the everyday, to create¬†a reality that is larger than life.”

Finke lives in Brooklyn with his sons, Oli and Izi.


National Geographic magazine has a long tradition of combining on-the-ground reporting with award-winning photography to inform people about life on our planet.

It has won 20 National Magazine Awards in the past eight years: for Tablet Magazine and Photography in 2015; for Tablet Magazine and Multimedia in 2014; for General Excellence, Photography, Tablet Magazine and Multimedia in 2013; for Tablet Magazine in 2012; Magazine of the Year and Single-Topic Issue in 2011; for General Excellence, Photojournalism and Essays, plus two Digital Media Awards for Best Photography and Best Community in 2010; for Photojournalism in 2009; and for General Excellence, Photojournalism and Reporting in 2008.

The magazine is the official journal of the National Geographic Society, a global non-profit membership organization, driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. Published in English and with nearly 40 local-language editions, National Geographic magazine has a global circulation of around 6.7 million. It is sent each month to National Geographic members and is available at and on print and digital newsstands (smartphones and tablet computers).