CHICAGO — A hash brown, a cup of coffee, a waffle — the artist behind Instagram's "What Was Breakfast" wants to know what you're eating.
But, perhaps more importantly, he wants to snap a photo of you.
The What Was Breakfast account, run by an anonymous South Side photographer, posts portraits of Chicagoans alongside descriptions of what they ate that morning. The posts are sometimes humorous, sometimes insightful.
"A couple of times people have told me they essentially smoked weed for breakfast, which I thought was pretty funny," said the photographer behind the account, who asked that his name not be published. "Some people are more proud of what they had than others. Like if someone had an awesome breakfast, I feel like they're excited I ask them that day. They take great pleasure in telling me how many pancakes they were able to eat."
The photographer started the project in August when he felt uncomfortable about taking photos of people on the street without speaking to them. He would take photos of his friends and ask them questions, and he realized one of his questions — "What was breakfast?" — could be used to connect with the subjects of his street portraits.
"It's also kind of a little window into their day," the photographer said. "You get an idea of what maybe somebody's morning routine is. ... It's interesting from a nutritional standpoint. The human interaction of it is fun. And I end up meeting a lot of really nice people."
Most of the portraits are taken in The Loop, where there's a mix of people to feature. The photographer simply sees someone who looks interesting, walks up to them, explains the project, takes a photo and asks them what they had for breakfast.
The most interesting responses come from the people who are excited to talk about their breakfast, the photographer said.
But he's spoken to people from all walks of life, highlighting the diversity of the city: a self-described "trash Millennial" who wore a giraffe outfit said he had a Clif Bar and Red Bull, two women sitting on a stoop had coffee and doughnuts, a little boy and his mom chowed down on chicken rings and yogurt, a cereal-eating businessman untucked his shirt to show off tattoos.
And Taylor Bennett, musician and Chance the Rapper's younger brother, had a hash brown and orange juice — though the photographer didn't know who Bennett was until later.
"We're all just people doing our thing," the photographer said. "I just feel like it's something that everybody can relate to. Regardless of who it is, everybody can relate to the action of having breakfast."
The WhatWasBreakfast account has racked up more than 500 followers and posts about once a day. It's become "more and more fun" to maintain as momentum has built for it, the photographer said.
"I ... generally kind of enjoy talking to people. I generally enjoy photography. I generally enjoy breakfast," the photographer said. "It's just a kind of cool thing to be able to do, and it's a way for me to practice getting better at photography."
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