The line outside Mall Galleries, London, on Tuesday 24 April was considerable. Judges, sponsors, finalists, journalists and invited guests gathered for a glittering Champagne Taittinger reception to announce the winners of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Awards. Packed with celebrities from the food and photography world, and hosted by the legendary TV presenter and chef Prue Leith, the event hailed 500 attendees.
Launched in 2011, Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Awards has become an industry event of the year, setting a true benchmark for excellence in photography and becoming a global gathering of familiar faces in the industry.
Open to professional and amateur, old and young, the awards celebrate food photography and film from around the world. Categories cover everything from styled food for magazines, images of families eating in celebration of religious festivals, food production, to food cultivated in its natural habitats. Since 2011, almost 40,000 images have been submitted from more than 60 countries.
This year sponsors included Errazuriz Wine, Champagne Taittinger, Fujifilm, InterContinental, Marks & Spencer, One Vision Imaging, Production Paradise, Foodism and the UN World Food Programme.
The judging panel, chaired by internationally-renowned food photographer David Loftus, included: Emily Luchetti, Chair of the James Beard Foundation, NY; culinary superstar Ferran Adria; Wajmar Yaqubi, Global Photo Director, Buzzfeed; His Excellency Ali Bin Thalith, Secretary General, HIPA.
Food photography and its impact
Food photography is certainly a genre on its own, often influencing the way that we perceive and consume food, but also influenced by current trends in food. Certainly with the evolution of food photography, we have witnessed movements in style, technology, politics, media, even home cooking.
According to The New York Times, food photography actually started in the 1800s, with the first photographs depicting food front and centre, composed in a way similar to how we actually interact with food; on a plate, on a table.
Then there was the food porn era, coined by the feminist critic Rosalind Coward in her 1984 book “Female Desire” portraying a glamourised visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements that arouse a desire to eat, or in fact, the glorification of food.
Fast-forward to the present day and we have social media apps such as Instagram, among a slew of others, that have warranted our right to share food photos as a democratic, highly pluralistic act portraying something that is so deeply intimate, yet entirely universal.
According to The Telegraph, there are nearly six million photographs on Instagram labelled “avocado, ”26 million labelled “pizza,” and 29 million labelled “wine.” The social media’s button on food photography has instigated striking behaviours in how we interact with food, such as seeking more authentic experiences such as the farm-to-table movement, as well as the rise of foodie travel integrating gastronomic routes, cooking classes and immersive dining experiences while snapping shots on the road.
Trends, influences and tagging aside, the Food Photography of the Year awards ceremony did itself reveal some fascinating new articulations around food. There were more natural, less perfect states of composition, showing produce that is not shiny and plastic-looking, but rather more real and humble in its environment. Food servings were also depicted in a more honest frame, for example embracing the messiness of a giant hamburger; unapologetic, yet vibrantly empowered.
Produce Business UK spoke with founder of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Awards, Caroline Kenyon, to understand more about how the awards started, the evolution of food photography and other relevant shifts, such as whether the global changes in food supply have influenced this field:
Could you explain a little about how the awards came about? What was the thinking behind it? How did sponsors get on board?
The Awards were launched in 2011 and the first exhibition of winning images held in 2012. The idea came out of my historic love of photography, from the time when I was a magazine editor and reviewed photographers’ portfolios. Later, setting up a PR agency specialising in food, I commissioned a lot of photography, and I wanted to create an awards program to celebrate this fascinating and important cultural area.
I was very lucky to be introduced to Pink Lady® early on. They shared a love of the very best food photography and Andy Macdonald, who heads up Pink Lady® in the UK and Michelle Evans, Chief Marketing Officer, took the brave and generous step of agreeing to be headline sponsor in Year 1 — and we’ve never looked back! It’s a fantastic partnership.
It’s a great opportunity for Pink Lady® — and our category sponsors, such as Marks & Spencer, Champagne Tattinger, Errazuriz and unearthed® — to raise their profile and show that they are different: a patron of the arts, for a start. Having just announced our winners, the images and our sponsors’ brand names have been promoted across the world on the BBC News website, The Guardian, The Telegraph, MSN and much more.
What was the curatorial direction for each category? Have these categories changed over the years?
In Year 1, we had 12 categories; now we have 22. It’s been very important to us that the awards show the full range of food in society, not just the stunning shots of styled food that people think of as food photography. Last year, we introduced the World Food Programme Food for Life category, showing the humanitarian side of food. It’s a great honour to have the World Food Programme as a partner. We introduced Food for the Family a few years ago — it seems completely obvious to us to show how people eat together around the world. We have some exciting new categories up our sleeve for 2019.
How have global shifts in food supply affected the categories?
I don’t think it has changed the categories but certainly influenced the ingredients. Avocado featured a lot in entries this year. When I was a child, avocado was such a treat, and now it is completely every day.
Your judges are a mix of journalists, experts, chefs etc.? Was there some specific judging criteria, and how did it come about?
Every judge is invited for a specific sort of expertise and view that they bring. We don’t want to have a panel full of photographers, as we would end up with a very technical result. Each judge is on the panel because they are involved with food and photography in a different way, which means you end up with a very rich response to the images.
Of course, the winning images must be technically strong, but there is so much else to consider — composition, mood, message and much more. Inevitably, the view of each judge is very personal.
What trends are apparent in the photographs this year? More photography showing natural? Less perfect? More organic? Rise of street food?
The use of natural light is much more prevalent, which means the food looks much more natural. There is a big vogue for very dark backgrounds, which, personally, I like very much. It reminds of me of 16th century Dutch still life paintings. Street food was big a couple of years ago, this year, I think we are seeing the influence of plant-based eating.
How do these sorts of events influence the produce industry?
I would like to think the Awards set a benchmark of excellence in photography. Certainly the Awards evening has become a must-attend event. Our Chair of the Judges, the renowned David Loftus, said he can feel a bit jealous of some of the amazing photos he sees on the walls, which is so generous of him because he is a legend among food photographers.
There were a considerable amount of kid categories. Is this something new? What is the positioning around it?
We have always wanted, from the start, to encourage the next generation of photographers — we even have a 10 and under category — and there are some really talented children out there. It is a joy to see their work.
With social media, of course, food photography has surged. Has Instagram, among other photo based social media sites, positively or negatively affected the professional category of food photography?
I personally don’t think it has made any difference at all. A great photographer is always a great photographer. Instagram has made it very democratic, and everyone can share in the joy of food photography, but work by the most talented and experienced will always shine through.
Are any of the photos used for advertising purposes?
The winning image of Pink Lady® Apple a Day may be used in their UK marketing campaign. A few years ago, the winning image was of a small boy in cricket flannels, polishing what was not a cricket ball, but a Pink Lady® apple. It was a very clever shot. By happy coincidence, the England cricket team won the Ashes a few weeks later, so Pink Lady® ran an advertisement in a national newspaper using that picture, which worked really well.
Overall Winner — Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2018
A magnificent shot, Praying with Food, breaking a day-long fast at a Hindu temple in Dhaka, taken by Bangladeshi photographer Noor Ahmed Gelal, seized this year’s crown at Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2018 awards. Gelal was presented with the £5000 prize by Andy Macdonald, who heads up Pink Lady® in the UK, headline sponsor of the Awards.
10 and Under: Ruby Smend (UK) Raining Pasta
11-14 Years: Stefan Dedu (Romania) Fresh Chicken Eggs
15-17 Years: William Lindsay-Perez (UK) Finishing Touches
One Vision Imaging Cream of the Crop: Andy Grimshaw (UK) Green Beans
Food in the Field: Guillaume Flandre (UK) Sheep in Dakar
Food for Sale: Jade Nina Sarkhel (UK) Rex Bakery
Food Bloggers: Aniko Lueff (UK) Honeycomb
The Philip Harben Award for Food in Action: John Carey (UK) Calum in his Pie Room
Food for Celebration (sponsored by Champagne Taittinger): Noor Ahmed Gelal (Bangladesh) Praying with Food
Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year (Produce): Victor Pugatschew (Australia) Spinning the Chardonnay
Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year (People): Thierry Gaudillère (France) Worker at Maison Champy, Beaune, Burgundy
Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year (Places): George Rose (USA) Vineyard Flooding, Sonoma County
Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year (Overall Winner): Victor Pugatschew (Australia) Spinning the Chardonnay
Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture: Linda Taylor (USA) Pastry and Pears
Marks & Spencer Food Adventures: Derek Snee (UK) Tapas Upon Tyne
Food for the Family: Guillaume Flandre (UK) Family Dinner
World Food Programme Food for Life: Probal Rashid (Bangladesh) A Fisherman’s Life
InterContinental London Park Lane Food at the Table: Tom Parker (UK) Fine Dining Colombia
unearthed® Food Film Shorts supported by Foodism winner 2018: With Love Project (UK) For the Love of Food
Production Paradise Food off the Press: Oliver Hauser (Germany) Schnitzelberg
On the Phone (in aid of Action Against Hunger): Paul Steven (UK) Exmoor Beasts
Bring Home the Harvest: Debdatta Chakraborty (India) The Fishermen
Politics of Food: Grzegorz Tomasz Karnas (Poland) Dog Shower
Pink Lady® Apple a Day: Michael Meisen (Germany) The Art of Being an Apple
Student Photographer of the Year: Becci Hutchings (UK) Honeycomb and Wax
Fujifilm Award for Innovation: Philip Field (UK) Ostrich Horizon