Visual feast in the spotlight

PICTURE THIS: Noor Ahmed Gelal’s winning photograph;
(below) Debdatta Chakraborty’s ‘magnificent shot’; and (bottom) a
prize-winning image by Jade Nina Sarkhel
PICTURE THIS: Noor Ahmed Gelal’s winning photograph; (below) Debdatta Chakraborty’s ‘magnificent shot’; and (bottom) a prize-winning image by Jade Nina Sarkhel



BANGLADESHIS and Indians have come first in several categories in a UK-run food photography competition that at­tracted 40,000 entries from 60 countries.

In a demanding worldwide competition – sponsored by Pink Lady, a well-known brand of apple – Noor Ahmed Gelal, from Bangladesh, won the ‘Praying with Food’ category, plus the overall £5,000 prize.

Gelal said of his photograph: “A section of the Hindu community is preparing to break the day-long fast in one of the local temples at Swamibag in Dhaka.”

He was handed his trophy at a function in the Mall Galleries in London last Tuesday (24) by Andy Macdonald, who heads Pink Lady in the UK. The evening was hosted by celebrity TV presenter and chef Prue Leith.

Macdonald pointed out: “The competition was fierce – the standard was exceptional. His shot stood out from the rest, however, for the way in which he made the subject matter so fascinating and unusual.”

Another photographer from Bangladesh, Probal Rashid, said after winning the ‘Food for Life’ category that he had photographed Lokman Miah, 30, a fisherman cooking on his boat in Bhola where “the location makes them vulnerable to riverbank erosion”.

Debdatta Chakraborty, from India, won ‘Bring home the harvest category’, with what the judges called a “magnificent shot” of fishermen casting their nets in the Sila­bati river in West Bengal.

Jade Nina Sarkhel, daughter of the late Udit Sarkhel, who was considered one of the best Indian chefs in the UK, took first place in the ‘Food for sale’ category with her pho­tograph of the Rex Bakery in Mumbai.

Jade, who lives in London, visited Kolka­ta last year to try and discover what inspired her father who died suddenly in 2012, aged 53, while on a visit to the city.

Udit had started a restaurant, Calcutta Notebook, in south London. He also co-authored a book, Calcutta Kitchen, with Si­mon Parkes of the BBC Food Programme, who said after his friend’s death: “No one did more than Udit to promote the true taste of Bengali food in Britain.”

Jade said of her winning entry: “Strad­dling a gutter, I captured the bullet-stricken walls of one of Mumbai’s oldest bakeries. The bakery churns out 18,000 paos [bread rolls] a day, operating 24/7 selling bread through the keyhole counter overnight. Bread is given for free to those who can’t afford it.”

“Photography can be an incredibly pow­erful form of storytelling,” she added. “It can capture emotions, trigger curiosity and challenge how we see things.

“For me, I wanted to convey how impor­tant the role of food is in India, knitting families and the wider community together, as opposed to just a functional energy source which is more common nowadays, especially in the western world.”

Asked whether photography is now really an art form, Catherine Shaw said on behalf of the organisers: “We firmly believe so.

“Food is the ‘stuff of life’. [But] the catego­ries demand much more than just pretty pictures of food on a plate. They seek im­ages that document how food is grown, produced, prepared, cooked, served and shared all around the world, and entrants find some truly creative and artistic ways to capture this.”

As to why there were so many winners from the Indian subcontinent, Shaw said: “We have been fortunate to receive wonder­ful and supportive press coverage from Bangladesh. Last year, our overall winner, Shoeb Faruquee, was also from Bangla­desh. As word of the award spreads we hope to see the beautiful documentation of im­ages of food from many more countries around the world, including India.”

The judging panel this year, chaired by internationally-renowned food photogra­pher David Loftus, included Emily Luchetti, chair of the New York-based James Beard Foundation that promotes cookery; culinary superstar Ferran Adria; Wajmar Yaqubi, global photo director, Buzzfeed; and Ali bin Thalith, secretary general, HIPA (Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum International Photography Awards).