How Food Photography Captures the Politics and Rituals of Food Around the World

The winner, 'Praying for Food' by Noor Ahmed Gelal
The winner, 'Praying for Food' by Noor Ahmed Gelal | © Noor Ahmed Gelal
When you think of food photography, you think of Instagram flatlays, icy smoothie bowls and oozing cheese, not politics, beauty and the documentation of ritual.

The Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year award showcases stunning food photography from around the world, but it also raises awareness of social issues surrounding the food industry such as climate change, urban poverty and the threat to traditional farming practices.

Captured from all four corners of the globe, the stunning images illustrate what we eat and how we eat, and stress food as a universal human experience.

The awards were held in London on April 24 and had thousands of entries from 60 countries, with photographers of all ages entering in the hope of winning the £5,000 prize.

The overall winner was a photo entitled Praying for Food by Bangladeshi photographer Noor Ahmed Gelal, which captured a bird’s eye view of Hindu worshippers breaking their day-long fast at a communal feast.

The winner, 'Praying for Food' by Noor Ahmed Gelal © Noor Ahmed Gelal

Andy Macdonald, who heads up Pink Lady® in the UK, said: ‘The competition was fierce. There were 8,000 images entered from 60 countries and the standard was exceptional.

‘Noor’s shot stood out from the rest in its category, however, for the way in which he made the subject matter so fascinating and distinctive.’

In a description of his photograph, Gelal wrote: ‘Breaking the fast in congregation. A section of the Hindu community is preparing to break the day-long fast in one of the local temples at Swamibag, Dhaka, Bangladesh. They believe their fasting will redeem their sins.’

See below for a selection of the winning photographs, their respective categories and the thoughts on each work by the artist.

A Fisherman’s Life

'A Fisherman’s Life' by Probal Rashid © Probal Rashid

Taken by Probal Rashid (Bangladesh) for the ‘Food for Life’ category.

‘Lokman Miah, 30, is a fisherman cooking on a fishing boat in Bhola, Bangladesh. On the Bhola Island, fisher communities live in close proximity to the river where land is cheaper. This allows them to live close to their livelihood. At the same time, this location makes them vulnerable to riverbank erosion, which, according to villagers, has been increasing in recent years.’

Sheep in Dakar

'Sheep in Dakar' by Guillaume Flandre © Guillaume Flandre

Taken by Guillaume Flandre (UK) for the ‘Food in the Field’ category.

‘Dakar is a busy and unexpected city. In the numerous street markets of the capital, you can find anything you need. Thanks to a local, I was able to go behind the shops, where they keep animals that usually can’t be seen from the outside.’

Exmoor beasts

'Exmoor Beasts' by Paul Steven © Paul Steven

Taken by Paul Steven (UK) for the ‘On the Phone’ category, which is in aid of Action Against Hunger.

‘Three curious and majestic highland cows on Exmoor in Somerset.’

Dog shower

'Dog Shower' by Grzegorz Tomasz Karmas © Grzegorz Tomasz Karnas

Taken by Grzegorz Tomasz Karmas (Poland) for the ‘Politics of Food’ category.

‘This picture was taken in the North of Vietnam. The dogs are kept alive by being showered during transport to the slaughter houses. It is around 45 degrees out there.’

Green beans

'Green Beans' by Andy Grimshaw © Andy Grimshaw

Taken by Andy Grimshaw (UK) for the ‘Cream of the Crop’ category.

‘Green beans.’

Spinning the Chardonnay

'Spinning the Chardonnay' by Victor Pugatschew © Victor Pugatschew

Taken by Victor Pugatschew (Australia) for the ‘Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year (Produce)’ category.

‘Here we have chardonnay being pressed at Champagne Veuve Fourny and the juice flowing into the Belon tanks for splitting of the fractions.’

The Fishermen

'The Fishermen' by Debdatta Chakraborty © Debdatta Chakraborty

Taken by Debdatta Chakraborty (India) for the ‘Bring Home the Harvest’ category.

‘Silabati is a perennial river, only getting inundated when water is released from the nearby dam, Medinipur, West Bengal. Villagers try their luck for their silver catch on one such occasion.’

Rex Bakery

'Rex Bakery' by Jade Nina Sarkhel © Jade Nina Sarkhel

Taken by Jade Nina Sarkhel (UK) for the ‘Food for Sale’ category.

‘Straddling a gutter, I captured the bullet-stricken walls of one of Mumbai’s oldest bakeries. The bakery churns out 18,000 paos a day, operating 24/7 selling bread through the keyhole counter overnight. Bread is given for free to those who can’t afford it. It’s places like this that knit communities together in India.’

Honeycomb and Wax

'Honeycomb and Wax' by Becci Hutchings © Becci Hutchings

Taken by Becci Hutchings (UK) for the ‘Student Photographer of the Year’ category.

‘Frames are placed into the bee hives to encourage bees to build honeycomb and fill with honey. Once filled, the frames are removed and the wax capping is scraped off using an uncapping fork. The honeycomb is then either broken off or the frames are placed into an extractor to withdraw the honey.’

Vineyard Flooding, Sonoma County

'Vineyard Flooding, Sonoma County' by George Rose © George Rose

Taken by George Rose (USA) for the ‘Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year (Places)’ category. It was photographed from a helicopter.

‘A Russian river valley vineyard is flooded during record rains in January 2017.’

Pastry and Pears

'Pastry and Pears' by Linda Taylor © Linda Taylor

Taken by Linda Taylor (USA) for the ‘Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture’ category.

‘My small, imperfect pears from my tree were gifted to my local baker and they were transformed into these perfect little brioche and ricotta pastries.’

Family Dinner

'Family Dinner' by Guillaume Flandre © Guillaume Flandre

Shot by Guillaume Flandre (UK) for the ‘Food for the Family’ category.

‘This is the last time my father and grandfather cooked together in his apartment before my grandfather passed away. I captured this scene on Christmas Eve, a moment when, traditionally, the whole family would gather to share a meal.’