Mehr Singh,21,is a busy student at a city-based design institute,but she frequently moonlights as a photographer for the food-and-events blog,The Tossed Salad. Her assignments involve making food look ‘beautiful’,especially for reviews. The experience has been brilliant, she gushes. Especially when you later get to eat what you photographed! Though not a full-time professional,Singh is among the small group of photographers in the city who have increasingly discovered the potential of food photography. This is a notable development,especially because the gastronomic landscape of the city isflooded with eateries whose walls are covered with pixillated frames of sometimes unrecognisable food. Many photographers here are expanding their portfolio to include food brochures and flyers,and the demand is slowly but surely rising.
Nirat Singh has been a professional photographer for the past 18 years,but he noticed a rise in interest in food photography only about two years ago. We have been getting a lot of requests,especially from restaurants that are renovating. The assignments mostly revolve around menu displays, he says. Nirat’s confidence in this sphere has been re-infused by the free hand he gets while shooting food and ambiance around the eateries. The chef’s work is to display the food,he is the best judge for it. I do the props,like I sometimes work with arrangements of glasses around the food. I recently used beads as props while photographing some rolls. So it is on me to think differently.
The surprising aspect of this interest in making food look good is the participation of smaller eateries and cafes. Restaurants and star hotels employ a more centralised database of photographs for distribution,ensuring high quality and control. But for the smaller joints,it is important to spoon out a part of the budget for it,and ultimately use the imagery effectively. Amore Italia cafe in Kalyani Nagar is a 20-seater joint serving Italian food. The restaurant that opened a few months ago has paid special attention to the food pictures. I own a design studio,so one of the designers and I did the photographs,mainly for the website and the posters. We didn’t just want to download pictures,it was rewarding to shoot images of each and every item by ourselves, says owner Anil Chouhan. The pictures have turned out both sharp and intimate. As Mehr emphasises,Food that is hot will look different from food that is cold. Then one has to look into the lighting and other details. People who are not interested in photography rarely appreciate the kind of effort and detailing that food photograpy involves.
However,the biggest challenge to the development of food photography in the city is still the perception surrounding it. Unlike Mumbai,where there is almost a food photography movement brewing,Pune is a newcomer to this field. The hotel industry is booming here,so demands for hoardings and brochures is surely rising. But the work is still infrequent,and one can’t survive on just food photography, says 23-year-old Vishal Nale of Gypsies Studios. Nirat adds,The idea is catching up,yes,but I still sometimes get requests for downloads and copy-paste jobs,which I don’t entertain at all. There is a still a lot to explore in food photography.