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‘Aimed to make viewer crave for these kebabs’: Kolkata photographer wins international contest for pic of Kashmiri vendor

Titled “Kebabiyana”, the picture went viral after Debdatta Chakraborty was named as the overall winner of Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2022.

pink lady food photographer of the year, indian photographer pink lady winner, kashmir kebab pink lady pic, indian expressInterestingly, the award winning image was clicked on Valentine's day in 2021. (Source: Debdatta Chakraborty)

When it comes to street food, it’s hard to resist the mouth-watering dishes rustled up by roadside chefs. But have you felt a similar urge seeing just a photograph? Well, many on the internet are doing so now – drooling over a viral image of a Kashmiri kebab seller. What’s more, it has won the top prize at a prestigious international food photo contest.

Clicked by Kolkata-based photographer Debdatta Chakraborty, the stunning image shows a young vendor preparing the sizzling kebabs on a fiery grill. Standing at a small street stall engulfed in smoke, the man is basting the skewers. Titled “Kebabiyana”, the picture went viral after Chakraborty was named the overall winner of Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2022.

Talking about the award-winning shot, the 46-year-old amateur photographer said it was clicked in Srinagar’s famous Khayyam Chowk last year. “Interestingly, it was taken on Valentine’s Day,” the man told indianexpress.com over an email interview.

Chakraborty was selected by a jury in the coveted contest running for over a decade, which sees thousands of entries every year. Defeating entries from 60 countries around the world, he won the major prize, and while he is over the moon by the result, he said it was quite unexpected.

“In photo contests of such magnitude as Pink Lady, where the quality of submitted pictures are very high, it’s very difficult to predict. Even after being a finalist, the chance of winning the grand award always remains very slim as I have to compete with the highest-level of professionals,” he explained.

Finalists were chosen for 27 categories and winners were recently declared in a live streamed event on the competition’s YouTube channel. Talking to BBC about Chakraborty’s image, awards founder and director Caroline Kenyon said: “This image, gentle but powerful, nourishes our soul.”

“There is so much to reassure us here — the beautifully captured billowing embrace of the smoke, the golden light, the subject’s expression as he prepares the food for sharing,” Kenyon added.

Describing the image, Kenyon underlined how through the image one can almost smell the “delicious aroma” coming from the juicy meat. That’s exactly why Chakraborty made it his pick for the competition.

“Actually, it was my wife who told me that a mere glimpse of this image makes the viewer crave for a bit of these succulent kebabs. So, I thought that this was the best shot to submit,” he added.

Explaining why he chose this subject while holidaying in Kashmir, he noted that the chowk was just one of the alleyways in the town during daytime. “However, in the evening, when numerous charcoal ovens are lit up by vendors and the aroma of wazwan kebabs hits – it turns this street into a food-lovers’ paradise. That transformation seemed amazing to me,” he revealed.

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Chakraborty says he has been fascinated by photography from a young age, thanks to his father’s passion. However, it’s not his first major win. In fact, he has won in the same competition before, but not the overall prize.

The photographer, who doesn’t want to restrict himself to any particular genre, said, “Since I’m an amateur, I’ve no professional bindings and indulge myself sometimes in portraits, sometimes travel, architecture etc.”

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Apart from the prize money, an exhibition of the finalists’ work will also be held at The Royal Photographic Society in Bristol at the end of the year. Commenting about the thrilling opportunity, he said: “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

First published on: 28-04-2022 at 19:16 IST
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