Bye-bye coq au vin, the aloo-gobi (potato-cauliflower) is here — and Indian food photographers are happily placing it before their lens. Delhi-based photographer Deepak Budhraja, who runs his own studio, says: “We are moving towards a lean, clean European look with close shots of images. No more drowning paneer or chicken in dhania-pudina.”
Times have changed for India’s food photographers, in more ways than one. Ten years ago, Pradeep Dasgupta and his stylist wife Indrani were, so to speak, Indian photography’s ‘first couple’
carrying off the cream of assignments. From multinational pizzas to Delhi’s most famous fast food joints, Dasgupta had shot them all. But now there is work for everybody.
Budhraja says the ratio of his food versus non-food assignments is “60:40. Sixty – for food. There are at least 10 people who seriously shoot food,” he says, posing with potatoes and carrots.
Besides specialists, there are amateurs waiting to turn food photographers. Pallavi Mishra, a cultural consultant, who paid Rs 1,000 recently for a food photography class, feels the
lesson in lighting and presentation of the Indian food, will feed into her “expectation management programme” for MNC professionals. “I can now shoot better dum-aloo-in-handi,
dosa-idli-on-banana leaf to educate them about Indian culture.”
Rajeev Singhal, a chartered accountant, likes to upload food pictures on Facebook. Singhal says he was drawn to taking pictures of food because it’s about self-projection. “I like to be knowledgeable about food. It’s like saying ‘I am a modern Indian who eats Lebanese but who also eats aloo-baigan.’”
Aloo-baigan is a different kettle of fish in food photography. “Prawns are like your Angelina Jolie. But the potato is your Kamla-Vimla. It’s a challenge for the food stylist,” says Dasgupta. Some tricks of the trade: to make tomatoes look fresh, spray a glycerin-water mix. For ‘smoking hot’ rice, use the steam of an iron.
And the rewards are good. “Restaurants are opening, there is a demand for health food, cookbooks… It’s the only industry that’s recession proof,” says Ankit, an ad-filmmaker.