Best food photography of the year: UAE photographer awarded special recognition

The finalists' images will be presented in an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society this year

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Food photography is more than just pictures of dishes. As the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards show, it can also reveal the politics of food and its role in bringing people together.

That role is portrayed in the winning image of this year's awards. Taken by Li Huaifeng, Taste captures a young family preparing food in their home in Licheng, China.

“This picture is technically outstanding in its use of light and composition,” said Caroline Kenyon, founder of Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year. She also noted the “depth of its storytelling and emotion”, adding that the image “demonstrates that photography need not shock or disturb to be great or memorable”.

Li will receive £5,000 ($6,950) for his work. The photographer also won in other award categories, namely third place in the Food for Family category and first place in the Food for Celebration category.

Manju Jisto, a photographer from the UAE, received special recognition, named as Highly Commended in the Food Influencers category. Her image titled Microgreens shows a verdant and vibrant scene of a woman dressed in green watering a plant. The dark background and bright lighting from one side dramatises the moment.

Jisto is an educator who turned her love of food and wellness into a food blog and photography practice. Her relationship with food and healthy eating began in 2014, when her husband was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and both began to learn more about nutrition. Jisto is self-taught and continues to run her blog, Tealthy.

Manju Jisto's 'Microgreens' received special recognition in the Influencers category. Courtesy Manju Jisto and Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2021

The rest of the winners are split into the award’s 26 categories, which include the Food Stylist Award, Street Food, World Food Programme Storytellers Award and Fujifilm Award for Innovation.

Martin Grunewald won the Food Stylist Award for his series of spreads on various foods, from seafood and vegetables to meat, photos for which were taken by Frank Weinert.

Meanwhile, the Fujifilm Award for Innovation went to Abdul Momin, who captured a worker inspecting rice noodles from an unusual angle. Taking the image from a worm’s eye view, Momin breaks away from the expected – the noodles now appear as hanging golden rays that the young man appears to wade through.

Abdul Momin's image 'Making Rice Noodles' won the Fujifilm Award for Innovation. Courtesy Abdul Momin and Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2021

Other notable winners include Marina Spironetti, who won the Claire Aho Award for Women Photographers for her portraits of female butchers in Panzano, Italy. Spironetti’s subject dons a dark red lipstick that matches her blouse while wearing a butcher’s steel apron.

This year, the judging panel included food photographer David Loftus; head of photography at Guardian News & Media, Fiona Shields; food blogger Raneen Joudah, among others.

For the first time since the competition was launched in 2011, the finalists' images will be exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in Bristol, England in November.