Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Dubai-based food photographer shortlisted for Pink Lady award

Drina Cabral is the only artist from the Middle East to be shortlisted among the best 100 food photographers in the world.
The Hunter and the Hunted by food photographer Drina Cabral. Courtesy of Drina Cabral
The Hunter and the Hunted by food photographer Drina Cabral. Courtesy of Drina Cabral

There’s more to food photography than making you hungry.

That’s the philosophy of Drina Cabral – who is based in Dubai and is the only artist from the Middle East to be shortlisted among the 100 best food ­photographers in the world.

Tonight, she is in London, representing the UAE at the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards ceremony.

Her work was chosen from more than 6,500 international entries to hang on public display alongside 99 other finalists at London’s The Mall Galleries from tomorrow.

Cabral’s photograph, titled The Hunter and the Hunted, is a violent portrayal of a squid snaring a mackerel – and might put you off your next meal.

“A lot of people say to me: ‘Your food photography is not even edible’, but the way I see it, food is about more than being something you eat,” she says. “It can be an art form – food can tell a story.”

The image, shortlisted for the Politics of Food category, questions preconceptions that food photography should simply illustrate a product or recipe. The intention was to provoke thought and debate – and Cabral clearly succeeded.

“It’s violent, and I get a lot of criticism from animal-rights ­activists,” she says. “But it’s about the instinct to survive.

“In nature, there will always be predator and prey. Food is killing an animal, and killing an animal is not necessarily unethical, it’s a means of survival – the ways in which that is done can be discussed – but the basic need to survive, that premeditated instinct, that’s what life is based on.”

The image’s inspiration, however, came from the most mundane of circumstances – a visit to the supermarket.

“I was walking around the grocery store looking at people. I just felt like a consumer zombie – ‘I want this, I want to eat that’ – and I thought: ‘This is what I want to say: people’s basic need to survive’.”

Described as “the first-ever international competition ­celebrating the art of food ­photography”, the annual Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year is judged by a board of celebrity specialists, including Nigel Atherton, group editor of Time magazine’s photography portfolio; Simon Bainbridge, editor of the British Journal of Photography; and Gary Mehigan, a presenter on Masterchef Australia.

With 100 finalists competing in several categories, the top gong carries prize money of £5,000 (Dh28,000).

Cabral wasn’t thinking of the competition when she composed the photograph. The work is one of a series of images she created last year, after deciding to launch her own food-styling and photography business, Eaternal Zest – she has been a full-time photographer for less than a year. A television producer and director by trade, she never intended to work in photography. About five years ago she started a food blog and, needing images to accompany the recipes, decided to shoot her creations herself. Along the way, she began taking on styling and photography shoots for various companies.

“I decided a year ago I wanted to take this up,” says Cabral. “It took about six months to get the strength to quit my job. I couldn’t justify to anyone – my family, my friends – why I’d give up a pretty good job to do something which was freelance, which was a risk.”

But the gamble paid off: Eaternal Zest’s clients range from the Ritz-Carlton to the shawarma joint S’wich.

“I love food,” says Cabral. “And when I cook I love to experiment, trying new combinations, and my photography is the same, I like to play around with things,” she says. “I consider my work to be visual poetry – I’m putting my heart on a plate.”

• The winner of the Pink Lady ­Photographer of the Year Award will be announced on May 6. Find out more about Cabral’s work at www.eaternalzest.com

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: May 5, 2015 04:00 AM

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