London, the Pink Lady Food Photography Awards, and AA Gill.

Here I am in London, and it's been an exciting and whirlwind 36 hours since I touched down at Heathrow near midnight on Monday night. So what am I doing here, other than enjoying some very briskly cold and wet British April weather? 

You might remember in early March I was named as one of sixty or so finalists in the inaugural international Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards, for not just one but three of my photographs. This was an enormously exciting honour for a passionate amateur like myself, and last night I attended the awards ceremony at the Mall Galleries in London. 

The quality of the final photographs was absolutely awe-inspiring and truly international, featuring some of the best professional food photographers alive today. I was very humbled to have been chosen from amongst more than three thousand entries from sixty-one countries around the world. Wow! 

To be amongst photographs of this standard was a joy in itself, but to my great surprise I was also named third in the category of 'Food for Sale' for the image below of fat-tailed sheep at the Sunday animal market in Kashgar. Woohoo!

What was even more inspiring to me though was the extraordinary level of excitement and support I've received from all of you readers and fellow food-lovers. I can't thank you enough for the good wishes and congratulations you've sent by email, twitter and facebook, and it meant such a lot to me. You're the people who inspire me to get out there every day and do what I love - find great food stories, write about them, and photograph them. So thank you all!

I do also need to give credit for the photos above to my sister - she lives in Scotland and joined me as my date for the night in London. She found it a bit stressful trying to take photos with an iPhone in a room full of photographers while also juggling a glass of champagne, which would explain the blurriness. 

All over the gallery photographers were handing their complicated cameras to their very non-photographer friends and families so they could be snapped next to their beautifully framed entries. I heard the same conversation quite a few times during the evening.

"Which button do I push? Is it this one?"

"No, that's the ISO. Let me see the picture - Oh that's terrible! Can you take another one? Try and get my head in the frame this time."

"Which button is it again?"

"No! No! That activates the flash!"

We're a difficult perfectionist bunch, aren't we?

So here at last are my three finalist photographs:

'Food for Sale' - Fat-tailed Sheep, Kashgar

'Food for Sale' - Pigs' Heads, Yunnan

'Food in the Field' - Sea of Spice, Taklamikan Desert

If you'd like to see the winning photographs, there's an online article in today's Guardian newspaper with a photo gallery of the winners and Pink Lady now has a gallery of all the finalist images including mine. I adored the winning photograph of black pigs foraging in long green grass by French food photographer Jean Cazals - breathtaking.

Later in the evening, as if the awards themselves weren't enough excitement for one night, my sister had made a late reservation for dinner at The Wolseley in London. A gorgeous vaulted marble dining room next door to the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly, The Wolseley was originally the Wolseley Motors showroom in the 1920s and is now one of London's most popular restaurants.

The Wolseley was chosen by my sister for its celebrity spotting potential, and the place didn't disappoint. We'd only just walked in the door when she said -

"There's Dale Winton"

"What? Who's he?"

"On the telly. Camp."

"Oh. Should I know who he is?" I asked, feeling like I could be living in a British pop culture vacuum in China.

"No, not really."

It wasn't the level of celebrity she'd promised, but no sooner had we ordered from the quirky brasserie menu (chopped liver? really?) than Twiggy sat down at the next table but one, looking gorgeous and elegant. 

"See?" said my sister, triumphantly.

I was more convinced now, and spent the rest of the entree course (crispy whitebait, sauce tartare, lemon) glancing furtively around the room for possible celebrities sitting in private corners.

That's when I spotted him, over by the grand staircase arching gracefully to the upper floor - Dustin Hoffman. At least, in the low lighting and without my glasses I thought it was Dustin Hoffman. Increasingly convinced during main course and wine (Scottish salmon, broad beans and peas, mint, Chablis) I casually sauntered past his table on my way to the ladies' room (down a perilously narrow spiral staircase to the basement). Imposter. Italian Dustin Hoffman look-alike with identical hair. Bugger.

We were just putting on our coats to leave when my sister whispered under her breath 

"Behind me. AA Gill."

I looked in the general direction to see one of the world's most famous food writers and critics looking old and grey, wearing a cardigan and hunched over his plate. 

"He's looking old, isn't he?" I said.

My sister glanced again. "No not the old geezer, you idiot! Behind him!"

And there he was. AA Gill, bow-tied and ramrod-backed with that instantly recognisable posture. Not looking old at all. 

What a great night.


The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards Exhibition continues until Sunday April 29th at The Mall Galleries, London. 

You can view the final images online at anytime here.


Prints of all the finalist photographs, including mine, are now available online. Printed by One Vision Imaging, Britain's leading art photography printer, prices start at £11.40 and international shipping is available.

Labels: ,