Waiting for Stew
Laura Cook became our 2017 winner for the Food Sn-apping category in support of Action Against Hunger (now titled ‘On the Phone' for 2018) for her image ‘Waiting for Stew’.
Image Description: Seven-year-old Diana and her little sister Nina wait impatiently for their fish stew to cool down in Tole, Cameroon.
Taken in Cameroon for All We Can
Technical: IPhone 5s
Please tell us more about capturing your Finalist image. For example; what was happening around you, what inspired the shot, what time of day, challenges you had in capturing it.
In the village of Tole in Cameroon, sitting under her porch with two of her daughters was Anna Muke. She was trying to cook a family meal - fish stew. It was raining heavily - the kind of rain that results in droplets bouncing off every surface. I was there to interview Anna and to take images showing her story for the charity I work for, All We Can. Anna was widowed a few years ago, and as a young mum was left with very little money and no rights to her home. She is being supported by All We Can in small business training. The spicy fish stew was special. It was created for me as a guest but also to show the difference having enough money to buy decent and nutritious food was making for her daughters. As we sat hiding from the rain the stew was placed in its large silver saucepan on to the floor to cool. Anna's daughters Nina and Diana stood impatiently waiting for the stew and were hovering, as children do, by the pot. I put my Canon 5D down (which I was using for the majority of my work) and instead decided to capture the little feet stood waiting by that pot with my IPhone. What struck me, as I stood on a chair to get the shot, was that so many people are 'waiting for stew'. In a world of so much excess there are still so many little girls like Diana and Nina in communities like Tole waiting, waiting, waiting....
What was it about the image that you feel fitted the category so well?
I am new to using my phone for photography. To me one of the advantages of using a phone is the flexibility it gives you to have a lightweight, small tool to capture moments quickly. If we are going to embrace mobile technology for photography I think we can be creative in how we do that. I will always be a camera photographer but in this situation my phone allowed me a quick, quiet moment before dinner was served to capture something that happens every day all over the world.
Image Description: Diana and Nina, the two little girls whose feet feature in the image that won 'Food Sn-apping' in 2017.
Technical: Canon 5D MkIII
How did it feel to be a Finalist for the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2017?
It felt amazing to be a finalist in Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2017! I have been shortlisted before and enter every year. I made a loud squealing noise when I read the email saying my image had been chosen for the final. This is really special to me, especially because it is an image that has emotional significance too.
What would you say attracts you most to the photography of food?
Food is life. I travel all over the world as part of my work with All We Can, a development, relief and advocacy organisation. A lot of my work has focused on people, but with people comes food! Sharing a meal with strangers brings you together. Gathering around a pot, even a pot of stew, brings unity. Even in some of the most volatile situations in the world sharing a meal can bring peace. It is the relationship between people and food that attracts me most to the photography of food. Being served food, and being able to serve others is humbling. Capturing those moments on a camera is special.
Image Description: Terrance and Takudzwa share sadza in their home in Gokwe South, Zimbabwe
What are your thoughts on the cultural impacts of new smartphone apps on the photography sector? Positive, negative, no impact? Why?
Smartphone apps have had a big impact, both positive and negative. I think they have their place though. To me they encourage more people to be visually creative and that is a great thing. I am also a huge fan of communities being able to own their own stories. Mobile phone photography in developing countries is especially exciting to me as that mobile technology makes photography affordable for people.
Which photographers, if any, have most influenced your work?
Lola Akinmade Akerstroem - an amazing photographer and storyteller. She is not a food photographer but often her images do explore food themes!
Image Description: Pineapple sellers walk across the lagoon at River No 2 in Sierra Leone
Please tell us a little about where you live and if, at all, how it influences your photography.
I live in Southend in Essex, UK. I think being by the sea has always had an influence on me as a photographer. The bigger influence would be my travel around the world and my time spent in Sun-Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone, and West Africa more generally, always remains close to my heart as a photographer.
Laura, we’d love to hear about your latest news and project:
I am working full-time as Communications Manager for All We Can and my work gives me the wonderful privilege of travelling around the world. I am travelling to Malawi in November and am excited about finding out about new ways of farming that are allowing people to adapt to a changing and fragile climate. In my own time I am learning more about food photography and am going to challenge myself to try and capture some of the seaside food themes of my home town.
To connect with Laura visit: