Alexandra Pakholchuk is bringing a new perspective to the glossy, fine-tuned aesthetics of food photography. The Saigon-based Ukrainian photographer has an upcoming project, titled ‘Environmental Food Awareness’, which shows another side of food—it features, at times, the side we choose to forget. Her showcase will be a compilation of ten photos aimed at raising awareness around the environmental and psychological problems connected to food.
Bliss Saigon: How did you get your start in photography?
Alexandra Pakholchuk: Photography had always been a hobby, but when I arrived in Vietnam I began to advertise services, mostly in food photography and events. My “normal” food photos are actually pretty cute, girly, and cozy. Of course, this new project breaks from that.
BS: What is your goal with ‘Environmental Food Awareness’? How do you think this project will be received?
AP: Above all else, I want to elicit a reaction and get people thinking. I’m not necessarily trying to tell people they need to change their consumption habits, it’s more about encouraging people to slow down and think about the origins of what they’re eating and their own relationship with food.
BS: What was your process like when creating the photographs and scenes for ‘Environmental Food Awareness’?
AP: Overall, it’s a pretty DIY set up. I generally am able to shoot at home and prepare sets quickly. If I have an idea, I like to act on it. I’m not sitting and thinking all day, but rather using a burst of creative energy to capture something in the moment.
BS: Some of the photographs are pretty shocking—I’m thinking especially of the photo featuring a pig’s head. Did you run into any difficulties when trying to create them?
AP: With that one specifically, yes. I wanted to use a real pig head! You can actually find one in the city, in District 8, at a wholesale market. They are only open very late at night, and when I showed up to try to acquire one, they told me sales don’t begin until 1 AM. I worked for a long time to try to find it, but in the end I just used a realistic mask.
BS: What do you think a picture like that shows?
AP: Like I said, I’m not trying to tell people outright to change their habits. But, for me at least, seeing a butchering process makes me consider the other options—artificial meat, for example, can be a really viable alternative. Every year people are killing more than 100 billion animals just for food, and this number will increase. We need to do something about that. And, of course, it’s okay to simply shock a few people, too. Because only pictures like that can make you stop and think for a while about what is going on around.
“Environmental Food Awareness” has landed her on the shortlist for London’s prestigious Pink Lady Photographer of the Year contest, so we have withheld sharing the photographs before a judgement is made. Until then, you can see more of Alexandra Pakholchuk’s work surrounding society, food, and the environment on her Instagram: alexandra_pakholchuk, on FB, Website