Despite its international origins, pizza has become as American as apple pie. For this, I am thankful. And so is North Carolina-based food, conceptual, and lifestyle photographer Dhanraj Emanuel, who was asked to photograph the pizza of Scissors & Pie … uncooked … and without the crust. Dhanraj has spent a lot of time photographing food, but this conceptual shoot was a deviation from his usual elegant and clean style. When Dhanraj was initially approached about the project, he felt the biggest challenge was the broadness of the guidelines he was given: “let’s shoot something different.”
That can mean anything. I thought about it for a while along the usual lines of how I shoot — clean, elegant and unpretentious. Then in one meeting, the client mentioned that the specially made oven from Italy wouldn’t be ready in time for the shoot. That was it! My first reaction was we don’t need to shoot a cooked pizza. Let’s play with the ingredients and create something different. We turned a weakness into a strength.
Scissors & Pie is known for its iconic square slices (yes, cut with scissors), so Dhanraj worked with art director Paul Vinod to make sure the images still clearly conveyed Scissors & Pie pizza without, well, pizza. They decided to make the square outline in flour, which seems simple enough, but they ran multiple tests and experiments on which direction the flour should go, and how it should be placed onto the board. For the final shoots, a food stylist was brought in, but the majority of the planning was done prior to shooting.
The unusual shoot was a learning process for Dhanraj, who discovered he thoroughly enjoyed being part of the formulation of the idea, in addition to his usual contribution of styling and technical abilities.
I also learned that when you attempt to do something completely different from everything you’ve done before, you must expect that things will go wrong and it’s crucial to build that into the shoot schedule.
The reaction to the images has been very positive, and Dhanraj says he’s looking forward to shooting the cooked pizza. He also says he has something unusual planned for that as well, and we can’t wait to see what it is!