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Photography Student’s Still Life Work Wins International Awards

It looks like food, but it’s not. Against a sky-blue background, hamburgers, milkshakes and fries stand in rows. They’re lit dramatically and lined up like toy soldiers. But a closer look reveals they’re not edible at all—they’re rubber erasers, made to resemble food.

School of Photography MFA student Pratik Parulekar carefully crafted all of these elements to create the perfect shot. It’s part of a series. Other images showcase erasers that appear to be ice cream bars, pizzas, sandwiches, sausages, cakes, dumplings and sushi.

foods by pratik parulekar academy of art u
“Impossible Paint” by Academy Photography student Pratik Parulekar

Parulekar crafted all these elements to create the perfect shot. It’s part of a series. Other erasers look like ice cream bars, pizzas, sandwiches, sausages, cakes, dumplings and sushi.

This type of photography demands the kind of attention and precision that Parulekar loves.

“It’s a bit more technical” than shooting actual food, Parulekar says. There’s a deep thought process required. “The products are so small. The lights are big. So you need to problem-solve a lot of things.” He describes a complex procedure that happens before he ever gets behind the camera.

Earning the Wins for Taking the Shot

His hard work is paying off. In February, Parulekar won a gold award in One Eyeland’s 2018 competition, a prestigious international event.

Another of Parulekar’s images, “Impossible Paint”—a bottle of pink nail polish spilling on a piece of M.C. Escher’s mind-boggling art—won silver in the contest.

Out of more than 4,000 entries in the One Eyeland competition, there were only 31 gold and 115 silver awards.

“Impossible Paint” won a Grand Prize in the still life category in a contest held by PDNedu, a photography magazine for students and educators. The image is featured in the magazine’s spring 2019 edition.

It was also one of the shortlisted images in the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Open in the still life category.

Parulekar created these photos for his Academy classes. He entered the contests after support and encouragement from his Academy instructors. The images also represent what he’s come to love about still life photography—a field he hopes to make a living in.

cosmetics by pratik parulekar academy of art u
Photo by Pratik Parulekar

He’s been working on a still-life photo of Japanese food, with subjects like sushi and cucumbers. A local food stylist helped.

Like many students at the Academy, he’s eager to build up his portfolio. Parulekar will include a variety of subjects like sunglasses and cosmetics.

Artist Origins and Inspirations

His love of photography began when he was studying for a BFA in advertising in his native India. It’s one reason why his craft is tied to shooting consumer goods since he enrolled in the Academy in February 2017 .

But his passion for photography runs even deeper. His father, a chemical engineer, also runs a wedding photography business. His grandfather—Parulekar’s mentor growing up—was a still life photographer. They both had passions for painting and drawing.

Reaping Rewards from a Solid Internship Program

Parulekar says his most valuable learning experience so far, though, has been outside the classroom. In his second year, his Photography instructors suggested he find an internship.

With help from John Vano, the school’s associate director, Parulekar landed a position with renowned commercial still life photographer and Academy graduate Dwight Eschliman (MFA Photography 1998).

pratik parulekar portrait
Pratik Parulekar

Vano speaks about Parulekar’s attention to elements like lighting, color palette and arranging his subjects. There’s a strong display of graphic understanding in his work, Vano adds.

Vano speaks about Parulekar’s attention to elements like lighting, color palette and arranging his subjects. There’s a strong display of graphic understanding in his work, Vano adds.

“He studies what he’s shooting very well,” Vano says. “He puts it all together like a chef and the end result is 99 out of a hundred times excellent-plus. It’s amazing.”

Until his internship, Parulekar hadn’t assisted a professional photographer before. “It’s completely opposite to a classroom situation,” he notes. For about eight months, Parulekar learned the ins and outs of working on a set, from mounting lights to client etiquette.

“I was basically helping everyone from the first assistants to the digital tech to the stylist, her assistant, the producer…with the lighting, the style, the props.”

“It was a complete hands-on experience. I learned from every possible person on set.”

He says it was invaluable to learn these things as a student, “so I don’t have a heart attack when I step out of school and start from zero.”

Parulekar says these rewards wouldn’t have been possible without the Academy.

“I was really intimidated when the process started. I’m really comfortable now,” he says. “I was thrown deep into the ocean, but I found my way out.”​


Original article by Cristina Schreil appeared in Academy Art U News.

Images courtesy Pratik Parulekar

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