Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica Launches Prestigious New FOTO Award for Food Photography

Leica Launches Prestigious New FOTO Award for Food Photography

Leica's prestigious new FOTO award category will help legitimize a long neglected corner of the fine-art photography world.


In a surprise move, Leica has added a new category to its line up of annual awards recognising photographic excellence. The new award is for candid food photography: images of dishes from the kitchen, not the studio. Here at Macfilos we were delighted to hear the news. We had already begun to dabble in this much overlooked photographic genre.

In a sign of the times, Leica has recognised the enormous interest in food photography, and the use of its cameras to document a literal feast of delicious dishes. The new award will join the Oskar Barnack Award and those for street photography and women photographers.

The distinguished panel of judges, comprising product photographers, chefs, and restaurateurs, will be on the lookout for spectacular images of tasty grub. In its announcement, Leica highlighted the creative use of its compact camera, the Leica Q3, for candid food photography.

The image above is typical of the candid food photography Macfilos has published. It is a close-up of an Eggs Benedict variant inspired by a favourite American sandwich: the BLT. In fact, it’s an avocado BLT, featuring bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado on a slice of focaccia. In customary fashion, it is topped by a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce, in this case flavoured with cilantro.

Keith James took this and the other photos in this article using a Leica Q2, apparently a favourite choice of candid food photographers. He also provided the mouthwatering descriptions of the illustrated dishes.

Candid food photography: a new direction for Macfilos

When asked for his reaction to this development, Macfilos Editor, Michael Evans, said:

‘Although food photography is only a small part of our output, we take it very seriously, striving for images that are spontaneous, honest, and emotionally engaging.’

The dish featured below would certainly make hungry hearts beat faster. Inspired by cuisine popular in the Southern states of the US, it is called a Country Benedict. Featuring poached eggs, spicy sausage, thick cut bacon & country gravy on a toasted biscuit, it packs a high calorie punch.

It would take a brave diner to consume the entire dish at one sitting. Better to split it, or take half home for a second breakfast feast.

Dr Max Mustermann, Global Head of Catering, Leica Camera AG, and a member of the judging panel, had this to say about the award (translated from German):

‘When my colleagues designed the Q2, they expected photographers to push it to the absolute limits of its optical performance. But, we never expected it to produce such powerful, candid images of comestibles. Photographers have taken outstanding food photos with this device’.

Mustermann’s great-grandfather, Max I, was instrumental in introducing the delicious Roterpunkttorte (Red Dot Cake) to Leica’s cafés worldwide. In 1925, he told the board of management, “Ich entscheide hiermit, daß sie gebacken wird” .*

Leica food photography. Photo copyright Witwe Bolte

Candid food photography: focusing on Eggs Benedict

But when it comes to our favourite dish, it’s about poaching, not baking. Macfilos’s candid coverage of Eggs Benedict has highlighted the dish’s role as a vehicle for creative expression by chefs around the world. It was the blog’s first foray into candid food photography.

Future articles in the series will cover the thorny issue of asking permission before pressing that shutter release. Is it acceptable to photograph someone else’s Eggs Benedict without them realizing you have done so?

We will also consider whether hip-shots represent the perfect way to capture images of food at table-level.

Returning to the tried and tested theme of Eggs Benedict variants based upon popular sandwiches, do you recognise this one? It’s a Grilled Cheese Benedict. Between two slices of bread sit melted, smoked Mozzarella and Asiago cheeses, together with pesto. Poached eggs drizzled with Jalapeño-flavoured Hollandaise sauce complete the line-up. Finger-licking good.

Candid food photography: a new genre

Photographer and associate editor, Jörg-Peter Rau, was also delighted to hear the news:

‘Many people view candid food photography, sometimes called street food photography, as trivial or even vacuous. I hope the new Leica award will help establish it as a serious photographic genre, comparable with portraiture, landscape, and architectural photography. Unlike these other categories, it has the added benefit of being able to eat your subject’.

Since the traditional Eggs Benedict recipe calls for a slice of Canadian Bacon (ham), many variants in the series have also included a meat layer. However, since Macfilos caters to candid food photography fans of all persuasions, we have included another ‘vegetarian’ example below.

Roasted peppers and wilted spinach occupy the erstwhile meat layer, sitting atop a toasted slice of bread. The obligatory poached egg is bathed in a conventional Hollandaise sauce, sprinkled with paprika. [Editor’s note: I prefer the meaty versions]

The judging panel is now busy at work, considering submissions. Winners will receive their awards at a ceremony later this year. You will be able to catch the festivities at Café Leitz, Am Leitz Park 1, Wetzlar. Representative images will be on display at the new Leica Gallery in Witts End, Bedfordshire.

And if you are a food photography fan who prefers posed rather than candid shots, you might find the work of Suzanne Saroff more to your taste. So to speak.

* I hereby decide it will be baked.

You can read the full press release here

Read more of our Eggs Benedict coverage here

Read another of our seasonal exclusives here

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  1. Although it was already April 2nd when this story appeared down here I immediately reached for a pinch of salt when I read the headline.

    • Nice one John. Although it’s healthy to watch our sodium intake, a good pinch of salt every now and again can definitely help with swallowing those fake news stories you hear about. All the best, Jason

  2. Congratulations! I believe BMW UK and their former ad agency WCRS would like to sponsor this prestigious award next year as it aligns perfectly with their past springtime communications strategy for sharing the unexpected.

    • Thanks John. I think association with one of the world’s leading car manufacturers will undoubtedly raise the profile of this award. I understand earlier sponsorship discussions with Costco and Tesco fizzled out for some reason. All the best, Jason

        • WCRS produced outstanding April Fools Day spoofs many years ago for BMW in Britain. I’m sure some mature “Britpack” members might remember them. So convincing were they that people would call BMW UK for more information and how to buy some of these amazing inventions.

          Sadly it’s not often these days that major brands can laugh at themselves this way and get empathy votes.

          • Writing for ‘Practical Photography’ I announced one April that Ilford was introducing the new XP-something-or-other which didn’t need a lens, as the new emulsion included millions of little ‘lenticles’ which focused incoming light just like a 50mm, and which turned any 50mm lens into a 100mm.

            It’d be launched at London’s Tower Hotel ..and we had so many requests – as did they! – for tickets to the presentation that neither we – nor the Hotel – could cope!

            A well-respected (and well-known) optical specialist in Manchester begged for tickets, till I explained that he really ought to check the launch date.. 😎

          • Thanks, David. I’m not sure our efforts will enjoy that sort of success. But those Leica Torte looked quite delicious. Perhaps we should “reach out” (aaarrrgghhh!) to you in March next year to see if you have any new lensicles for a feature on the big day.


          • Talking of ‘Leica Torte’ ..see my ‘Sachertorte’ photo – mmm, yummy! – taken with a (film) Leica M3 and the venerable ‘Dual-Range’ close-focus ‘goggled’ 50mm ..18th photo down on this Macfilos page: https://tinyurl.com/S4ch3rtort3

  3. I confess — you had me going. Though I did wonder what in the world the editorial board can have been thinking. Too many dried smoked spices on the eggs?

    • Hi Kathy, if you were with us beyond the first paragraph, we consider that a success. Rest assured that the editorial team is committed to reporting the latest photography news without fear or favour. This means studiously avoiding consumption of any products that would influence our objectivity. All the best, Jason

  4. You forgoet to mention Leica are also releasing a special edition M model to coincide with this — the Leica M-NX, perfect for taking other breakfast pictures of the ham and eggs variety …

    • Thank you for bringing this to our attention Datsch. I think there is a good chance this development might feature in a forthcoming article exploring the long history of food-themed Leica special editions.

    • I’ve been hearing over the last few days that there is already so much demand for the M-NX that Leica has decided “We will make it!” Development is already underway and the camera will come with a new non-stick paint finish that is easy to wipe clean and will be matched with a limited edition, close focus, steel handle lens that has an entirely new durable greaseproof coating that completely eliminates the need for filters while maintaining the high optical quality that we have come to expect from Leica. Both camera and lens are fully kitchen proof and will still function at high temperatures.
      Please note that they are not accepting pre-orders at this time.


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