World on a plate: Polish photographer travels the globe to snap people preparing food

Distant lands: the photographer travelled to Kyrgyzstan to photograph the food culture. Karolina Wiercigroch/Instagram

A Polish food photographer on assignment for National Geographic has travelled from Poland to distant Kyrgyzstan to capture how people around the world prepare, serve and enjoy food.

Based in London, Karolina Wiercigroch, travelled to the Kyrgyz mountains for her latest assignment for National Geographic Traveller Food to explore the area’s nomadic culture.

 Plov, one of the dishes documented by Wiercigroch.Karolina Wiercigroch/Instagram

Her photos from that trip include those of richly-coloured dishes such as plov, an aromatic rice dish commonly eaten in Central Asia, which is pictured served with a tomato and cucumber salad.

“To make it, my Kyrgyz host, Umutkor, first fried onions, carrots and lamb with a blend of aromatic spices in a heavy pot called a kazan, placed over a wood-fired stove,” Wiercigroch explains on her Instagram page.

She also documented the process: one of her photographs shows Umutkor preparing plov, wearing a brightly-coloured scarf on her head.

Much of the food reflected the local nomadic culture.Karolina Wiercigroch/Instagram

For Wiercigroch, who gained practical knowledge of the realms of photography and food by studying at the London School of Photography and Leiths School of Food and Wine, food photography is not just about the final image – it is part of a longer process, which can include travel to faraway or remote destinations.

“I try to get involved in every step from idea to image: working on the creative concept, translating it into dishes and recipes, choosing the right style and props, using the light to compliment the food and create the atmosphere,” according to her profile on LinkedIn.

Wiercigroch has worked on assignments from the Beskid Mountains, which stretch along Poland’s southern border, to Bali. Her portfolio includes work for National Geographic in countries such as Iceland and Peru.

“I try to get involved in every step from idea to image: working on the creative concept, translating it into dishes and recipes,” says the photographer.Karolina Wiercigroch/Instagram

Poland is on her travel wish-list for after the coronavirus lockdown. She has been thinking about a photo story on cheese making traditions in the Beskid Mountains.

“I don’t eat a lot of cheese these days, as I try to stick to a plant-based diet when not feasting on lamb and horse milk with nomads,” she told National Geographic in an interview about her work in Kyrgyzstan.

“But I never say no to a fresh oscypek — a smoked sheep’s milk cheese — served with homemade cranberry jam in a Polish mountain hut,” she added.