Just located next to Books@Cafe -one of my favorite spots in Amman- is Jacaranda Images, a unique space that showcases Jordanian and international artwork. It was three years ago when my sister and myself visited the gallery to attend the first exhibition for Sawwer Al Chef, the dedicated competition to capture the chefs in a frame. The winner’s photograph along with the finalists’ frames was beautifully arranged against the black wall of the gallery. It was a humble beginning for the yearly initiative that Jacaranda Images and Darat Al Tasweer started back in 2013. With more than 30 entries from Jordan and the region for the 2016 round, Barbara Rowell, owner of Jacaranda Images, speaks about the birth of Sawwer Al Chef and the reason to bring photography and culinary industries together in one frame.
Her involvement in the hospitality and tourism industry drove Barbara away from her background in graphic design although her passion and interest in art resists till this day. Jacaranda Images started in 2007 and was the first gallery in Amman to focus on works on paper, printmaking and photography. “I saw a need in the market to start a gallery that is easily accessible and provides affordable art to the general public. Unlike Europe, art galleries in Amman can be hard to detect,” says Barbara. Jacaranda Images is a street art gallery: three large glass window displays overlook the passers-by giving them a glimpse of the brilliant work the gallery accommodates. According to Barbara, the unique location of the gallery amongst Amman’s favorite area for both locals and expats helps the community to better understand art. “People can be reluctant to visit galleries and explore art. In Jacaranda, we want the barrier to fall down,” she adds.
The start of Sawwer Al Chef was Barbara’s way into getting people involved in both digital art and hospitality. The lack of awareness of good careers in the culinary and hospitality industries was the main drive to kick off the competition. “Being a chef or an hotelier in Jordan is not considered a career and only those who fail to secure a scientific or an academic education are usually the ones working in this multibillion business. We employed photography to shine a light on the often overlooked hospitality industry.” The competition invites amateur and advanced photographers to freeze the beauty of working in a professional environment, a home kitchen or a local restaurant anywhere in the region. “While we try to support Jordanian artists and promote photography, we aim to reflect people’s passion towards food. The entries vary between pictures of executive chefs, cooks, bakers and passionate mothers in their home kitchens,” adds Barbara.
This year’s edition winner was announced today, October 15th, at the opening of the exhibition of 32 finalists’ photos at Jacaranda Images and crown one participant of each category with the first place. “The competition starts in summer and we usually give a good lead time for participants to submit their work. “We are happy to have Tariq Dajani and Mohammmed Nayif who will be our honorary judges for this year’s competition.” The panel of judges (including Barbara and Linda) grades the work according to relevance of the subject, its technicality, composition and overall beauty.
Barbara is hoping to grow Sawwer Al Chef into a regional competition and help in promoting photography in Jordan and the Middle East. “I encourage people to start capturing the beauty of life that we are missing on. There are more to pictures than one can imagine. The details that you capture with a lens are endless. Pictures are the reflection of nature, human souls and life greatness and I hope to see more of that in the near future.”
Sawwer Al Chef 2016 opens its doors to public from October 15th-31st at Jacaranda Images.