All images by Ali Choudhry. Used with permission.
“It’s actually inspired by The Simpsons and was probably what started this whole idea to be honest,” explains photographer Ali Choudhry in an email interview with us. Ali is referencing the bright pink donut that you’ll see in this blog post. But the idea is tackling a bigger issue: that of intersectional feminism. We’ve featured Ali’s work on the site before, but DONUT Come For ME really stood out to us. Looking at the images, you’d think they’re ordinary donuts. And this plays a key part of it all. They’re a fun metaphor for all of us being unique.
The Photography Gear of Ali Choudhry
From the artist:
I’m not one of those “gear” photographers. I only had a Canon 60d at the time (and I only recently upgraded that to the 5d Mark iv after the 60d broke after nearly a decade of use!). I believe that it’s the image that is important, not so much what it’s made on. My longest lens at the time was an 85mm because so much of my paid work is portraits/headhsots. Although I recently got the 180mm macro as I’m moving into more product work. I have two elinchrom monoblocs; I used one to back light these. And one from front to… front light them. I used a reflector to fill in shadows; the donuts were all custom made (shout out to Fran’s Been Baking). I used a long sewing needle to gentle thread the donuts and then these helped up on a light stand. Then obviously the needle was carefully photoshopped out. I’m probably not the best person to talk gear with, but hope that covers most of the kit?Ali Choudhry
Phoblographer: Why donuts? I mean, where the heck did an idea like this come from?
Ali Choudhry: Haha. Well, conceptually, the shoot wasn’t really about donuts. Like a lot of my work does deal with identity and who we are and what makes us ourselves. I mean, I’m pretty intersectional (gay, person of color, refugee)… so I’m really interested in this not only as a lived experience but also finding out about what makes other people who they are. But I really wanted to take this idea which stems from intersectional feminism, and present it in a way that not only everyone could understand, but that no one would have a problem with. Sometimes these issues are a bit heavy but this, a metaphor I guess, makes the concept accessible and less aggressive. Everyone likes donuts. I don’t know anyone who’s ever said no to a donut or hates them. And people are pretty opinionated about what donuts they like.
“But I really wanted to take this idea which stems from intersectional feminism, and present it in a way that not only everyone could understand, but that no one would have a problem with.”Ali Choudhry
Phoblographer: What donut do you feel you are? And why? What do you this about a pink one? Or a vanilla one?
Ali Choudhry: From these, I’d say I’m the rainbow sprinkles. There’s always a lot going on but you have to get close to appreciate the details. I mean, I do have a pink one! It’s actually inspired by The Simpsons and was probably what started this whole idea to be honest. I mean, I actually love a good Boston Crème (it’s like covered in chocolate with a cream filling); but I don’t know ho well it’d photograph.
Phoblographer: Why photograph donuts in this particular way? Why not try to connect it to something more specific about people?
Ali Choudhry: I mean, the series is a bit out of my usual bag of tricks… but the concept itself isn’t. I made this series nearly two years ago and got to have my first little solo show with them as well where I printed them pretty big (like a meter by meter squared). I just wanted to make something that made people happy. Photography doesn’t always have to be serious; the world is serious enough.
Phoblographer: This seems like a project that you didn’t sit on for long. The idea came up in your head, and then you went out to get donuts and shot it. Am I right?
Ali Choudhry: If only! So I actually sat on the idea for a while; originally I wanted to make all the donuts custom but to pay for that isn’t cheap so… I started out doing about one a month. So the pink Simpsons design and the rainbow swirl were the first ones shot but they were about a month apart each. (My housemates ate the leftovers so I was really popular during those shoots).
Anyway, I shot those, and then I kind of just sat on the pictures for a bit. But then personal stuff and life got in the way and I ended up moving interstate so the project got put on hiatus for the longest time until a friend of mine who is a producer in Melbourne saw them. He was putting on a series of shows as part of a theatre festival and we went through a few different options of what I could show in the lobby of the theatre and we ended up on the donuts. But then I didn’t really have much time (or money); so the remaining donuts were a hodgepodge of this ‘fancy’ donut chain, the local super market, and 7-Eleven. Which actually ended up working out for the best because my ‘custom’ donuts provided a level of fantasy and were visually striking, but then there were also included the more traditional ones that people were used to such as the Jelly or the Emoji.
I think it’s a bit Marie Kondo in the sense that this was something I really needed to make at the time I started making it. But now that I’ve done a few, I don’t need to make anymore. Like I got that out of my system and we can all move on.
Thank you for your service, Donuts!
Phoblographer: This is a pretty major deviation away from the rest of your work. So, why this? Do you see yourself doing more projects like this?
Ali Choudhry: You know, I’ve been doing this a long time. I got my first camera almost 15 years ago and I’ve been shooting consistently, professionally for almost a decade. So it’s really hard to stick to just one thing in that amount of time. It’d be weird if I didn’t try new things. So sure, the actual subject of the images is the same; but where they sit conceptually within this realm of identity isn’t. Like if you remember my last interview, there were a lot of drag queens and leather folks and such and this sure… the subject is different, but the concept isn’t. We’re all unique. And then they’re also shot in what is somewhat of a signature style (white background, strong key lights, sharp and detailed). So no, I don’t know. I don’t think they’re that different. Maybe they are!
But my first love will always be people; especially people like dancers or models who know how to use their body and really move. But at the same time, no one ever does just one thing and I have been moving more and more into ‘still life’. It’s just about finding out how that thread sort of pulls at itself.
Like I did Space & Time! And then recently I did Waiting! I mean, I think the more I do new things, the more I’m retrospectively finding a visual language that is uniquely my own. I think what’s important is to keep making work and putting it out there