Editor's note: The sub-title of this post should be "India, Photography, Friendship and Poetry".
Indeed, when our friend Anushka Menon contacted us about a new photography article (in July 2012 we published a retrospective of her works together with an interview), we were both excited and curious. Little did we know that this time she would be one of the models and not the photographer... And what made this collaboration even more exceptional is the presence of "one of Bollywood's most intriguing actors" (Vogue India) as the second model: Kalki Koechlin. The lucky photographer behind this mesmerizing project is Bombay’s photographer and furniture designer Shahid Datawala.
Then we came up with a slightly disruptive idea for the interview as, after the initial question we submitted to Shahid, he would then ask questions to Anushka and Kalki who, eventually would return a question to him, if that makes sense... Yes, some could think that the editor was too lazy to write down more than one question, yet we just felt like improvising and being light-hearted! You can discover this short, interactive and somewhat post-modern interview immediately after the gorgeous pictures.
Last but not least, this series of pictures comes with two texts which have been written by a 18 year-old amazing artist and writer, Amaaya Dasgupta, who happens to be late legendary photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta's daughter.
Each still, like a chord
"The reflections of it all. The movement, the dreams, the desires- reduced into one.
Each still, like a chord. A combination of notes, experiences, as more than just a combination of perceptions; of personalities and colours. A combination of shades the entire universe can be reduced to. But then I wonder, how?
How do I see you dance in and out of those thoughts that create what you are, though you're restricted by what is unmoving- though you are part of what is unmoving.
Each still, like a chord. Like the patterned dreams that keep you awake. At the end of the day, they are still dreams. They reflect in your eyes, just as you so effortlessly seem to reflect in them. And I see where they take you. Won't they take me too? Won't they carry me through these melancholic expressions that I think I can see through? You know who I am, but lifetimes flash before me, as I begin to fathom all of you.
Each still, like a chord. How do I understand its layers? How do I understand the language of your hands though I can scarcely see them? And yet, I seem to. Knitted with rain and memories, I try and understand. Knitted with you.
Every stitch as sincere as the last, so tightly bound that I see beauty–a burning desire–even as it frays. As your stories and your memories chafe against my phantom skin, you leave me with a physical manifestation of that same desire. Hot tears- as I am merely my eyes; for that is all I become in front of you. A pair of eyes that have seen all that you have.
Each still, like a chord. Like you have existed as her and him and him and her, forgetting who these titles belong to. I have seen you exist as people I do not know, people you do not know. Lost in the parallel realities of Bach's patterned ocean floor, each a remnant of a not yet past. They are all different people, they are all different lives, yet they are all you. I see you delve into these patterns with utter surety and surrender, but I see you struggling to come back. Between the lines and creases of all the things you are, have been, and are to be–though you are camouflaged–I know you see.
Each still, like a chord. You lead this metaphysical existence in this beautifully complex ocean of all that is surreal and all that is not. I see you see me. The longing in your eyes feels misdirected towards me, because I know the actual strife is that of breaking away. Away from this bizarre life. Am I even living, I hear you say. But I continue to stare, though I know you see beyond. And then, that's where I end. I had only seen. Now, I long to feel.
Each still, like a chord. Unannounced, like rain, you drizzle on creativity; artists that seek inspiration, and poets that seek titles. And without a trace but the smell of wet mud, you leave the mind, and settle in the soul. O tormented painters, it is the torturous soul.
Each still, like a chord. If I were music, I would be that sound. If I were a man, I would desire more. If I were a woman, I would desire different. If I were an artist, I would desire it all.
But I am not. And neither are you. Yet you exist within, like the patterned stains and reflections of the drizzle, so long ago, without prejudice.
What a stunning amalgamation.
Hello nostalgia, and never goodbye."
- Amaaya Dasgupta
Model: Kalki Koechlin
Model: Anushka Menon
The Interactive and Playful Interview
Editor to Shahid: "How did you meet with Anushka and Kalki, how did this photo series start?"
Shahid: I Met Kalki like a year and a half back at a launch party which was for one of my t-shirt designs for a design collective callled kulture shop which she was also a collaborator for. I remember having a little conversation and few weeks later we connected and we met. Later we started speaking about a shoot and so it happened. When we did this shoot it was more of a mood oriented shoot and had not visualised it the way you see these images now. The process came about much later, Kalki is a multi-dimensional personality and that became my reason to create images of this nature, it was bringing her personality alive in a surreal way in each image.
I have known Anushka for a couple of years now, I met her through a common friend who is very close to both of us. Everytime she is in Bombay we mostly meet and maybe sometimes even in Delhi. She is always a delight to meet. This shoot actually transpired from Kalki's shoot, Anushka had seen the images before and was very excited to do a similar collaboration. Though it's very different in the image making process, it has a similar vibe. It was super fun shooting a fellow photographer, we had lots to bring on the plate together and it worked quite beautifully and dramatically.
Shahid to Kalki: "How was this shoot different from a regular fashion shoot and what did you enjoy the most?"
Kalki: It was pretty spontaneous and casual. Happened at Shahid's house and streets. He shoots without fuss and I enjoyed his museum house especially the frisky pigs.
Shahid to Anushka: "How is it shooting with a photographer and why me?"
Anushka: It's always fun to collaborate with like-minded artists and therefore I chose you! You were first my friend and once I got to see your work is when I realised we would make a good team for this project. Your photographs have so much depth, they are not just pretty pictures which is perfect because I don't consider myself to be picture perfect. I have both an unconventional face and a unique look so when exploring the possibility of being in front of the camera I knew you would be able to combine your talent with mine to create something unusual.
Kalki to Shahid: "How different is it to shoot models from actresses?"
Shahid: I feel they are not very different, but very often it's more interactive with an actor because it becomes a performance while photographing, with a model it's more about giving a direction and creating a scenario.
Anushka to Shahid: "How did you feel about this collaboration? Was the final product what you had imagined?"
Shahid: I was very fascinated with the idea of photographing and creating images with a photographer friend, I knew we would do something fun and unreal. The images happened organically, once I saw them it all started making sense visually and that's when I decided to play around with them to make the final product.
But there is never a final product, you can keep improvising which I have always believed in.
For Kalki's shoot: Sonam Chandna (hair and makeup) / Prayag Menon (styling)
For Anushka's shoot: Claire Schultz (hair and makeup)
Shahid's Short Biography:
Shahid (b 1974) has photographed extensively for various publications. His solo exhibitions include:
Datawala has also partaken of the following group shows:
He was also the chief designer for Pallate for 7 years, a furniture design store in Mumbai. He was awarded the Edida Furniture Category Award in 2009 and the Edida Designer of the Year by Elle Décor in 2010.
Currently he is working on his next solo exhibition and a series of photography book projects on various aspect of Mumbai. He also designs clothes and is a jewellery maker. Datawala lives and works in Mumbai.
PREVIOUS PHOTOGRAPHY ARTICLES
Photography Without Words #6: Mathias Fennetaux ('No Skateboard' book)
Photography Without Words #5: Steven Lyon (rhino conservation project)
Photography Without Words #4: Dane Shitagi " ("the Ballerina Project")
Photography Without Words #3: Anushka Menon (retrospective)
Photography Without Words #2: Steven Lyon (retrospective)
Photography Without Words #1: Carlo Mollino (retrospective)