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An Interview with Photographer Siddharth Shankar

Siddharth Shankar is a Photographer based in Delhi. The primary focus of his work is a fashion & fine arts. His work is often compared to paintings, as they represent a collision between the worlds of fashion and art.

Tell us about your childhood, education, and family?
I was born in Rourkela, a small town in Odisha, with huge historical and industrial significance.
The human body, lights, and shadows have had me fascinated since childhood. Even before I realized, I had already chosen strokes and scribbles over words, for expression. I ensured keeping in touch with various courses of Fine Arts at Bangiya Sangeet Parishad throughout my academics. What grew alongside was a remarkable fondness for outlandish stories of super-heroic strength and magic spells.

I also developed a keen interest in martial arts, joined Taekwondo, and won a silver medal at the state level before I quit to focus on other conventional subjects that interested me the least. After my intermediate exams, I joined Rourkela Designing and Multimedia Career (R.D.M.C), a reputed coaching center in Rourkela for my preparation for design entrances. With the guidance of Sanjay Banerjee Sir, I got through many design institutes including NIFT Delhi.

How did you start photography?
I graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi in 2016. Studying fashion communication there, introduced me to the ethos of fashion and the wonders of a camera. One of my assignments was to make a team comprising a photographer, a stylist, a makeup artist, and a model; conceptualize a visual story and produce a photograph as a deliverable. During the process, I realized that it felt the same as making a painting, recreating something from a vision or a dream of mine. That is when I knew that photography is something that I should pursue, not just as a career but also as something that quenches my creative hunger. And then onwards the rectangular frame has pretty much been my home.

I did my photography internship and also worked as an assistant photographer under one of the finest fashion and advertising photographer, Mr. Saurabh Dua. There, I learned the difference between a photograph and a good photograph, and how to create them, improve them, and reproduce life through them.

What was the reaction of your parents when you informed them about your career choice?
I am the first one to venture into the field of design in my family. To most two-tier and three-tier families of India design as a subject is still an alien concept, photography is just a hobby and fashion is all that Bollywood celebrities wear. Honestly speaking, even after repeated efforts at understanding the role, scope, and value of design and photography from both sides, I am not sure if they have still come to terms with the fact that I am a fashion photographer and not an engineer or an architect.

How did you choose your specialties?
Earning recognition in various painting competitions in my childhood helped me gain confidence in visualization and execution skills. I exercise the knowledge and aesthetics that I have developed over time in my approach to photography.

I have developed certain ideas and processes to deliver projects of quality and uniqueness that tell stories for campaigns and editorials. My role is not limited to photography but also the direction where I imagine photographs before creating them.

What have been some career highlights?
The first appreciation came in in the year 2016, when two of my works, one in the commercial photography genre and the other in the fine art photography genre, made it to the semi-finals in Adobe Design Achievement Awards 2016. That was a huge honor for me to be appreciated globally by renowned mentors and jury.

I started as a professional photographer in the year 2018. Soon after that, my works were published in many magazines namely, Ellements Magazine, Feroce Magazine, Shuba Magazine, Poza Magazine, The Fox Magazine, Candy Mag India, Mordant Magazine, and Horizont Magazine.

Have you worked with any talented individuals?
Everyone is talented in their own way. From camera conscious people to camera addicts, I have dealt with all kinds of people. I am grateful for having a job that lets me meet amazing people from varied backgrounds. It is always good to learn something new from their stories. I have photographed friends, family, children, business professionals, politicians, musicians, brides, actors, fashion & beauty bloggers, and professional models.

What are the biggest challenges as a photographer?
As a photographer, the biggest challenge to me has been finding and stating my worth. The industry is brimming with photographers of all kinds. There is always someone who charges less and gets the work done. Not everyone understands the gradients of quality. When I started out, I took up all sorts of tasks to figure out what interests me the most. I have had unpleasant experiences and faced financial crunches several times before doing fine. Slowly and steadily, I have been understanding my specialties and my worth.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is you and how well you carry your true self. It has less to do with what we wear and more to do with our expression of our persona. When we understand and appreciate ourselves, only then can we create an appealing image of us for the world.

What is your advice for aspiring photographers?
Never label yourself as a photographer of a certain genre too soon. Do not follow trends blindly. Think of the photograph in your head before you set out to achieve it. Always be original and keep on shooting till photography becomes your language. Never give up on your hobbies that are what sets you apart. Never lose hope and trust your instincts. Always be a student and keep learning.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In my spare time, I like to listen to music, maintain a journal, watch movies, and hunt for inspiration in everything I do. I also like to catch up and check on my friends and take photographs of whatever I feel like.

What projects are you working on now?
I have a few commercial shoots lined up. I have also been working on some of my on-going photo-series, one of which is “Rasa” (in collaboration with Saikat Mondal as art director). Apart from that, I have some collaboration planned with professional models.

Instagram @siddharthshankar09

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