Serendipity seems to have a quantitative value in the fashion photography world. Packed tightly with coded meanings, a fashion photograph doesn’t leave much space for emotion. In India, we have been importing the code from the west and sticking it diligently on our visuals. The fashion code looks good and makes our magazines look international. And it is rare that its validity is questioned in our locale. Nikhil D. is a stylist for whom fashion means more than copying what has already been encrypted somewhere else.I started my photographic career as a fashion photographer and now share my life between commercial assignments and my own (more conceptual) photography. One tends to feel that experimentation in fashion photography in India has lost its originality. Not to long ago, fashion spreads were still the subject of conversations, and now they seem to have become 16 anonymous pages in fatter and fatter magazines. For me, collaborating with Nikhil D. was a salutary gesture in the monotony of editorial photography.
This is how he describes our shoot, “These faces of a new age and diversified world come from a culturally rich part of India: the North East,” he replies when I ask about the casting for this shoot, “Among them is a professional model/theatre actor, a make up artist, a wedding gown designer and a bartender who all live and work in Mumbai. Angela grew up in Shillong, Meghalaya, and moved to Mumbai to study and Jacky chose to move to the west after spending his younger years in New Delhi studying design. Zing and Sam are best friends from Ukhrul in Manipur and now share an apartment and a long lasting friendship in the city. On Daniel’s arms are a bunch of self-inflicted tattoos, from when he was experimenting with tribal bamboo needles.” When it comes to styling, Nikhil D. says, “All the pieces were bought from street vendors in Bombay and worked on individually. Most of them were cut, spray-painted and washed or dripped with bleach. A hand-me down vintage YSL shirt from a close friend which had a single ink stain on it, was for me an inspiration. The ink stains as seen in the images help me to bring out the irregularities and the aging of the fabric into focus. This is the main idea behind my styling for this project”.
The final collages created by Nikhil D. are proof that in India the fashion code can still be tweaked, and a fashion photo can still pack an aesthetic emotion and a political message.
– Fabien Charuau