Prarthna Singh photographs people with a unique sense of visual style. The people in her pictures seem to jump out at you and tell a story. Those stories seem to be playful, fluffy, fierce, funny, romantic, melancholy - in other words they are a lot like a Bollywood film. (I'm only partly joking.)
Prarthna works out of Mumbai and does 'random creatively challenging work' - freelance, editorial work and catalogs, designer looks, books and album covers. (I discovered Prarthna's work entirely by accident when I recognized a photograph of someone I knew while browsing Flickr)
I thought it would be cool to invite Prarthna to the Drift and have her tell us a little about her art and craft and do a show and tell of some of her best work.
Here is her story.
How it all began
I started taking pictures about six years ago, while I was studying at a liberal arts college in Florida. Two years into my course I realized I wanted to go to art school. I applied to The Rhode Island School of Design, got in and spent the next three years learning everything about film developing, scanners, lighting, camera formats and the general happiness of being surrounded by artists.
The making of a career
I then graduated out of that blissful bubble to the real world, which for me meant the move to New York. Here I got really lucky and was able to assist one of the finest and most sophisticated fashion photographers: Nathaniel Goldberg.
My days in NY were a struggle. I did all sorts of random jobs before I finally made the decision to move back to Delhi two years ago. I was willing to assist again but I only wanted to work with someone whose work I really admired. I was lucky to have Bharat Sikka let me assist him and help him put together his first major show in India. All of this time was the best learning experience for me.
For the past year I have been working as a freelance photographer in Bombay. I've done editorial work with Elle, Vogue, Grazia and Marie Claire. I've done Look Books, Catalogs, Album Art and anything that is creatively stimulating.
Where the inspiration comes from
There are a few photographers that I highly admire: Alec Soth, Bharat Sikka, Stephen Shore, August Sandler, Richard Misrach, Katy Grannan, Tim Walker, Pushpamala, Ryan McGinley.
I am a devoted sartorialist.
I'm also a huge magazine and photo blog junkie. I can spend days in the magazine section of a bookstore: AnOther, I.D.,Wallpaper, W, Fashion Magazine, V, European Vogues, Tank, Ten, Dazed and Confused, Foam...the list goes on.
What's the money like
Money is definitely not my top priority. It's important but I don't make it the deciding factor in the jobs I choose to do. In fact some of my best work has been with friends, collaborating on projects after waking up, throwing some clothes in a bag and deciding to do some photos - running in the fields, jumping, hanging.
I think what I enjoy most is the spontaneity of the medium. That 'let's do a picture' moment is what makes it all worthwhile.
Where is the money at
Editorial work does not pay as highly as Advertising does. Advertising and Bollywood are definitely where the money is at. Being new in the industry is tough, these are not the most easy fields to crack, especially since people in India are not ready to take too many risks. But hopefully things are changing for the better.
This is a Bollywood blog that hearts Abhay Deol and I've lensed Abhay
Abhay's shoot was quite spur of the moment. He's a friend so the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. I think it was a Sunday afternoon spent drinking beer, shooting, exchanging music and generally discussing the world around us.
For one he has a serious collection of awesome indie music so that's how I got paid for the pictures! But ya, he's really fun to be around, full of stories and again I admire him as an actor and the choices he's made with the films he's chosen to do so.
That's always a plus - working with people whose work you love, which in turn inspires you.
The people I'd like to lens...but haven't gotten to yet
One person I'd love to shoot with is Leonard Cohen and have him sing for me in return, all through the shoot or Jim Morrison or the Beatles when they were together... Adrian Brody, Johhny Depp. And being on a Wes Anderson set would be nice too.
The instruments of my passion
I just recently got the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II (super delicious camera). For lighting I use my Quantum flash, Metz flash or Broncolor lights. While shooting film I use a 4x5 film camera and Canon Powershot for my everyday documentation.
I'm a Canon promoter all the way. Their cameras definitely have an edge over the others and they make beautiful lenses. Also I love my Polaroid but sadly they stopped making film, so I'm saving every last one!
Show and Tell
1. This picture is of a budding actor and friend: Arjun Mathur - a wonderful young talent to watch out for. He did a brilliant film called Barah Anna and was also in Luck by Chance. He needed some photographs for a particular role he was auditioning for, hence the scar. (Make up: Natasha Nishcol @ fat mu)
2.I recently shot Gaurav Kapoor the funny funky VJ and actor. Whenever I shoot TV personalities or celebrities I'm cautious not go over the top when it comes to hair, make up, styling and lighting. I'm a minimalist at heart. Less is definitely more.
3.The picture of the red car and the girl in the green jacket have been shot in my neighbourhood, in Bombay. They are a part of an on going series of images that involve me investigating and documenting the environment I live in as a way of understanding myself better.
4.The girl in the picture is my one of closest and oldest friends who has to bear with my bizarre artistic moments. On one of our photo adventures we once visited Santa Cruz Police Station at 7 am. Yes, long story.
5.This image above is of a friend who is also one of India's leading models. We do a lot of random non-commercial work together for the love of art. She is playful, has wonderful energy and photographs like a dream.
6.An old friend had returned after months of traveling, with many stories to tell. We spent a day catching up and doing what we do best. This was a sun drenched memory from that afternoon.
7.This, of course, is Abhay Deol. (Hair by Susheel @ Mad O Wat)
8.This last image is also a friend and aspiring actor. We were shooting in and around Bandra when we stumbled upon this beautiful, bloody slaughter house. (Styled by Saurabh Diwedi)
Prarthna's work on Flickr
Prarthna on Twitter
Please don't use Prarthna's work without her prior permission. My stuff you can copy - you know the deal.