Vikram Bawa – Fashion Photographer
Vikram Bawa is one of the leading fashion and advertising photographers in India. He is amongst the top 200 photographers, in the advertizing photography category, of Luerzer's Archive. He is also placed in the top 5 most important photographers in the Indian industry since last 4 years. He has won a lot of awards. Masters Cup, Prix de la Photographie Paris, The International Color Awards, The Spider Awards, PIEA Award are a few for namesake from his inventory. Interviewer - Sandesh Jadhav
Vikram creatively innovate business ideas. His amazing business practices and ethics landed him in the Most Influential People in the photography industry in the year 2010. He has been outstretching the horizons of photography by his continuous experimentation with new ideas and techniques. He was presented the title ‘Master of Gimmicks’ in late 90s and is in limelight for pushing the acceptability of art and creativity in the country. He was the pioneer of 3D photography and has created the first 3D covers in India in 1998, almost decade before the 3D technology came to the main stream. We, The Foto Circle Society Of India, feel privileged and obliged for this ace’s interview for our magazine.
Vikram Bawa makes a unique style statement with every click. He justifies the fashion designer’s conceptions through his creativity. During the interview he retorted his entire thought process. The first and foremost step is to understand your client, his style, garment, personality etc , said Vikram. Any designer or artist doesn’t design clothes for you. He designs the clothes which he would love to wear or would love to see others wearing the same. Later, he might design for the masses, but he never loses his signature touch. You have to understand him and his creative thoughts. Only then you can come up with concept or a theme for the shoot.
Many upcoming photographers do not easily understand the difference between Portfolio & fashion. When asked to differentiate it for us, Vikram explained: There is a thin line connecting the portfolio shoots & fashion photography, but they are not similar in any other aspect. We shoot a portfolio for a model and not for a fashion designer or his collection. Here the subject is the model and he/she is most important. On the other hand, in fashion photography, the garments, accessories & style is important. Fashion is a life style. So the sense of fashion reflects in the folio. If you are a fashion photographer, you can easily shoot portfolios but fashion photography is a tough job for folio photographers.
About asking him the difference between the indoor and out-door shoots he explained: Beautiful nature is like a well designed set for me .Nature is a huge canvas in itself. Now it’s your job to fit your subject or model into it. For me the complete picture is more important than merely focusing a person or a model. I believe that collated compositions are more important. Even, the model’s standing in a corner makes a good composition if the background is out of focus. People will remember model any which way if she is beautiful and appealing, but if you want them to remember your photo then you have to put in your efforts! I like it when they say, “that particular model looks stunning in Vikram Bawa’s photo.” They will say this only if your picture is beautiful & not just the model.
When I asked about the lighting patterns he prefers, Vikram elucidated: I use a combination of natural light & artificial light sources. I prefer darker backgrounds. So I pick one up or I create one using artificial lights. You might have noticed in my pictures that I like to highlight the garments, style & model. So I can’t have background more powerful than my model. But this is not a hard & fast rule since the complete frame is more important than an individual. People will definitely appreciate a good image. If you have a great picture in your mind and heart, then definitely your image will turn out to be a striking one.
While answering the question about deciding or designing of the themes before shoots, Vikram told us: I think about it on-the-spot! See this picture (below). It was my first visit to the venue. When the model was dressed and made up, on the fly I decided where she should stand, where to use the smoke and to use the unidirectional lights in the background. Then, All I had to do was to click.
Upon asking the secret recipe of these amazing clicks, he laughed whole heartedly and said, “The god is kind!” “It’s in my genes. My dad was an excellent photographer & had logical thinking. Again, I got very niche planning skills from him. I am an inquisitive person. I started experimenting with lights as per my sensibility. I began shooting with different lights, thus you can see diverse experimentation in my shoots.” said Vikram.
When asked about 3D photography, this pioneer answered: I am a voracious reader. All my knowledge about photography has come from the international photography magazines & books of foreign authors. I read an article about 3D photography. Actually 3D photography came into existence earlier than the normal photography. Lots of portraits, painting & 3d sketches were made since ancient times. If you could remember, there was a time of 3D seasonal greeting cards in the 80s. They used the technique to emboss one image upon the other to create 3D effect. Then there were Stereoscopic cameras which had a special type of glass to create 3D effect. When I read that NASA has made a $33 million camera for its Mars mission, I was fascinated. I just went crazy by reading that. Being a science graduate, I began reading the technology behind it. My first subject of experimentation was none other than my dad! When the film was processed it gave a perfect 3D picture. But when I tried the same again, it didn’t work. Clearly, my 1st success was sheer fluke. Then I spent almost a year experimenting over & over again. I began capturing motion of cars, cycles; in fact any & all the moving objects. It was not so easy. I spent a lot of money & Polaroid films on these experiments. Finally, I made my own gadget which worked! Hard work & patience paid off. Vikram often uses a term “creating an image” in his articles and blogs. Explaining the “creating an image”, he exclaimed, Anyone can click a photo, but creating an image is an entirely different affair! Why to underestimate your own work? If you just click a picture no one takes you seriously, but when you create an image it’s with your hearty thinking and creativity. You are creating it. Anybody can click with an SLR or even with the cell phone camera; copy it in a memory stick & give it to you. But that is merely shooting pictures. That’s not photography. I am a photographer who knows the hard work & the suffering one takes. Photography is about incubating an idea & creating a marvel of it. I have recently worked on an assignment, for almost nine months; right from designing the themes, ideas, finalizing the concepts, shooting and post production.
One more message I want to give to all the photographers, you must respect yourself & your work. One can’t expect others to respect his work if he fails to do it himself. You might say that a painter or a sculptor is a real artist. Just the medium or canvas changes in photography. A painter paints on a canvas; I create my art on a film. Am I not an artist now? What I do is an art form. Those are the traditional forms of art, but photography is the future. Abroad, they value photography as an art. A photograph was sold for 33.3 billion dollars, and this record has been beaten thrice already! An image of a super market is sold for such a huge price. How can you say it’s not art? About the modern digital technology Vs traditional films roles, Vikram thinks: I still have about 50-60 film roles waiting for just the right chance to be used. I still prefer films. In those days, post production was minimal. We used to easily select the right snap by using a slide projector. Modern technology is excruciatingly demanding in a sense that we had to select the best one from thousands of options. Now the post production is a relentless task & people expect us to do it free of cost. There is a foreign image re-touch house, operating in India. They charge a minimum of Rs 100,000 to edit a single image. Both, they & their clients know its value.
When asked about his explicit technical specifications and camera of choice, he answered: Previously I owned a Linhof. I sold it, but I regret that now. It was simply marvelous. As a photographer you have to be pragmatic. To gather all those hi-tech equipments, you must belong to a rich family. By GOD’S grace, I am a self made man. I bought a camera from street markets of Fort in the beginning of my career. I know the value of equipment. I purchase the equipments which financially make sense with quality. Quality also depends on your shooting skills in proper lighting & the way to process it. You have to understand basic technical & practical things. For example, if you are clicking with combination of high ISO with file size of 12” X 18” & if you want normal portfolio output of 8” X 12” then my ISO sensitivity becomes half in the final result. In the end you are the photographer & the camera is just a tool. If you know the shortcomings of your tool, you should also know the means to overcome them. Basically you must be efficient in using your equipment. See the picture below, it was shot with a 10 Mp camera which had just half the sensor size.
Moreover, this image is not Photoshoped. I made my own filters by grazing them to get this effect. I did some preparations for this shoot like, choosing the fabrics, observing their luminosity & transparency, selecting the color scheme etc. I could foresee how this deep blue-magenta color would look on the models. I created a royal ambiance with the curtains, circular bed and accessories. We have to make the models feel that we are doing something special. We should take care of the feelings & emotions of our models. Ultimately, they make your image look classy & royal. Quality of our work greatly depends on emotions. That’s the reason I created this rich ambience. Models are the stars of your picture. They will either make it or break it.
Now was the time to ask about the aspiration behind Pirelli Calendar shoot. He told us: Pirelli calendar is the calendar to aspire to create. They promote the art of photography & not any models or girls. For them, the creation of a photo using new techniques or styles holds utmost importance. It’s very different & that is why it gets more and more exciting. You get a chance to create something new, every year. That’s the reason I would love to shoot for Pirelli. On his preference of genres other than fashion photography, he shared: I like to shoot nature, landscapes and I do abstract photography as well. There is an upcoming line of T-shirts with my pictures. One clothing brand has picked up my abstract pictures Upon asking about the shootings with celebrities and great people, he said: Clicking super-stars is super-easy. After all they are human beings. For me, they are the people before they are the personalities. Yet, they are the stars! You just have to make them feel comfortable & feel comfortable with them.
In this photo, which is a single shot; we had decided the sitting positions in the order of their importance. I did practice sessions for this composition with only two of my assistants. I made both of them sit at different positions and experimented placements. Once I had the final composition I got all the stars to sit at their respective positions & then, a single shot was all I needed for this picture. In his message for the upcoming and amateur photographers, he says: Firstly, you need to understand fashion. If you don’t, you can’t shoot it. Remember, clicking the models in fashionable clothes is not fashion photography. You should start appreciating all types & genres of fashion. You should continually explore upcoming trends, begin to like all the great things about fashion, clothes & observe people who wear it. Once you have developed a sense of fashion then you can start your photography. Now, that is fashion photography! All the best for all new comers who want to pursue their career in photography. Keep clicking. Keep shooting.