Ashish Chawla has photographed national icons, everyone from Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan to cricketers like Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, but Ashish Chawla is a Delhi boy at heart. This fashion photographer was born in the capital and spent his formative years in the city, completing his Bachelors in Fine Arts from the College of Art. He graduated from College of Art in 1997 and has been in the fashion and commercial photography world for almost 20 years.
Ashish shoots both advertorial and editorial photographs. He was in Maldives recently on an editorial shoot for Travel & Leisure and Weddings and Honeymoons. We thought this was a good time to catch up with him, and hear his views as to how fashion photography diverges from and complements wedding photography, and his discovery of the synergy at SILK PHOTOS.
How are you connected to SILK photos, being a fashion, not a wedding photographer?
SILK Photos has invited me on as a fashion photographer so if there are queries by a certain couple who would like their images to be shot in an editorial way and the way they see it in a fashion magazine, we can bring that sophistication and stage the images for them in the same format as we do for our other editorial and fashion clients.
Do you really think the market is ready for fashion photographers to enter the wedding photography industry in this way?
That’s something I realised when I was offered to be on board for SILK, that the clients I shoot for are these designers, editorials, jewellery, lifestyle brands which eventually have clients centred around weddings.
Fashion Photographers create aspiring images where the model is meant to look like a bride or a princess, the fairy tale depiction and the fantasy that we create is something that is eventually aspired by many as a reference for their own life events.
It’s actually quite a give and take of sorts. I feel, especially with the amount of exposure the society has had towards fashion and films, that it’s just a matter of bridging the madness and chaos of a wedding to the discipline of a fashion shoot and that would change a lot of wedding imagery.
A lot of pre-wedding and engagement shoots carried out by wedding photographers today get very close to the fashion world, at least in the way the couple is posed, if not by the kind of feel the images aspire to have. Yet, when I look at your images of Maldives, and also of Yuvraj Singh, they have a very different feel to them. Something clean and planned maybe. What is it that you do different, other than the fact that these are professional models?
This is a fully prepared photo shoot. We do a recce of the location before the shoot, and I know exactly where I want to shoot which outfit. Working with a stylist also helps as we have a big bag of cloths that we can fit to different locations. Shooting with a medium format camera makes it a very different approach to the work. I mount the camera on a tripod for a much more disciplined composition. This also enables me the freedom to interact with the models, and guide them better.
These are obviously professional models who shoot for fashion brands and designers and have nothing to do personally with each other. They know how to face the camera and are able to generate that chemistry and intimacy for the camera. To end this process, the images are all retouched to remove all the skin blemishes or other obstacles that do not belong in the picture.
Can you tell us about the Maldives shoot? Who was the client?
Maldives shoot was for an editorial for Travel & Leisure and Weddings and Honeymoons magazine. It was wonderful to be in the Maldives, the light was brilliant and so was the sun and sand. The concept was Maldives as a Wedding Destination for Weddings and Honeymoons where the couple was dressed up in a designer trousseau against the illustrious backdrop of this lovely property One & Only Reethi Rah. The Travel & Leisure shoot was more of a pre-wedding shoot where the couple is more casual and enjoying themselves during their travel or post marriage honeymoon.
What would you do differently if this was a real couple shoot for non-models? How would that affect the your work and the results? What tips can you give wedding photographers who wish to come close to this ‘fashion-like’ look?
I would probably still keep the tripod, at least in the beginning. Working with people, a photographer must be aware of the body features of his subjects. Models are picked based on their features, but a real couple will not always have the best features for a photo shoot. I am always aware about the eye level compared to the model. For example, if the couple is not that tall, I would probably go a bit low to make them look bigger. Keeping the camera at eye level will help me retain a more casual feel.
It is also important to always look at the face features. If a person has a big nose, I would not position my camera right above his or her face.
Light is the most important aspect of the shoot. Keep an eye on the direction of the sun. Do you want the subject to be back-lit? Do you want a flare? Use the light to your requirements. Bend it if required, but don’t be a victim of ‘bad light’.