This week the south Indian city of Kochi in Kerala became the setting of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016. The massive art exhibition now in its fifth year was inaugurated on December 12th and will run until March 2017. This celebration of international contemporary art, the only one of its kind in India, has become synonymous with the city, but, what is lesser known is that another professional art form thrives in Kochi: wedding photography.
Over the years the city has emerged as a hub for wedding photographers and the centre of a bustling wedding photography industry that is spread across the state of Kerala. Though the city of about 2 million is not counted among the large metropolises in India, it is at the forefront of the adoption of new photography technology and products.
The port city, also known as Cochin, hosts the headquarters of the All Kerala Photographers Association (AKPA), a forum for professional photographers that boasts of more than 15,000 members. In Kochi itself, wedding photographers number in the thousands. Photography clearly is serious business in this coastal state.
South Indian weddings are often caricatured for their fixation on gold, especially its conspicuous display during weddings, but, it seems there is one more thing Keralites care about almost as much: capturing treasured memories of the special day. The average Keralite is ready to spend more money on photography and videography at their weddings than anywhere else in India, according to photographers who work here.
And the competition among wedding photography companies not only means competition for clients but also a race to stay ahead of the game in terms of cameras and equipment. Customers are up-to-date with technologies and expect the photographers they hire to also have the most advanced gadgets and technical know-how. Photographers here rush to buy the latest models in the market and the big camera manufacturers know they have an assured market.
The vibrancy of the market is responsible for the city and state being a focus for the biggest camera companies like Canon, Nikon and Sony. The wedding industry is itself a multimillion dollar industry in India and has been growing steadily. The wedding photography industry estimated to be worth Rs 1,800 crore, has a demand for close to 8 million wedding photo albums every year.
“Traditional photo albums are still surviving in the tide of digital photography and publishing in India, thanks to the wedding photography craze of Indians, especially Malayalis,” Alok Bharadwaj, Executive Vice-President of Canon India Pvt Ltd, said in an interview to Times of India in 2014, said of the Malayali community, which is the predominant group in Kerala. Of the approximately 200 digital photo album printers in the country, almost 20 percent are located in Kerala, and in no small part to cater to the wedding photography business.
The industry is thriving not just from a business standpoint; the photography community in Kochi is very vibrant and involved. Many youngsters take to wedding photography after school itself because it is a way to make some easy money. There is no shortage of talent and there are also many opportunities to learn and grow here. Kochi has several major training institutes. The AKPA is not just a laidback hobbyists club, it is an elaborate establishment complete with bylaws and a welfare board. It promotes photography vigorously through conferences, seminars and workshops.
So if you are trying to crash the wedding photography party you might want to head for Kochi!