British fashion photographer Ram Shergill returns to his Indian roots to weave stunning visual narratives.
In the exhibition “Ram Shergill – Kaleidoscope”, the acclaimed British fashion photographer blurs the lines between commercial photography and contemporary art.
Vacheron Constantin and Mumbai’s Tasveer gallery present “Ram Shergill – Kaleidoscope” from 12 to 25 August 2014 at StoryLTD / Saffronart Prabhadevi. The exhibition will go on to tour Tasveer galleries in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad in 2014 and 2015.
While studying visual communications at Wolverhampton University, Ram Shergill reached out to milliner Philip Treacy for a photography project on hats. The meeting turned out to be an entry ticket into the fashion world: Treacy and the late Isabella Blow quickly recognised Shergill’s talents and propelled him in all the right directions.
Soon after, Shergill was working with notable fashion designers who loved his work, including Alexander McQueen. He has since worked on high profile editorial and advertising commissions for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Tatler, i-D, POP, Dazed & Confused and W magazine, among others. The internationally acclaimed photographer has photographed eminent subjects, including Amy Winehouse, Diane Kruger, Naomi Campbell, Dame Judi Dench and Amitabh Bachchan.
A painterly touch
As the exhibition’s press release states (PDF download), Shergill
[amalgamates] technical skill with imaginative compositions and a painterly eye.
His photographs are extravagant tableaux, never excessive, always gracefully and meticulously composed. Using an aesthetics of vivid colour and hyperbolic geometrics, Shergill combines seemingly unrelated elements into fanciful juxtapositions.
Citing the work of Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn as his core inspirations, Shergill says his work is strongly influenced by art history.
Photography as performance
Shergill once said in an interview:
[…] my photography is a kind of performance […] in our performance we always want to show our best side, and I strive to attain this in my portraits of people, or in my fashion work […] to show [my subjects’] best side.
According to the exhibition press release, Shergill often gives his subjects a part to play, because this “allows them to access and expose overlooked, unexplored aspects of their character, and psyche.” In 2008, Shergill founded Drama Magazine, a publication dedicated to fashion and performance.
An Indian homecoming
In “Kaleidoscope”, the focus shifts away from mainstream fashion towards the documentation of Bollywood and Indian fashion. According to the Tasveer, Shergill worked with designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla and
revitalised and animated their opulent, heavily embroidered collections, focusing on the extravagant texture of the garments and capturing them in unusual, discordant environments.
Whether monochrome or in colour, Shergill’s photographs capture the richness of Indian culture in full texture. According to The Economic Times, Shergill named the exhibition “Kaleidoscope” as “a tribute to the drama and colourfulness associated with all things Indian.”
Instead of photographing merely items of fashion, Shergill successfully documents, brings to life and reinvents Bollywood and Indian culture. His pictures evoke a strong and unique visual language that prompts a restatement of fashion photography. As Monocle.com puts it, Shergill is
blurring the lines between commercial photography and fine art.
The photographer’s first international exhibition is also a fitting homecoming. He says to The Economic Times:
I honestly feel like I’m reconnecting with my roots with this showing and it’s a great feeling to have.
- 10 female artists in Nepal to know now – August 2014 – Art Radar lists 10 women artists leading the Nepal’s flourishing contemporary art scene
- From cosplay to steampunk: Artist Chitra Ganesh on her multi-discursive practice – interview – July 2014 – Chitra Ganesh talks to Art Radar about her new show at the Lakeeren Gallery, Mumbai
- Nalini Malani visualises the influence of globalisation on India – Asia Society video interview – June 2014 – Nalini Malani talks about globalisation and the changing Indian culture in a video interview with Asia Society in New York
- Artist Prem Sahib exhibits for the first time in Mumbai – in pictures – April 2014 – British-Indian artist exhibits for the first time in India with a collection of minimalist work exploring intimacy, sexuality, relationships, desire and community
- Has fashion photography crossed into fine art in Asia? – January 2013 – from artist-fashion house collaborations to fashion as a medium for contemporary artworks, are artists in Asia blurring the line between fine and applied art?
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on contemporary photography