Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
It is interesting to see the lines blurring between artistic disciplines. We often find creativity extending its imaginative thought to diverse mediums, be it architecture, design, literature...it all flows alongside one another but ends up in a large sea called Art. We asked four individuals who extended their expertise and branched out to explore Art. Award-winning writer, William Dalrymple explores photography, an accomplished architect, Martand Khosla has extended his architectural practice to a combination of sculpture and reliefs. Writer, photographer and festival director, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi explores photography and art through curation and model Sheetal Mallar decided to get behind the camera instead of front. We asked them what influenced this exploration.
You specialised in photography but the writer in you took the first leap, what made you get behind the lens when you did?
Everything I do is personal. With the photographs, The House Next Door, was a way to spend time with my father, who was coming through a treatment for cancer of the brain. The images raised issues about age-ing, the relevance of healthcare after a certain health condition, the notion of the modern Indian family. I’d been working on images from my time at an ashram where I was a disciple. But after showing them to gallerist Devika Daulet Singh, we realised there was another story running parallel to these images. She helped me see it; it was my father’s life, my relationship with him; that was a greater, more intimate, subject. At the end of the day, what is intimate has always underscored my work. The Last Song of Dusk, my first novel, was a gift for my mother—it begins at home, a place closely known in my consciousness.
What influenced you to get behind the camera?
I love strongly contrasting grainy images. I take a lot of pictures of buildings. It comes from the same place as my writing. My writing has always been about the relationship of travel and history. Going to places, getting inspired by them, reading history—wanting to record it, capture it and immortalise it and make it your own. Photography has always been part of that process. And I am really enjoying having gotten back to it. Facebook and Instagram are a wonderful medium for trying out your work on people.
Art and Architecture what is the correlation you see?
Until now, nearly all my work has been concerned with the larger condition of urbanisation, labour and migration, particularly in India. I have drawn a lot from my experience as an architect to inform these works. The building industry has attracted rural labour to urban centres—usually with a large demand for unskilled labour. Since my first solo exhibition in Delhi, my own search has broadened to inquire about aspects of urbanisation through varied scales of time, individual, and the institutional.
Sheetal Mallar; Photography Denzil Sequiera
You began your career in front of the camera and the modelling took a back seat and you went behind the lens. What prompted this switch?
I started modelling at the age of seventeen. I think I wanted to escape the expected confines and traps of the traditional ways. Modelling at the time felt like a door to freedom, to live my life the way I wanted to. I lived a rebellious and bohemian life as a model. Through my career I had been feeling that I had missed out on building meaningful relationships with people, the city and life outside of the life I had lived. I think in an attempt to reconnect with my friends and my city, I started taking pictures of my friends, close ones and my neighbourhood.
I have always enjoyed the visual story telling medium. I have sketched and painted as well for a long time. Photography just felt like another medium of expression. I enjoy shooting subculture stories...I prefer working with subjects that are real in a natural setting that brings out the essence of everyday life while retaining the soulfulness of the person.