None would argue if I said, that Tarun Khiwal is one of his kind and is probably one of the legendary icons when it comes to photography in India and at international level. A soft spoken, reserve and beholder of intellectual looks (thanks to the engineering days I assume), Tarun started his journey with lenses in 1989, when very few in India knew what the word fashion actually meant.
Over two decades in the industry and the name just keeps growing. We caught-up recently with the man himself and talked at length about his work..err..passion with colors, lenses and clicks…
Here are the excerpts…
SR- Take us through your transition from being an engineer to a photographer!
TK- A few months into my job as a design engineer at West India Power Equipment, I realized that I needed to pursue something that I love and that’s when I decided to take up photography full time and have not looked back since.
During my initial days, which were way back in 1989, there was no Internet, finding information was difficult; there were no photography magazines. The only way one could learn was hands on. I would shoot, process the film, make prints and then make notes before I went back to shooting again.
SR- You never went for any formal training in photography. How difficult or easy was it to start it off?
TK- When I started off, even getting an assistantship opportunity was very difficult. Finding the photographer’s contact details in yellow pages, getting in touch with them (which was through written mails or the telephone landline), to finally convincing them to take you as an assistant was a long as well as consuming process. When I moved to Delhi in 1989 into a small apartment that my parents owned, someone gave me the phone number of legendary photographer Harvdev Singh. I pursued him for months before he took me on as an apprentice. That was the beginning of my journey in the world of photography.
SR- You have been an inspiration to a lot of budding photographer, how do you go about finalizing your shoot from theme selection to post production?
TK- I am of the opinion that teaching is learning twice. My studio has served as a place where one can learn the nuances of photography hands on. It’s my personal belief that it offers a learning opportunity that is superior to what is offered at many schools. Today, many of my assistants have gone on to become successful photographers themselves. With the exposure one gains here, one is capable of stepping in the professional world independently.
Coming to the second part regarding the shoot, theme selection and post production, well I generally go with the flow and there isn’t much preparation besides a few basic things like selection of models, location and may be the time of the day when I want to shoot. I always like to bring in an element of surprise on the day of the shoot. Each day is fresh and new and I like to keep experimenting.
SR- What are the fundamental changes that you think have happened in fashion photography in India, say in last five years?
TK- Photographic practices have gone through great changes over the course of the last five years. The shift in the commercial industry from film to digital has been the greatest. The technological changes have only changed the means through which one’s vision is realized. Being a quick learner, I adopted the digital technology without much effort. However, if one were a slave of technology the changes would have had a great impact. It has allowed people to put their creative vision on paper. The technology has made shooting quicker; also advertising work has become safer as the clients get to see the results instantly. However the time invested in post-production has gone up considerably.
SR- Are you more of an outdoor photographer or you like it indoors more?
TK- I am comfortable shooting in both environments and both come with its sets of challenges. Though the studio is a controlled environment, it can be restrictive at times and requires one to work harder to create a story that is new and interesting. Some of my most appreciated work has been the ones that were shot in studio with the most basic and simple approach. Given that in a studio, everything is created from scratch, it is more challenging then shooting on location where the location as it is, compliments the feature. A white wall in a studio or a fantastic location…would depend entirely on the subject as they can both compliment the story.
SR- Your client list keep increasing everyday with leading fashion houses to top celebrities. They all seem to be in love with you?
TK- I began my career as a portrait photographer, with time my work evolved, and today my time is spent making fashion imagery and films of different genres. It is very encouraging to see my work being appreciated. The experience of working and sharing ideas with like-minded stalwarts of the industry is exhilarating. I thoroughly enjoy my work; from shooting to sharing experiences with people from different walks of life.
SR- How important are colors to portray the real sense of an image?
TK- Colors do play an important part in portraying the real sense of an image but something that I personally feel which is more important than color is the energy around people when I am shooting. Color is something, which has never restricted me from creating a photograph; lack of energy is more restrictive.
SR- If you had to pick one fashion brand (or designer) and one celebrity that you think best suit your style of clicks, who would that be and why?
TK- It would be difficult to point out an individual fashion brand or celebrity who suits my style. In this ever-evolving world nothing remains stagnant. Everyday is a fresh learning curve for me and I carry forward my experiences each day, good or bad. My style too, hence, is always evolving and to categorize any individual in it would be difficult