Summer is here in full galore and navigating through its many moods can be a task in itself, especially for people who spend the better part of their day outdoors. Dressing up for such uncertain weather yet managing to stay unencumbered can be tricky.
This predicament is not new to ace photographer Nayantara Parikh who is familiar with both the glamour and the grime of the Indian photography circuit. Over cups of cold-brew coffee at the Doodlage studio, she spoke to us about making a shift from cinematography to still photography and the contrasting experiences of working in two vastly different geographies.
After graduating from NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, Nayantara began her career in feature film making in New York. In her 8 years (4 of them post college), she worked on over 10 feature films (with Spike Lee, Zac Efron, Heather Graham, Aubrey Plaza to name a few), music videos (Mumford and Sons), commercials (Nike, Ebay) and documentaries (Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust, which was nominated for a student Academy Award). She returned to India in 2014, making the shift to still photography. Her work has been published in Raghu Rai’s Creative Image Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, Elle and Verve. Her client list includes Ogaan, Nicobar, and H&M (for their Conscious Exclusive Collection).
What is your first memory with a camera?
My dad was always photographing family holidays when we were kids and my uncle was a brilliant photographer. These are my first memories with a camera –the feeling of endless summer. My uncle shooting us on the banks of the Rhine river. The first still camera I used seriously was a fully manual 35mm film camera – a Nikon FM10 in my first year of college. By my second year I knew my interest lay not in directing but specifically in shooting.
Which photographer inspires you?
Several photographers I studied in college come to mind- Duane Michals. Bruce Davidson, Gregory Crewdson and Gregory Colbert – with whom I had the pleasure of working with in New York.
Facebook or Instagram, which do you prefer?
I use Instagram very regularly. Facebook, not so much.
Describe your personal style?
I like my clothes to have clean lines. High waists, casual fits and block colors. Comfort is key – regardless of whether I’m shooting or not. I’m a sneaker junkie and my boyfriend and I have a cupboard full of shoes. My style is understated at all times. I love muted tones, shades of blue and gray paired with one thing that will pop whether it’s a custom bag or glitter eye-shadow.
Why did you come back to India?
I had some issues with my health and needed to move home for physical and financial support. I was in recovery for 9 months. It was not part of the plan, but life rarely goes according to plan. I’ve been back 3 years now and though Delhi can be a frustrating place at times, I’m overall happy with the way things worked out.
What was your favourite thing about New York?
I love fall in New York, the food, and I miss my old neighbourhood. It was a quiet place in Brooklyn with a view of the bridge. I loved trying new places to eat.
And what do you like about Delhi?
I love being so close to my mum. After being away for 8 years it is nice to have her as part of my day to day life again. Of course there are the things anyone would miss living away for so long – gol gappas, Sagar and mango icecream.
How do you deal with the awkwardness of being the youngest person in work-related spaces be them shoot locations or meetings?
There is a misconception with a lot of people I work with that I’m extremely young because I look young. After a job or at the end of the shoot day everyone usually discovers I’m the same age or older. I am always amused by this but it can be a handicap, as people can’t gauge how much experience you have if they think you are 10 years younger than you are!
Do you share the space of sustainable living in any manner or try to take little steps towards consuming mindfully?
Sustainable living values are something I was raised with. I remember my mum cooking with a solar cooker on the balcony when we were kids. I don’t buy new clothes often. When I do I’m trying to buy statement pieces from local brands who source fabrics responsibly and treat their teams with respect. A lot of the brands I work with share this sensibility. We have always donated old clothes and books when they were done circulating between my mum, my sisters and I. I try not to buy bottled water, and carry a bottle with me from home. I don’t eat red meat (I’m still working on giving up prawns). I try to be mindful of these things, as well as how I spend my time.
How did you customize your own Doodlage outfit?
I loved the blue of the dress Kriti had picked out for me. I love flowers and even have peonies tattooed on my arm. I suggested we add a small flower detail to the dress. Little did I know, Doodlage already had a few samples in exactly the style I had in mind. They added on the flowers with a spray of sequins. The style of embroidery had an element of nostalgia which made it very personal.