Renowned fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar talks to Anindya Tripathi about his passion for the art, the future of Indian fashion scenario and what it takes to be a Kingfisher model.

 

The photography scenario is a constantly evolving one but the core values remain the same, believes Atul Kasbekar. This ace fashion photographer talks to Guardian 20 about his 18-year-long journey with the Kingfisher
Calendar, reminiscing about his favourite locations,
models, etc.

Q. You have been with the calendar since its inception, what do you have to say about your journey?
A. The idea of Kingfisher Calendar shaped up due to the trust of United Breweries Group. Eighteen years is an eternity in the context of a brand-photographer relationship, and is possibly unheard of. What started as an idea in my head has been contextualised so wonderfully by the efforts of everyone who has been a part of it. My challenge is to try and do better each year and mercifully people never seem to be tired. It is a pleasure to capture these strong, athletic and beautiful women in exotic locations. What is most gratifying for me is that a number of models we have shot with have gone on to make brilliant careers in the film industry Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Nargis Fakhri, Esha Gupta, to name a few.

Q. What is your favourite destination for shoots? How was the experience in Cape Town?
A. The Western Cape is truly one of the most outstanding shoot locations in the world. Cape Town and the entire area around it, is surreal. The authorities have made the process of shooting extremely friendly, which leads to a lot of work happening in the region. This area of South Africa is genuinely stunning and gives you a vast range of background within a few hours drive using Cape Town as the base.

Ace photographer Atul Kasbekar.

Q. Your favourite muse, and the most photogenic face that you have captured till date?
A. Everybody asks me this question and it is honestly tough to answer. Without being politically correct, I can assure you that every year there’s a bunch of people that find one of the four girls we have captured as their personal favourites. You know that line about beauty and the eye of the beholder.

Q. Who is your dream muse?
A. I am hoping to do a calendar using super-fit moms someday, in which case I can assure you that Malaika Arora will be on the cover.

Q. What steered your interest in photography?
A. I was a chemical engineering student initially, and after getting admission in one of the most prestigious colleges for the same I pretty much hated what I was doing. Then a wise man told me to do what I enjoyed the most and I followed that advice. I used to constantly shoot images with my silly little box camera and it was a fascinating process, so I decided to follow it through.

Q. What do you think about the current scenario in Indian fashion and its outreach?
A. This is an exciting time for Indian fashion. I think if our designers start thinking towards creating a collection that has Indian ethos and yet, can be worn on the “high streets” of the world’s fashion capitals, we can truly get global. Right now most money for the designers is from the trousseau and wedding ensembles, which makes perfect economic sense for them to pursue aggressively. But I think, we should work more in the India inspired, wearable anywhere kind of lines.

Q. How are the models chosen and what quality do they need the most?
A. Contrary to popular belief what you need for a swimsuit body is a great amount of fitness. So first and foremost they need to be very toned and athletic and definitely not skinny in any way. If you have long legs then that makes my life particularly easy. Having said that I am always looking for “X” factor and that is a quality that you just get a gut feeling about.

Q. What is your advice to young people looking for a career in fashion photography?
A. My advice is to have as much knowledge as you can about fashion, art, graphic design as possible. Because the competition in this space is extremely insane and your aesthetic ability will guide you more than your technical knowledge.

Q. The most overrated destination?
A. I was looking forward to shooting in the Philipines and after I did, I swore that I would never go back there again. It is an absolute nightmare in terms of travelling from India and the destinations are ordinary.

Q. A place that you haven’t been to, but really want to capture?
A. I feel a certain calling to go to Iceland. It would be very interesting to go there and shoot in the middle of what almost seems like a martian landscape.

Q. What is your take on “Instagram photographers”?
A. The market in photography is an ever evolving one, and Instagram is an extremely appealing and popular platform for consuming visual information. I have always been of the opinion that the more opportunities we have the better it is. Right now, for example, there are a lot of young photographers who are getting noticed for shooting on Insta for stars and brands.

Q. As an artist, how important is artistic freedom in the current political scenario?
A. In my view there really should be no Censorship. At a very simple base level, the CBFC stands for Central Board of Film Certification. Hence, the “Censor Board” for example is actually just meant to look at your film and certify a rating for the same.

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