For me, photography is all about being passionate about the art form and stubborn about getting the results you imagined. So despite the unprecedented once-in-a-century circumstance of the pandemic and the physical distancing, I did not let photography take a back seat. On days of strict lockdown, I spent hours studying theories, reading books on various techniques and sweeping through hundreds of pictures taken by the great masters of the trade. And when the lockdown relaxed, I regularly went out with my new Nikkor 50mm 1.8 prime lens and put all the theories I learnt to practice.
Portrait photography was a genre that preoccupied my conscience the most, and I focussed a lot of time and energy on upskilling myself in this. For that, I arranged and went out for many portrait shoots over the spring and summer of 2020. These shoots, along with my theoretical brainstorming, helped me shift gears in my photography techniques and offered me a life-altering experience. I followed my usual natural style of accentuating my subject through light and shadow play and tried to freeze the moment. Not only did I try to freeze the moment, but I tried to elongate that moment in my pictures. Natural lighting made it more tricky and even unpredictable at times, but the challenge was well accepted.
Overall, these portraits provided me with an artistic and philosophical release from the caging boundations of a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. It helped me pen down a poem of sorts through shutter clicks (or at least I think so). I am not sure whether these portraits collectively give a poetic or any philosophical direction to my art in any way, but it definitely made me think deeper about the practice of my art and the path that I want to follow in the years ahead keeping portraits as one of the key genres of learning and exploration.
The shoot with TM was long and exhaustive that summer afternoon. After an hour of shooting, as we decided to take some snaps in one-piece lingerie. We tried different shots against the wall, and none seemed to do justice to the lingerie.
We moved on to back shots and ended up with some really artistic ones. The heels gave the lingerie a formal appeal. The moment I asked to keep her hands on the wall and slightly lift one of the heels, the picture took a new dimension. Though the light was quite splattered, I could manage a reasonably good shot, contrasting the skin tone and the lingerie.
When my model, TM, insisted on using the plant as a prop, I was sceptical about how we could use it in our composition. I was in two minds about including the pot at the base of the plant. So, I asked TM for ideas, and she took the lead in the experimentation. We took a dozen shots and sat down to finalise on a couple of them.
We ended up selecting this picture as I felt that drooping of the leaves from the left contemplated her pose and gave depth to her expression. The way she played around with her skirt, harmonised with her pose in general. It pushed the boundaries of her sensuality, igniting a flame of curiosity in the viewer’s mind.
The unpredictable weather throughout the day had rolled into an evening of suddenly gathering rain clouds and fairly strong gusts. Despite the unfavourable conditions and the cloud of the possibility of further deterioration looming large over my head, quite figuratively, I set out with my camera to meet Eva for the photo shoot. By, the time I met her at a bus stop in one of Vienna’s suburban districts on the edges of the Vienna Woods, the rain had ceased and the Sun was hazily shining in the sky.
We started trekking up the hill along muddy tracks and tall grass and soon realised that the short spell of showers had caused the heat of the ground to evaporate and make the surroundings extremely humid. We were both sweating and in discomfort. However, we braved the conditions and started to shoot some basic portrait and upper body shots. Since, the hazy sunlight was a bit tricky to deal with on my new 50mm prime lens, we moved to a different location further uphill where I found the perfect light and shade conditions behind a wooden godown with felled tree trunks around it, for numerous creative portrait, upper body and full length shots.
The summer dresses with beautiful elaborate flower and foliage patterns that my model, Eva, wore synced very well with the different shades of green of the woods. This combined with a predominantly overcast sky provided me with the apt natural contrast settings for me to be flexible with my creativity during the whole course of the shoot in multiple locations in the woods and in the adjoining meadows. Like all my other photo shoots, I tried to focus on communicating with the multitude of expressions of my model and paint the rest of the picture around it. After a couple of hours of such communication and painting, the air started getting nippy and the street lights started glowing in full brightness. And with that, as we trekked down, we left behind an evening of fun filled and adventurous portrait shooting in the hills of the Vienna Woods.