Ones to Watch 2021: Ashish Shah

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Each year, British Journal of Photography presents its   Ones To Watch – a selection of twenty emerging image-makers, chosen from the list of nearly 450 nominations. Collectively, they provide a windowpane into where photography can be heading, at least in the eye of the curators, editors, brokers, festival producers and professional photographers we invited to nominate. Throughout the next few weeks, we are sharing profiles of the 20 photographers, originally published in the latest issue of BJP, delivered direct by having an 1854 Registration .  

The landscapes and culture of their home give form in order to Shah’s images

Ashish Shah’s photographic style is highly rooted in his homeland. Shah grew up in Dehradun, a city in the Himalayan foothills near Rishikesh in north India, renowned for its spirituality and natural beauty. “[Much of my work] comes from the life We lived, ” he says. “As a child, I spent a lot of time in the fields, rivers, mountains and mango trees. Living was centred around the essentials. ”

The sublime mountains that structure over Rishikesh, and the Water Ganges that flows through it, provide a backdrop to Shah’s work. Colour saturated images of sun-dappled slopes and lush vegetation body portraits of women in saris, or men washing within the river banks. However , Shah’s photographs are not just about the advantage of the landscape. Instead, they focus on life relating to the land, situating Shah’s birthplace and current home as being a celebratory site of Native indian culture. His work hones in on traditional outfit, “how Indians stand”, and rituals such as yoga, which are central to Rishikesh.

© Ashish Shah.

In December, Alexander McQueen commissioned Shah to photograph its pre-spring/summer 2021 campaign. The fashion house permitted the photographer the freedom to choose the locations, and Shah selected his hometown to boost awareness of north-east India’s landscapes and population. They also allow him to assemble the cast; just for Shah, casting decisions expand the perimeters of inclusivity and diversity. “I used to sit in cafes for 2 or three days is to do street casting, ” he recalls. “[This time] I focused on street illuminating because I have always sensed in India that the modelling agencies have a certain vision, which wasn’t what I needed. ”

The particular McQueen shoot was not the first time Shah has acted seeing that both casting director and photographer. Much of his function is about “putting the right people in the campaigns”, so together with street castings, he finds individuals via internet searches and reaches out to his network of friends. Shah is acutely aware of the need for representation. “Because of the high illiteracy rates in Indian, many Indians believe that the best brands and models that they see on TV are Indian when they are not, ” he laments.

© Ashish Shah.

Shah’s eye for inclusivity plus authenticity compelled casting director MC Barnes, who nominated the photographer for Ones to view. “Shah’s work illuminates South Asian talent in its natural, raw form, along with gorgeous fashion imagery that is empowering and sensitive, ” Barnes says. “Unfortunately, in the fashion and visual industry, colourism is very much alive plus thriving. Although we’ve pushed to be more inclusive, there is still a lot of work to do in the arena of inclusivity, which isn’t tokenistic or even pandering to whiteness in a form. ”

Shah’s photographic approach is definitely an antidote to this whitewashing recognized by Barnes. “For a long time, what was happening in India was that we would all duplicate how Peter Lindbergh took pictures of. But he was dealing with models who had very different complexions to Indians. However, colour of their hair had been different, ” asserts Shah. Indeed, the photographer’s natural beauty – the lighting, fashion and makeup – are created to celebrate Indian skin color and culture. It is this particular heightened awareness and authenticity that makes his work so urgent and compelling.

Alice Finney

Alice Finney is an arts and tradition Editor and Writer, based in Berlin. A graduate of the Central School of Ballet and Sussex University, the lady specialises in writing about dancing, design and popular lifestyle. She has written for titles including SLEEK Magazine, INDIE Magazine, Mixmag, gal-dem, HuffPost UK, and Dezeen.

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