For Anirudh Agarwal, photography is an exploration of human nature, personality and self-expression. His road to being a commercial photographer was primarily due to his foresight to develop personal projects that allowed both him and the world to establish his style and vision.
For Calcutta-born Anirudh Agarwal, photography had always been his calling. Observing his father make images during his childhood and then inheriting a film SLR at sixteen, motivated young Anriudh to create his own work. When you go through his body of work, commissioned and personal, you are drawn in by a unique sense of movement in his compositions. Combined with abstract posing, wardrobe, props, and production, Anirudh showcases a need to constantly push the boundaries of concept and art. In some cases, he seems particularly interested in the time between posed moments to capture an honest portrayal in the frame.
Drawing influence from photographers like William Eggleston, Nadav Kander, Cindy Sherman and Solve Sundsbo, and having worked with Farrokh Chothia, Swapan Parekh and Amit Ashar during his early years in Mumbai, Anirudh realised the importance of developing personal projects before diving headfirst into commercial work. After completing his studies at the Light & Life Academy in Ooty, he developed a series titled “Nysha and her Sunbeam Talbot” from 2011 to 2013.
The photographs follow a little girl and her kid-scale vintage toy car exploring various urban environments in Calcutta. The pictures are both an earnest depiction of a child understanding her world and an artistic juxtaposition in terms of scale, repetition, and “regular adult routines”, albeit scaled down. The photo series featured at the Angkor Photo Festival (Cambodia, 2013), an exhibition in Bombay with IKSA (2014), and an honourable mention at the PX3 (Paris, 2015).
Anirudh excels at portrait photography and makes it a point to learn about the person he has in front of his camera. Using background research or simple conversation, he aims to keep the subject comfortable and uses that information to define a unique look. In fact, some of his more eccentric portraits were conceptually motivated by the subject, which shows how important and effective the dynamic is between the photographer and the model. When asked about his process, he said, “To put things in perspective, in a session of say 1 hour, I would spend 45 minutes conversing while the actual shooting lasts only 15 minutes at best.”
His more production heavy portraiture takes form in “conceptual portraits”. Anirudh states that as an artist, he has always been drawn to the beauty that lies in the unusual, and he endeavours to create pictures that have a “quirk”. While these shoots may be inspired from the state of the world to conversations with his collaborators, there is extensive planning involved with a team he has cultivated over the years before shooting.
The concepts range from mental health, cultural figures, Japanese graphic novels, isolation or even interesting set props like origami-esque curtains. They are brilliant explorations in colour and form as well.
While he notices a lack of experimental or abstract photography in the advertising, fashion or lifestyle sector, Anirudh is optimistic for its scope due to social media platforms and the requirement to target your audience versus a “one message fits all” campaign. While creators need to cater to the consumer requirement in these spaces, he thinks that new-age brands are developing unique communication strategies which accommodate uncharted conceptual waters. Some examples he quotes are Under25 (communication), Raw Mango (clothing), and Soak (fashion communication).
Currently, he enjoys portraiture but is open to all genres of photography, and his next body of work is in collaboration with a graphic designer. This does not come as a surprise, as when you come across an image made by Anirudh Agarwal, you stay for the story.
Published in Issue 52
The pandemic has brought many different challenges for everyone. But educating our young ones is among the top priority. The issue focused on how design education is still possible while most of us are locked in our homes. We also interacted with illustrators and photographers such as Jasjyot Singh Hans and Anirudh Agarwal, who seem to stand firm with their uniqueness in this time of chaos. Overall this issue serves food for thought with visually stunning creativity on a single platter.
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