Here's how photographers are capturing their muse amid lockdown

Updated: May 31, 2020, 09:05 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

Inspired by an Italian photographer known for his atmospheric portraits, Indian shutterbugs with itchy hands make the most of the isolation by shooting portraits from a DSLR, but across a video call

Shivaji Storm Sen began taking pictures on FaceTime as he wanted to keep creating. His models are usually set against books he has bought from all over the world
Shivaji Storm Sen began taking pictures on FaceTime as he wanted to keep creating. His models are usually set against books he has bought from all over the world

In Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by Coronavirus deaths, photographer Alessio Albi found a novel way to stay in touch with friends. He started shooting them through the laptop webcam. "Social distancing doesn't mean you stop creating. We are lucky to live in an era that offers all the resources needed," one of his captions read. In this case, it could mean that all you need is a phone, a willing model, and maybe a Zoom account. Taking the pictures could be one way of saying, we won't let the virus beat us, becoming our way of trying to hold on to the way things used to be, all the while moving into the future with whatever resources we have.
Four Indian photographers who have been shooting celebrities, friends and models right through the lockdown, on their phone and via Zoom, tell us why the experiment requires more skill that usual.

'I can't stop creating'

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Shivaji Sen

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I first got this idea when I came to India six years ago from the UK. I didn't know anyone and wanted to shoot my friends back home. But then, I got too busy and didn't end up doing it. Lockdown or not, we can't stop creating. We have to keep making something. I have now used the technique to shoot my friends, some of them models, through a WhatsApp video call. Some are in India, and some are in the UK, Indonesia and Australia. It's a lot of shouting into the camera. You are trying to get the light right, and asking them to place the phone a certain way! It's a lot of communicating. I shoot the phone screen from my DSLR. So, I decided to create an aesthetic environment around the phone. I use books as props, titles that I have bought from all over the world. They are my backdrop now. Taking pictures is my normal state; I would do it in whatever situation I am in.

'I hope this is not the future'

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Taras Taraporewala

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It was all about trying to create when there was nothing to do. I chose my models, most of whom I knew and had worked with. I use Zoom, which has a screen sharing option, so I can see their surroundings, and their camera set up, and can direct them accordingly. It's a completely new form, and many will frown at it. I do hope this is not the future, because it's the worst way of doing photography, but for me it's episodic—I'm looking at subjects, their surroundings and what they are doing in the time of quarantine.

'It's still very realistic'

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Gaurav Sawn

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After Alessio Albi did it, it went viral, and everyone started experimenting. I was a naysayer in the beginning; a photographer always wants to control everything—lighting and the camera we use. But then, I decided to give in. I got on call with Gayatri Hariharan, who is also a model. We haven't ever met before. So this is the first we were seeing each other in person, but virtually. She showed me her space and told me what clothes she had. She had a six-year-old iPhone, and her WiFi was really patchy, and so the image we managed was blurry. I shot her image as seen on the phone with my DSLR. I was surprised at how much fun it was, and felt very close to the real thing. You are still directing the model, and sending her references—much like I would do with any shoot. I have received inquiries after this shoot from corporates who want me to take pictures of their board members!"

'This is the way forward'

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Sasha Jairam

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After Albi started the trend, I thought it was interesting, and wanted to have some fun digitally. I started with the FaceTime series with Anusha Dandekar [singer, TV host] and Ananya Pandey [actor]. For me, this is the way forward, and it's completely normal. I am 23, and I am targeting Gen Z. I don't want to think about the past. An old-school photographer also moved on to the digital camera from an analogue one, right? New age ones are moving to their phones. I am now collaborating with stylists, who help the model style by offering suggestions remotely. I have landed a project where a furniture brand wants me to take pictures of their products in this way! It's luck by chance, really.

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