Interview for Fashion TV India as it's 'photographer in focus'

screen shot from

This is the interview as it appears on Fashion TV (India ) portal. Some friends have been having problems with accessing the site, so am re-producing it here as this surely is one of my favourite interviews I have given till date as a photographer.
you can read the original interview at if its still there.

1. Your thoughts on being chosen as the Photographer In focus by FTV India?

Fashion TV is not just a brand but also a way of life, in fact for the fashion conscious around the world, its much more than just a channel. I have shot for FTV merchandise earlier, pics that have gone around the world so I anyways feel close to FTV, and now that FTV India has chosen me as ‘the photographer in focus’- it’s a special feeling to get such honor at your own home as India has no dearth of talented photographers who have been around for quite a while.

2. Tell us a little bit about Pravin Talan?

I once wrote on my blog - ‘that I really don’t know who I am and I don’t care, for I believe that God will let me know when the time is right...’

But if you moved away from philosophy of life for a while, then I feel I am a storyteller it could be via my pictures, my writings or my documentaries. My work is not about wanting to impress anyone but explore my own self- with the world I just want to share what I feel or see and when people appreciate it-the sense of recognition can be quite exhilarating.

3. What is home for you?

I am a traveler ...I move the way my thoughts do – and they never stop. I connect with people easily and as long as I am close to nature I feel I belong to that place. I am restless & curious. The child in me lives beyond the few grey hair I have picked up. Photography for me is a journey to find peace within myself- that’s why I constantly look for happiness, beauty, love & peace in whatever I shoot – and it keeps me on the move.

After traveling around the world when I come back n meet my mother, and she puts her fingers across my hair, saying that I look tired, asking me to rest- I feel I am at home.

Those few moments of warmth in her arms- -give me that sense of belonging n calm my senses- making me feel at home as that’s where I came from- her body, rest is all just temporary shelters and roofs we keep building the rest of our lives on our head.

4. If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home?

It’s the newness of a place that excites us more; very rarely I have come across a place whose beauty would continue to grow on me with time! I have come to learn one thing – it’s not the roads, buildings, concrete & glass structures that make a beautiful city-it’s the people that we meet there, that make a city worth living. If the traffic in Mumbai could be managed then I don’t see myself going anywhere else-, as this is where my heart is and this is where my friends are.

And for temporary getaways there are too many beautiful places in the world to pick up just one!

5. What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?

When I talk, I am a different me, as I have never looked for answers- they just come- as if there is another me inside me! And funnily I feel as if I am outside my own self and listening to what ‘another me is speaking and get surprised at my own words at times.

6. Did you go to school to study photography?

Which school can actually teach photography? They can teach you how to operate camera and lights and do digital manipulations but no one can be taught how to look at a certain shot. No one can teach you how to look at life. That’s why most assistants are unable to develop their own style as they keep following somebody else’s vision. You can become a good photographer only by our own vision n instinct.

Though it’s a good idea to learn the technicalities from some school as you can save a lot of time in trying to learn on your own but then eventually to be known as a good photographer, one must be on their own- and learn to rely on their own instinct, working out a combination between acquired knowledge and own impulse.

7. How long have you been a photographer?

I have looked at the world as a photographer I think as long as I remember, though took up the camera quite late in life. It’s my tenth profession!

8. How long have you been a Fashion photographer? What or who got you started in Fashion photography?

I started fashion photography about three years ago. I was more into wild life and street photography, when a surprise call from the editor of GR8 magazine changed everything for me. He asked me to shoot the cover for his magazine, which I did, and next week I was shooting prestigious Telenorr campaign (Pakistan) with Ali Zafar and Sonya Jahan. Next three years I don’t remember where they went by...practically living out of suitcases...

From remote corners in India such as Kerala-Ladakh –Nagaland, to heavenly places like South Africa n Norway- the world became my studio.

10. How would you describe your style?

I am a big fan of outdoor photography. I love to use natural light and play with available elements of nature. Given the choice I would shoot fashion only outdoors. In fact it’s the industry, which over a period of time categorizes you as a fashion photographer or whatever other genres- I feel I am just a photographer who mostly loves to do mood-shots – create or capture something that becomes a part of some story or a story in itself. I try to speak through my pics or at least catch some defining moment which becomes the USP of that particular pic!

It’s not a style that I have developed but something that is intrinsic to my photography.

I wouldn’t be able to state what’s my defining style as I have never tried to evaluate my work- I am learning everyday and there is no end to learning- may be eventually it would evolve into something completely different than what it is today.

I have always been a fan of RGV for his brilliant films like Satya, Shiva, Company -he once asked me how am I able to shoot women so beautifully, in spite of many a flaws in them, I told him because I don’t see any flaws in them. The camera shoots what you see in your subject. A pic is eventually your own vision statement. I look for beauty in my subjects and try to enhance it through my work –rather than spending time in covering their so-called-flaws.

11. How many shoots do you average per year?

Probably a hundred- or may be less- as I never do more than ten shoots a month. And I never repeat a concept or copy a reference (at least I try my best not to do that). Its a great challenge to continuously push your mind to come up with new things, new concepts and explore new dimensions in your models.

12. Please share 3 of the most memorable shoots you have done...

I could probably write a book on my adventures as a photographer. Life is so much fun and the world so beautiful when you look at it through a camera.

I will quickly recount three recent shoots, which I would not forget for a long time.

The first one of course was a shoot for Fashion TV at extra-ordinarily beautiful islands called Koh Panghan at Thailand. It was the second day of our photo shoot at Santhiya resort.

Visualize just the photographer n the model on a small rock formation in the middle of endless water. It does make a great shot for a video camera- but when you face fierce winds excited enough to blow you away into those swirling waves-you do end up thinking twice about defying them.

When I went for location-hunting two days prior to the shoot, I loved the idea of shooting on the rock in the middle of nowhere. The water was calm enough and winds gentle. We decided to anchor the speedboat 100 meters away n then board a kayak to the rock- and do a series of pics. The morning of the shoot it rained. Somehow it didn’t seem too right, the water was very rough and it looked dangerous. FTV video crew refused to take the kayak and it was left to me to decide whether I wanted to take my shot.

I wrapped my camera in some twenty plastic bags (as if that would have helped!) and with prayer on my lips reached the spot, with Marina( the model) following after a few minutes.

The winds were wild to say the least. N it was getting increasingly dangerous on the rocks so we took just a few shots n decided to go back to the mainland. I watched from top of the rock, the lonely kayak rider struggling to keep it in balance as he came back to fetch us. I knew he wouldn’t be able to do it for long- and next moment a strong wave just lifted him and smashed into the side of the rock. My heart missed a beat. My camera instinctively took a shot of him bobbling in water, only his headgear showing, the upturned boat lying on the rock surface and the paddle nowhere to be seen.

He picked it up eventually n signaled to get on the kayak. I put my right foot forward and even before I stepped on to the plastic surface- another wave came picking up the kayak right before my eyes, smashing it again in to the sides of the rock. I had never imagined the adventure would turn into struggle for personal safety on a lightweight kayak tortured by maddening waves.

The fact that I didn’t know how to swim didn’t help me much besides the twenty five thousand dollar equipment in my hand.

But somehow we reached back safe...

Another shoot I really enjoyed was the campaign for G-wild jewelry at Cape Town (South Africa). It was one of the most exciting weeks of my life when I got to shoot gorgeous models in all kind of settings. From white sand beaches to unbelievable rock formations, from python to the Great White Shark and Cape Fur Seal-it was nothing less than a dream project for me.

The most recent incident that warmed my heart was shooting with Lyudmyla Bikmulina (Miss Ukraine 2007) at Hong Kong couple of months back. She had undergone a serious abdomen surgery and yet went ahead with the shoot. It was unbelievable to see her walking around the treacherous rocks barefoot-the same day as her stitches were cut. I was worried for her and insisted on canceling the shoot but she was bent on doing it. It is such times that make you fall in love with your work all over again.

I was truly touched.

Hong Kong for me always is the memory of this beautiful woman who made the shoot for me so much fun and my stay there so memorable.


[V] said…
Congrats on being the photographer in focus.
The interview tells us a lot about you.You are a very honest and kind person sir.

my best wishes for life...

inswinger said…
Hi talan,

I can see ur dedication and the burning desire in your words.
I too have the burning desire but, no one to help me with a hand.

Saravanan kuppusamy
Pradeep Nair said…
I love your article - Specially this one touched my heart.....Those few moments of warmth in her arms- -give me that sense of belonging n calm my senses- making me feel at home as that’s where I came from- her body, rest is all just temporary shelters and roofs we keep building the rest of our lives on our head.