We speak to the talented photographer ADEELA BADSHAH about social media, Crocs and life in the field.
When did you know a career in photography was for you?
It was the day I developed my first black and white print in college. As the image appeared on the paper, I knew there was no turning back.
What is your background and training? How did you learn the art?
I was exposed to photography at a very young age, as my parents were extremely fond of cameras and gadgets. I was the girl with the camera/handy-camin school, taking portraits and videos of everyone and at every occasion. I graduated from high school with a strong background in art, mathematics, psychology (the very 3 disciplines that I discovered and adore most about photography) and went on to study communication design with a minor in photography at the Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture. After graduaction I worked at an advertising agency for a year, asssisted in running the Postgraduate Photography program at IVS for 3 years and joined 18% grey photo agency for a year as well.
What camera do you use?
Currently, Canon 7D.
How would you sum up your style or philosophy and where do you find your inspiration?
I would define my philosophy asstory-telling or interrupted conversations. At least that is what I try to bring out in the work I create, whether strongly or subtly. Wherever I can execute a certain amount of conceptual freedom I try to create images that are beyond a specific moment, as if they have no beginning or an end. It is a representation of what I feel our role is in this world; that we are born in the middle of this great conversation of life, we interrupt, explore, make our mark and leave, and the conversation continues on.
As cliche as it may sound, I find my inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Inspiration knows no bounds, and the more you involve yourself in doing a variety of things the more your mind expands. And that is extremely crucial to creative development. I have made it a habit to try something new at least once every 2 weeks, be it reading up on a scienttific theory or listening to the latest album by an upcoming artist. It keeps me constantly stimulated and helps me develop to perceive differently.
What’s your research process like?
I like to keep myself in tune with current trends in photography; my browser is a shrine to bookmarks of various photographer’s websites. I also follow both renowned and emerging photographers on Facebook and Instagram and sign up with their blogs. When it comes to my own shoots, I look to find inspiration amongst the masters that I look up to. I look through works of Avedon, Guy Bourdin, Lee Miller, Cecil Beaton, Man Ray, Steven Meisel, Arnold Newman, Jan Saudek, to name a few, and dissect what makes each of their images great. From there I go back to my planning and think how I can tackle this shott differently than I have before, and what would result in an image that speaks volumes.
Do you consider photography an art form or a craft, or both? Why? I believe the answer to that lies in the definition of the word ‘art’ and ‘craft’. An artist, e.g. a painter, would create a unique piece of work while a craftsman, e.g. a chairbler, would create a piece that could or could not be replicated over and over again. Working with these definitions, I believe photography is both an art and a craft; the craft being the technical know-how of the field, while the art would be to create an image that is unique to the photographer and his/her way of perceiving.
Do you have mentor in the industry? Have you been a mentor for anyone else?
Faran Mahbub, at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, introduced me to the art of photography and has been my mentor ever since. Even though our styles of work and taste in photography differ greatly, she has been someone I can look up to interms of keeping up with new techniquees, experiments in the field and bouncing off ideas. As for me, I think it’s too early for me to be a mentor to someone; I still have so much to learn.
What should a photographer understand about the business of photography first and foremost?
On the busines front, self-presentation is key. Since you are your own strategist you must have more than just a business card and Facebook page. Get your website up, package design for deliverables, create interesting promotions and ways of advertising yourself. You must dress well, be able to pitch to clients and learn to work as part of a team. In this day and age with so much noise on social platforms, it takes a lot more than just good photography to get noticed.
What do you think photography education programs should include in their curriculum to best prepare a novice looking to enter the profession?
In the past 3 years, photography education has grown exceedingly. A photography curriculum, aside from the basics, must include photojournalism, portraiture, product/food, fashion, advertising and architecture photography. Apart from this I feel programs should also include an introduction to video as that this the natural progression most photographers take in terms of experimentation of their work.
How many people usually make up your team on shoots?
I’m usually alone or sometimes accompanied by an intern or budding photographer.
How many shots on average do you shoot during a session?
Depends on the assignment, however it can be anywhere from 100-1500.
What/who has been your most memorable photo shoot any why?
That would have to be a shoot for Zari Faisal in the summer of 2012. Inspired by Lewis Carol’s tea party scene, Zari and myself emptied her house of furniture, empty frames, paintings, cutlery, tea sets and books and created a set in the middle of the infamous trees across Dolmen Mall. It was quite the adventure, with all the attention we managed to attract, even though the shoot began as early as 9 AM on a Sunday morning. However, it was worth it, because the result was exactly how we imagined it.
What has been your career high and career low?
A career high has been being recently awarded Honorable Mention (professional) by International Photography Awardsin the fine art portrait category for my series title Ghunghat (published in Kamsukhan by Markings Publishing). A career low has been when I let personal issues and friendship get mixed with business.
What is your personal preference when it comes to shooting?
Fashion, portrait and lifestyle.
In your opinion, how has the advent of social media changed the landscape of fashion, photography, and journalism?
Everyone is a critic, photographer and journalist; isn’t that just amazing! The whole social networking world is working together to archive present day and they don’t even know it. Besides that, nothing goes unnoticed anymore and I feel that it pushes people, who are truly passionate about their field, to work harder in creating uniquepieces.
If you could photograph any three people – living or dead – who would they be and for what occasion?
I would have loved to photograph portraits of Edgar Allan Poe, Stanley Kubrick and Queen (Freddie Mercury). No occassions as such, but mainly because their personalities, especially their thought process, intrigue and inspire me.
What do you love most about living in Karachi?
It’s such a colorful city that hosts an interesting mix of tradition and modernism. You can live all your life here and still find something interesting and exciting on any given day.
What is something that has surprised you or continues to surprise you in this industry?
The lack of puntuality.
What can one find in your camera bag?
To list: a camera with lens, battery charger, card reader, white card, mini reflector, camera cleaning kit, scissors, tap, Listerine strips or chewing gum, lip balm, kajal, sanitizer, deodorant.
How do you balance your personal life with your work demands?
Quite terribly actually! I am an obessive workaholic, which my family and friends have sort of come to terms with now. But I do get the occasional calls and/or textmessages during the week from friends about being missing in action.
When you’re not working you are… Usually reading a book or napping.
Favourite Vacation Spot: Koh Tao, Thailand
What perfume do you wear: Jimmy Choo
Favourite Restaurant: Okra
Addicted to: Currently, Plant vs. Zombies 2
If i could change one thing about me it would be: To sleep less
Secret Talent: Knitting
You like your coffee with: Ice
Bran or Brawn: Brain
Love or Money: Love
You hate it when you see people wearing: Crocs
Your closet is a shrine to? Harem pants
Favourite designer: Body Focus Museum and Tom Ford
Oldest item in your closet? My mother’s silk kameezes from the 80’s
Necessary extravagance: Shoes
Favourite piece of furniture in your home: Bookshelf
In your DVD player right now: The Man Who Would Be King
Book on your bedside table drawer: Inventing the Enemy by Umberto Eco
Who/what makes you laugh uncontrollably? My fiance
When are you happiest? When I’m eating food