Dienstag, 1. Februar 2011

Interview with Indian photographer Manjari Sharma

Interview with Manjari Sharma conducted over the phone: Los Angeles - Mumbai

The New York city based photographer Manjari Sharma is one of the artists that is currently represented at Kopeikin Gallery in Culver City along with American photographer Steve Fitch. Born in Mumbai, the 31-year-old Sharma just returned from Santander in Spain, where she was invited to coordinate the photo entries for Espacio Nudage - a multi disciplined event, dedicated to emerging talent in design. Trained in India and the US, Sharma’s work has been published in numerous international and national magazines and newspapers, including the Times of India, Geo magazine and PDN (Photo District News). Her work has also been used on a Pinguin book cover. In addition she helped to research a National Geographic Project based in India, was a guest at India’s CNBC, and a 2009 winner of the Strand photo contest in New York.

Simone Kussatz: In both of your series, “Shower” and “Water”, of which some of your works are currently exhibited at Kopeikin Gallery water plays a key role. Can you tell us more about that?

Manjari Sharma: Both those projects were photographed six months apart. Both were not planned, but it was hindsight that made me do them. As far as the Shower series is concerned, to begin with, it's very rare that one has a window in a bathroom in New York City. So at first, it was a formal and visual thing as I saw this light coming through and felt fascinated what it did to my marble walls in the bathroom. The water falling down on my subjects is what transformed this project.

In Indian culture the water of the Ganges River has a great significance. The holy water as it is said, washes away your sins. The project was about inviting people to come into my shower but interestingly as people showered it almost felt as if it were a confessional. As soon as the water hit their faces and bodies, they started to relax and would often discuss intimate things like relationships with their parents, love lives and moments of their childhood, or life lessons that you wouldn't share at a bar or another public place. In a strange unplanned way the water series in a way was a macro look at the relationship of people with the water and the shower series was a micro look at the same.

Kussatz: Did you tell your subjects in which pose to get?

Sharma: Sometimes it was a natural capture and sometimes I had them do over a pose I just noticed they naturally have.

Kussatz: In your shower series you have people of different ethnicities? Was there any particular purpose for that?

Sharma: I’ve always felt very drawn to multicultural people. Once the project became clear to me, I wanted to capture that personal relationship between people and water and to showcase that to people from all over the world, so that they can relate to that.

Kussatz: Your “Water” series was made on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro. They were shot from this great angle. Were you in a helicopter or standing on top of a mountain?

Sharma: No, I was shooting them from the 17th floor of a hotel room looking at a private beach. And then there were these men standing in a very isolating position. I can’t swim and felt intrigued by looking at people feeling so comfortable in water.

Kussatz: So they actually didn’t know you were shooting them?

Sharma: No, they had no idea. But you can’t see their faces. It’s more about the form from a distance.

Kussatz: I like the pastel colors. Can you say more about that?

Sharma: I've changed the color palette with Photoshop. I wanted them to have a simpler palette so as to not let the details distract the viewer from the concept.

Kussatz: Did you have a particular reason to shoot in Brazil?

Sharma: No. I was just traveling. I was a bride’s maid at my friend’s wedding. As an artist you have to be prepared to make your art wherever you are. And when the moment strikes you want to be ready to use your tool.

Kussatz: I truly enjoyed your work and also found some beautiful images in your portfolio. I think it’s important to put light on emerging artists. I was wondering who influenced you artistically?

Manjari: I was influenced by a variety of artists. If you look at art your whole life you don’t know what kicked in. But I would say mostly by Irving Penn, but also by Greg Miller. I was his assistant for one year. He’s really great at the relationship with his subjects.

Kussatz: Thank you very much for our conversation. I look forward to meeting you in person for the closing reception at Kopeikin Gallery on February 12th.

Published in Whitehotmagazine February 2011.

Copyright (c) Simone Kussatz

Photos: Courtesy of the artist