Plagued by poor eyesight from childhood, India-born British fashion photographer Ram Shergill did not let his handicap interfere with his ambition for photography. After being discovered by the late British fashion icon Isabella Blow, Shergill was on the high road to fashion stardom with regular magazine projects with Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Tatler, Dazed and Confused, among others.
In his first solo in India titled “Kaleidoscope”, organised by Tasveer Gallery in partnership with Vacheron Constantin, Shergill brings select images from a body of work that he created for designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla in 2012. Excerpts:
The works in this series portray an exotic and romanticised impression of India, from shoots near monuments to using elephants as subjects and the desert landscape. What is the idea behind “Kaleidoscope”?
It is simple. As a child you turn the kaleidoscope in different ways and through looking into the viewfinder the shapes and colours change magically, each pattern and angle being different, like the pattern of life. I feel that India has this in abundance, every road or area you go to is teaming with life, colours, senses and smells; everything is unique. The monuments in my images represent a time that has gone but should not be forgotten, the palaces and forts in India are unique.
This work largely reflects on your Indian influence and roots. Why haven’t you attempted an Indian theme earlier?
I have always been drawn to India in some form or the other. My visual roots came from watching Indian cinema as a child. Epic films such as Mother India and Sholay influenced my style; the saturated colours, the gloss and the drama. There is a subtle Indian tone in my images.
Most of the images belong to an earlier series, which you created for Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla in a book titled India Fantastique in 2012. Why did you choose to exhibit them now?
A lot of images in the exhibition are outtakes that nobody has seen. The images have never been shown in a context that embodies my works. The shoots were done for Abu-Sandeep’s book that celebrated their 25 years in fashion. I decided to show them in my personal exhibition since Abu-Sandeep are as inspiring to me as greats such as Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent.
Who were your early influences and how did you cultivate an eye for fashion photography?
I could never paint as I did not take up art classes, so I used my photography to paint my vision. My early influences were introduced to me by Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow. They showed me the works of Joel-Peter Witkin and this led me into the world of fashion photography, I was soon to buy the works of Richard Avedon, Horst P Horst and Irving Penn, among others. I also love the work of artists such as Picasso, Dali, Caravaggio and the Renaissance painters.
Do you often get to work on independent projects, outside the realm of magazine shoots?
I do. I am doing a project with ZSL London zoo to save the Asiatic lion, using my photography to raise awareness about the plight of the remaining lions in the Gir forest.
The exhibition is on at Saffronart, The Oberoi Hotel, Dr Zakir Hussain Marg, till November 4.