When Rohan Shrestha promises us a sight, sound and smell replete “immersive” experience at his debut photography show at the Diesel store in Juhu, Mumbai, he isn’t joking. A bonsai corner greets us as we enter the venue and faux cherry blossoms bob over our heads. The smell of Japanese incense wafts in the air as sake and sushi are served to the guests. His show is titled “Hanami”, which literally means “flower viewing”, and refers to the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, especially cherry blossoms. Shrestha and curator Ambika Hinduja Macker have attempted to recreate the beauty of the Sakura (cherry blossom) season in this projection photography show, part of the Diesel+Art underground movement.
While the 30-year-old son of renowned celebrity photographer Rakesh Shrestha has also made a name for himself in the same field, there are no Bollywood stars staring back at us from the 25 images on display. Instead, images of cherry blossoms, shot in Kyoto and Shinjuku Gyoen Park in Tokyo, landscape shots and architectural photographs from Kamakura cover the walls. An enclosure houses the projection room, where surreal images of cherry blossoms projected on a model dressed in Japan-inspired fashion are splashed across black sun board covered walls. Shot with a converted infrared camera, Shrestha’s experiments with landscape and artistic photography may surprise some, but it is something he believes he was always meant to do.
“I’ve always been interested in landscape photography. The first picture I ever took was a shot of Central Park, New York. I love being around nature,” says Shrestha. And it was nature that serendipitously led Shrestha to Japan in April 2015, when a storm in the Pacific made him cancel a diving trip to Chuuk Island and head to Tokyo instead. Bang in the middle of cherry blossom season, Shrestha fell in love with the country. “During Sakura season, the streets are lined with cherry blossom trees and roads are covered with flowers. It’s overwhelming,” he says.
When stills from this memorable trip made it to the National Geographic Traveller, Shrestha found validation. This prompted him to team up with Naga model Carol Humtsoe, stylist Kshitij Kankaria and hair and make-up artist Clover Wootton to create the series of projected images. “Both, the fashion and landscape pictures, are mine. The final image that I’ve created by combining these two is who I am as a photographer. I wanted to merge my two creative sides,” he says.
On being asked if this is a deliberate move away from his commercial work, he says, “I’m not discounting the work I’ve done, because it has made me who I am. But I needed to express myself more as a photographer. So, I went to New York in 2013 to learn different ways of shooting.” His experiments and love for landscape photography made their way to an Instagram account Nomad Within, which has received an overwhelming response. The nomadic photographer is already planning his next adventure. “In April, I will go to the Galapagos Islands to dive with hammerhead sharks. From there I go on a Machu Picchu trek and then I spend a week in the Amazon rainforest,” says Shrestha.
Hanami will be on display till February 21 at the Diesel store, Juhu, Mumbai.