Shilpa Narayanan

2021 Professional Still in Motion / Video Photographer of the Year

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background!

I don’t know how one answers this… Born and raised in India, I’m a journalist by education, and possibly the most reticent, withdrawn fashion photographer around! In a sphere principally led by men, each of my journeys have been lessons in discernment, courage and the lack of it.

Q: When was the moment you realized you have a passion for photography?

Honestly, photography scares me. I pursue it because I’m profoundly envious of the work of masters.

Q: Do you ever have trouble getting inspired? What do you do when moments like this arise?

There are inspirations aplenty, but the catalyst for my work almost always is self-doubt.

Q: What would you say is the hardest thing about photography?

I’m going to say this here because someone must –

(While there are exceptions) The hardest thing about photography is the normalisation of unpaid labour and humiliation photography-assistants are subject to.

A work ethic so utterly disempowering and morally bereft.

Q: You have been chosen Still in Motion/Video Photographer of the Year for your work, “Embers- A Fashion Film.” In it, you combine fashion, art and sharp contrasts in a way that delivers a sense of power to the viewer. How did you come up with this concept?

The only premise here was to create a canvas in which every smidgen of its timeline inhabits a fictive universe of sculptural form.

Q: What was the most notable memory for you when you were shooting this project?

The rehearsals and tests in which my hapless friend was conned into strutting around in drapery were impossibly awkward, sweet and utterly memorable. Though the final shoot with the fabulous model is here for exhibit, the first assembly storyboard with my friend was a thing of unimaginable stupidity!

Q: What was the hardest aspect of creating this body of work?

Initially, I had decided to only just direct this, realising in due course that the process would never salve if I refrained from shooting & editing this entirely on my own. To avail oneself of complete ownership, to witness one’s own becoming, was the easiest and the hardest part.

Q: What was the most important thing you learned on this journey?

To always begin by acknowledging my limitations. Perhaps cynical, but this has been my fiercest learning.

Q: Why did you decide on entering this particular video into the IPA?

To me, IPA has been a place & a platform of pride.

Pictures complete in themselves and a witness to my own becoming, it was important for me to bare this work on the stage I revere.

Q: What does winning this competition mean to you?

My eyes welled up.

In a time when “visibility” is everything; I’ve deliberately chosen to remain “invisible” with my work. IPA for me was the quietest and the most credible platform to apprehend my own work.

Q: What is next for you, are you working on anything right now?

There are some ideas I’m working on; don’t have the words yet!