March 31, 2015

Tina Nandi captures the colourful, chaotic world of Indian weddings

by Amishi Parekh

Grinning groups of Colgate-white smiles lined up against flower-festooned backdrops; the saccharine, filmy photographs of a couple looking deeply into each other’s eyes; or the bride gazing coyly, in awkward and obviously unnatural poses. These are the hallmarks of wedding photography, stuffed into albums as a reminder of the ‘big day’. A big fat Indian wedding, a beast that we’re all familiar with, is a colourful, chaotic mashup of of old and young, familiar and unfamiliar faces, elaborate rituals and decoration, and equally elaborate costumes. There are many intimate moments shared among families and friends, that the typical staged photograph does not communicate. Capturing these once-in-a-lifetime moments and emotions is not an easy task in all this hustle and bustle.

Tina Nandi Stephens is a photographer who believes that, “every great idea, event or project deserves great photographic documentation: be it a conference for teenage girls, the birth of a child assisted by a midwife, or an old-age home in a remote village of Tamil Nadu.” People are always the focus of her images, even if she is documenting an architectural project. We spoke to her about photographing people and how she got into weddings in the first place.


“I genuinely love the chance to be in the midst of various customs and wedding rituals because they are so different and yet so similar. There is a common thread of community supported commitment between the couple that is at the foundation of every wedding ceremony, and I love that!”

A self-taught photographer, Tina came across Lauren Larsen’s blog while at college. “She is an American wedding photographer and her work was like nothing I had ever seen before. I had definitely never seen anyone who had anything better than whitewashed, awkward wedding photographs in a big flowery album and I was really excited about the potential of documentary-style photography in Indian weddings.”

Tell us about your background. Where have you lived and studied?
Three months after I was born in Calcutta, my parents relocated to Lusaka, Zambia where I spent the first 13 years of my life. The next five years I spent at a boarding school in Ooty where, apart from finishing my schooling, I learnt to read a compass, and light a fire and jumped off a waterfall for the first time. I then moved to Bombay, where I had the biggest cultural shock of my life. Although, I had been back in India already for a while, Ooty was like a bubble and that bubble burst in the crazy pace and loudness of Bombay. I managed to survive it (and even began to love it) for three years and graduated with a BA in Sociology. Retreating back to Ooty for a year, I volunteered at my school and at an NGO involved in the rehabilitation of women who have been trafficked into sex work. That year turned out to be pretty foundational in setting me off on the photography path.



How did you become a photographer without actually going to art school?
Photography started out as a passion that I began pursuing on my college festival’s ‘photography team’. In my year after college in Ooty, I found myself doing some sort of photography or the other wherever I was working and enjoying it more and more. I also had the honour of rubbing shoulders with an incredibly talented American filmmaker and dear friend Ben Stamper who happened to be in Ooty making a documentary film for the NGO I was volunteering at. Even though his medium was different to the one that I wanted to pursue, I had the opportunity to dabble with his DSLR equipment (magical moments) and, most of all, I was inspired by his artistic passion.

Some months after that, I moved to Bangalore and began working at a film production company but quickly learnt that corporate film-making was not my thing. I learned a lot from my amazing boss and this was an important stepping stone for me to venture out on my own. After a short stint, I finally mustered up the courage with some help from my now-husband (then friend) to quit my job and pursue photography full-time. I emailed every wedding photographer that I knew of and begged for the chance to accompany them to a shoot, even if just to carry their bags!

Not many responded, but the right ones did. The talented Anup J Kat agreed to meet me for coffee and gave me some really sound advice:

“Take your camera, turn off the display, go out and shoot like you were shooting on film. Review and repeat until you know your camera like the back of your hand.”

Mark Swaroop agreed for some reason to let me be his second-shooter and taught me all he knew. Even to this day, I jump at the opportunity to shoot with him.

Wedding photography also allows me to do something I am recently trying to do more and more: cross-subsidise self-initiated photography projects.


Capturing people is so hard. What do you look for in the perfect shot?
It’s an investment of time and energy before the shoot. I try as much as possible to meet/Skype with my client before the shoot so when we meet next we are meeting more as friends and less as Photographer-and-Subject. The more I know about the subject, the easier it is to tell a story through photographs.

To me, a great photograph has the ability to narrate an already existing or ongoing story, and captures the emotion of a moment, event or idea.



What are some themes you’ve explored/interest you in your personal work?
Currently I am really excited to photographically explore Birth in India. I’ve been reading almost obsessively about this and thanks to some incredible women and midwives that I’ve met, I’m learning that there is a lot more at stake in pregnancy and birth apart from mere survival. It’s not just a women’s health issue, it’s a human rights issue that we understand so little about.

I have also for the past few years had a growing interest in environmental issues, as well as the influence these have on every other aspect of our life and society. Although I am not sure how this interest will come to fruition in my work, it is definitely a theme I hope to explore more and more.



Who are your biggest influences (past or modern day)? Is there a particular photographer/artist who’s made an impression on you?
Susan Cain: Author of Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I first watched her TED talk around the time I was starting off my photography business and her story really gave me permission to be myself in my personal life and in my work. Whenever I start to doubt myself, I go back to her book for encouragement!

Vesper Stamper: Mother of two (and wife of Ben Stamper), incredible illustrator who is currently doing an MFA in Illustration and working on some great childrens’ books that I frankly cannot wait to get a hand on for our future children. I love Vesper’s heart and her gumption. She is a reminder to me that you’ve just got to go for it.

While there are many more inspirations, these two leave special impressions.

One piece of advice you’d give someone starting out as a photographer?
Collaborate. Find good people doing interesting work that you can’t do and contribute your gifts and learn from theirs. To quote Jean Vanier, “The wealth of a community lies in the fact that all its members can share the qualities and gifts of others.”

Take a look at more of Tina’s work on her website or Facebook.eisa recovery скачать бесплатноklasnolom com полная версия скачатькак взломать аккаунт вконтакте без программчитать чужую переписку в аськекак взломать icq пароль

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