Octogenarian and celebrated portrait photographer Ranjit Madhavji started out as an “enthusiast amateur with no training.” He recalls running his family business of textile imports before his mother gifted him a Lieca 111C camera in 1956. Thereafter began his experiments with photography. “Later, I bought a Fuji enlarger, chemicals and dishes to do enlargements,” he adds. Few years on, Madhavji was elected as the official photographer for the Government of the Mumbai, Gujarat and Kathiawad State after which, he set up Hamilton Studios, (bought from Victor Sassoon).
About his specialisation, he says, “One of the great things about being a portrait photographer is the chance to enter someone’s life and bring out an unseen angle in a person.”
Madhavji advices budding photographers to break the ice and consider their subject as a friend and not a client. “To create a defining photograph it’s important to understand your subject and get into their psyche. Avoid over-directing things. Also, correct lighting is your foundation.”
‘Madhubala was shy’
She was one of the subjects who photographed very well. With her, shoots could take almost a whole day. She was extremely shy and humble and most importantly, someone who valued everyone on the team including the chai-walla (tea vendor). After seeing her portfolio, I remember her entire family started visiting my studio for pictures for marriage portfolios.
‘Tatas are our regular clients’
This is the only picture I have of a charismatic leader with his much-loved vehicle. Today, this rare frame is prized and considered a collectible. The shot happened since our studio had shot many of the industrial sites owned by Tata. The famed industrialist family has been our regular client right from the inception of our studio. From childhood pictures to family portraits and even industrial pictures, my studio has done it all for them. The members of the Tata family continue to visit us on a regular basis even now.
‘She was to the point, professional’
This picture stands out purely because of its charismatic appeal. Miss Nadia oozes with confidence at a time when equality between men and women was not heard of. She was a very to-the-point kind of a person who kept her rapport very professional.
‘She had élan and beauty’
Royalty has always been my passion in portraiture. Moreover, my comfort level with members of the royalty has always been very natural since they appreciate finesse and perfection in a way that matches my expertise and passion. The élan and beauty of a regal woman is captured perfectly in this picture of Maharani Gayatri Devi. Women those days were very stunning and used minimal make-up as they believed that beauty lay in simplicity. In my portraits too, I like to keep it as normal as possible.
‘This picture marked Vinod’s foray into mainstream acting’
He came to the studio when he was an aspiring model, considering our forte was model portfolios in the earlier years. We took almost 20 different shots and it was on this picture that Vinod marked his foray into mainstream acting. After that, however, there has been no contact. This picture tells a story of an enthusiastic bachelor with a bunch of dreams up his sleeves.