Using video apps to frame the moment
Cooking, creating, musing, writing or painting — we’re all rediscovering ourselves in the lockdown, and some people think the discoveries are worth documenting. So they’re contacting professional photographers and commissioning shoots, via apps like FaceTime and Google Duo.
It’s a trend we’ve imported from the West, where photographers, like Tim Dunk, Alessio Albi and John Keatley have been posting quarantine portraits on social media for about a month.
“Subjects behave very differently when they’re out in the open as opposed to when they are in their homes, and that’s made this a particularly interesting exercise for me, especially since I too am in lockdown and can’t do the shoots I’d normally do” says portrait and street photographer Ritesh Patnaik from Ranchi.
Most of the photographers we spoke to in India have done shoots with friends and friends of friends, some for a fee. And some have done shoots for models looking to add something unusual to their portfolios.
Divya Niranjan, a fashion designer and stylist from Chennai, decided to commission a FaceTime profile shoot as part of her efforts to step outside her comfort zone. “I’m someone who shies away from getting her pictures taken,” says Niranjan. “But I’m actually using the lockdown to come out of my shell.”
After two shoots with Chennai-based fashion and portrait photographer Prashun Prashanth Sridhar, Niranjan says she’s become more comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera, and got great shots out of it too.
NO, MY LEFT!
“Shooting virtually is extremely challenging because a lot, if not all, the technical aspects can no longer be directly controlled by the photographer,” adds Prathik CJ, a portrait photographer from Bengaluru.
Framing can be tough and takes a lot more time, adds Sridhar. A bad internet connection can make things worse, and correcting distortions in post-production is slightly more problematic because you’re dealing with screenshots rather than high-resolution files.
But the challenges are what make these projects such fun, says Mumbai-based Rahulnath SR, 24, who has managed to work these imperfections into his portraits to give them a sense of their context and the unique times in which they were shot.
The process also makes for far closer collaboration between the photographer and his subject. “These sorts of collaborations can only happen with people who are willing to experiment, though,” Prathik says.
Apart from being experimental, these photo-shoots become moments of human connection during self-isolation. When CJ requested his subject to switch to the back cam of her phone because the front cam was significantly worse, it made for a hilarious shoot as she was unable to see herself pose. “There was a lot more communication on that shoot than I’ve ever had to do, and there were several humorous instances of lefts being rights,” he adds.
Rahulnath’s subject started dancing and grooving unexpectedly when he asked her to strike a pose. “She was just literally at-home, and those were the most wholesome frames in the entire set,” he says.
Stretching the imagination to capture a good shot in these new conditions is revitalising and makes for valuable experience, the cameramen all agreed. “It’s taught me to think from a different perspective. I find these pictures have a life and soul even though there is a huge lack of detail,” says Sridhar.