Friday, August 5, 2011

Expressionist Forays

By Savitha Hira
Ace advertising and fashion photographer and artiste, Vikram Bawa, better known as ‘Peoples’ photographer’ and ‘Master of Gimmicks’…is a maverick at heart. Whether he can be categorized as a fashion photographer, advertising photographer, artist or whatever…, the foremost quality of this young maverick professional seems his human connect.

Love him or hate him; but you cannot ignore him. It may sound clichéd – but Vikram Bawa is a photographer who tends to grab one by the eyeballs with his mystic sense of absurdity at times; at others, there is a depth in his portrayals that goes way beyond the surface to touch a chord where it matters most. He has stood ground from his first foray into photography, doing only what appeals to the individualistic artist in him and not toeing the line blindly; be it for the moolah or for fame. It has been years since I have been receiving his monthly calendars with artistically photographed women, some beguilingly naïve, others blatantly inane. The one thing that stood out in the imagery was a stark difference from the work of any other photographer that I had seen earlier. And it is this ‘difference’ that marks his inimitability.

Vikram Bawa
“I do not consciously compose my pictures”, says Bawa. “It is the look that appeals the best and the shot is clinched”. Many a time, his lens has captured poignant moments within seconds, without actually dwelling on technical aspects like lighting etc.  And these are the photographs that speak volumes and establish him as a true-blue artist. Categorizing his work into two broad spectrums, commercial assignments and artistic forays, Bawa feels most comfortable with the latter as the genre allows him complete freedom of expression without any set parameters of budgets, client-creative interpretations or even the basic need for acceptance. He once held an exhibition of nudes and since the exhibition space was a large one, he made oversized blow-ups so that the viewers could partake of the artistry captured through the masterly whiz of the lens. Alas, the show got mired in moral policing and after a brief fracas over the episode; Vikram Bawa was relegated to the memories of select individuals as a bold imaginative photographer-artist; while to the masses he is the ace photographer whose eccentrically stylized images grab healthy critiques in advertising and fashion photography.

His body of work is perfected by a premeditated approach and strong visualisation where Bawa, most of the time knows exactly what he envisages the final image to look like, even before he has picked up his camera to shoot it. He often works from sketches and is more interested in creating an impactful style statement than an in-the-face campaign. The secret of his creative success lies as much in transferring his visual concepts into the real medium as it does in his openness to experiment. Right from his first shoot, Bawa has displayed a tangential experimental streak. Incidentally, he is the first photographer from the Asian sub-continent to venture into three-dimensional photography, a concept similar to the one used in 3-d movies that he introduced to add an element of novelty even to the most ordinary picture.

Destiny commands a role play that is unique with every individual. Bawa’s work has won over the hearts of many a creatively inclined professional who has given him a carte blanche to present his visual concept as the ultimate campaign. Some of his prestigious commercial clients include Skoda, Raymonds, Leela Palace Goa, TBZ, Coca-Cola, Marriott Hotels, Reebok, Zee TV and King Fisher Airlines among others. Reposing his trust in the young photographer, a private client collaborated with him to develop a series of bizarre and cryptically humoured pictures based on the theme of Superheroes. While the thematic and the photographs have garnered much interest, Bawa is yet to fine tune and complete this creative exercise for it to someday emerge as a stealer.

His most recent campaign for Skoda again brings to light a divergent approach to photographing an automobile: the campaign is stylized with a narrative based loosely on the Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge thematic where we see superman running away with his lady and the skoda in the background; or superman romancing not one but three women inside the car; another shot has a host of onlookers peeping in from both front and rear car windows.  Very little of the car is actually seen.  The thought process that guides this campaign is the storyboard character. The spacious interiors of the car are highlighted cryptically - where one can romance three women; and the length of the car too is emphasized by the clear visibility of the throng of onlookers at the windows.

But away from his advertising campaigns from jewellery to footwear to cars to airlines and his posing fashionistas from Rani Jayraj to Sonam Kapoor, lies the wholesome world of Bawa’s private musings. ‘Fallen Angel’ is a series of aesthetically done photographs that he accomplished at an artist camp. After an initial ‘artist block’, Bawa suddenly spurred into action as he flew down a model to the camp and expressed a series of imagery that reflects elements of introspection and awakening. The series in Black n White depicts an angel in poses that are timorous and inhibiting. The exercise was a soul-searching one for Bawa and refueled his confidence in his artistic talent.

The young man has several accolades and awards, nationally and internationally. “The mantra is simple”, he says. “Be self-critical and humble”. 

First published in the October 2010 issue of Home Review magazine

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