His work is held in high regard across Europe and India. He has carved out an unmistakable style for himself. Marked by innovative strength and the never dying quench for ‘more’ Rannjan Joawn is probably the handful of Fashion Photographers from India who has become internationally famous. After having worked as an Assistant Photographer for two years in Chennai, India, Rannjan’s style of photography clearly made heads turn. He had largely worked on concept photoshoots that involved people, still life, architecture and fashion. As days went by, Rannjan reached a saturation point where people were not quite prepared for his experimental nature of photography and he was not ready to just live with ‘safe shots’ either. He wanted more and there was urgency in his restlessness. “I wanted more. I had this urge to completely rediscover myself, my limits and my capacity and that is when I decided, I needed a change. My photography is about who I am!” PhotoConcierge is thrilled to bring forth this candid conversation that we had with this young and charming photographer.
How did the journey from Chennai to Paris unfold?
When I wanted to experiment and test my limits, I decided to move to Paris and I was putting myself into the introspection mode. I landed here in the year 2007 and I clearly remember the first few days – everything around me was so beautiful and the weather was just fantastic. There was this beautiful relationship that was blossoming between the new world that I chose and myself. All I wanted to do was capture every moment through my lens. Then slowly, the reality started hitting me hard – I am not a tourist, I cannot be just taken away by the beauty of the surrounding, I had to find my ground to stand. Introspection and Winter came in together and I was just suffering from in and out. Days were shorter, started to feel homesick, got into depression with all the insecure feeling! Eventually I shook myself up and got a bicycle for rent and just rode pretty much every corner of Paris!
I found myself a job to assist in one of the biggest studios in Paris with my broken French. It was a great experience to work with one of the best photographers in the world including Helmut Stelzenberger, David Simms, Andreas Sjodin, Patrick Demarchelier, Michelangelo Di Battista to name a few. It was indeed a difficult three year period financially, physically and mentally. Getting up early at about 5:30 in the freezing minus 10 degree cold, completely dark and picking up my cycle and riding for work, and even worse when it involved outdoor shoots. After a period of time, my interpretation of the European fashion began to take form. I was quite reassured to see that there wasn’t much of a difference from my point of view and theirs. I have to admit that it was quite a scary feeling (a good scary feeling rather) trying to make it on your own in an absolutely unfamiliar land with a contrasting culture and new language to learn. Looking back now, I am really glad to have reached this stage of my life, passing through such crazy lifestyles. If I have the chance to do it again I would. I miss India very much. After all, the place where you are born and brought up will always be the best. Every day is a new day for me and all I do is to try to make it better than the day before. I have realized that trying to rediscover oneself is an ongoing process throughout the journey of life. Photography is just one of the tools to help me through my progress.
How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
My work reflects my personality, character and style!
What are the biggest challenge in working in Paris (or Europe for that matter)?
Know the rules to break them. Likewise, you need to understand the European culture in order to learn their thinking process. Once you do, then it leads to a domino effect. It becomes extremely easy to enter the professional methodology. This was the biggest challenge for me.
Your projects are a collaborative process. Tell us what is like to always be working with new stylists, models, and designers.
Oh yes! It is always a great experience to meet new people. And when that happens at work, it is even better. You discover new styles; each one has their own uniqueness. It’s always amazing when people with different kinds of expertise collaborate as a team – the results are phenomenal and that is why it is very important to choose the right people according to the nature of project you get.
What changes you would like to bring in your genre of photography in the next 10-15 years?
For the moment, I feel that any kind of photography is almost on the verge of dying because of social media. The irony with social media is that despite being the best tool for self-promotion, millions of banal photographs are uploaded everyday all around the world by everyone and anyone, taken with their iPhones or any other smart phones. No one seems to understand the value of images anymore!! As Albert Einstein quotes “technology is its own self destruction”.. It looks like this is the beginning of the end. European fashion is cold, slim and emotionless. I am already bored with this! Slowly, India is catching up with the same style. I would like to bring life into my work. Beauty needs to be accompanied with emotions, energy and style.
What are the trends for 2016-17 in terms of Fashion Photography?
In terms of fashion photography, not much has changed, whether it comes to Models, Lighting, their looks, body language, Props, accessories or the way how it is finally retouched. A good example would be the French vogue which is so used to a particular style. I feel like they need a new team to freshen up their ideas, whereas the Italian vogue experiments quite a bit with interesting fashion stories with detailed experimentation. But in terms of fashion, this year’s trend is leaning more towards oversized clothes. This is a huge change from last year.
What do you expect in Model and stylists and make-up artists ?
I prefer models with great body language. I spend less time teaching them and go straight into the essentials. Saves us time and we get more images than what is usually expected. Stylists need to be updated with the latest trends and should have the expertise to blend them and create with their own style in tune with the project displaying a sense of aesthetic beauty and harmony. Make up can completely transform a person. The beauty of a make-up artist depends on how easily he is able to bring the best out of the model, keeping in mind the lighting and styling part of the shoot.
Where do you think India is, in terms of Fashion photography?
India has come far away, when it comes to fashion photography. Especially with Vogue, Harper’s bazaar and few other international magazines have recently hit the Indian market since few years. There is an enormous need for fashion photography… Which is great!! It is now India’s turn to pave the way to this new form of “fashion expression”
What photographers from the past or present have influenced you the most?
Richard Avedon, Helmut newton, Steven Meisel and Peter Lindberg are few of them who inspire me. I love their style and their approach to creating very powerful fashion stories through their connection with the human form and emotions.
People call you the master of lights, how do you use lights? How do you even set it up?
The most important and the best part about photography is lighting. A very simple rule is to be natural. Working towards that idea helps shape your lighting whether it is studio or outdoor. Light is so personal. Each one sees light in a different way based on their past, their childhood and their emotional sense. I’d like to imagine beforehand what I’d like to see and then use lights as a tool to communicate this to the exterior world.
What about post production. How important it is and do you have a team that does it?
The importance of post-production depends on the kind of shoot we do and its usage. Yes I do have a freelance team. Retouching happens 100% in Advertising, 50- 60% in Fashion and about 5% for Portraits (I try to keep it as real as possible). The necessity of post-production depends on the idea behind the image (If one image is a result of multiple shots), then yes obviously!
Words of Wisdom for our readers
Be consistent in whatever you are passionate about, follow your instincts. Success comes with failure. With experience comes visual maturity. Don’t try too hard, be yourself and the rest will follow.