For Shantanu Sheorey, success in photography has always been about a quest to move beyond boundaries, as K Madhavan Pillai discovers.
While he speaks, one can sense a quietness about him. His latest series of work, with images shot primarily through his iPhone, reflects this quietude. And throughout the swirls, planes and forms, one can barely make out the slightest hint of restlessness. It is visible almost as an afterthought. I realised that this was the restlessness that comes from a kind of continuous searching, which in turn, is born only from an unusual clarity of vision. It is what allowed him to breath a lease of new creativity in the field of advertising photography many years ago, paving the way for many others in the process.
From the Dark, Into the Light
His tryst with photography began with experiments in a homegrown darkroom, during his years as a commercial arts student at Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai. At the time, photography and printing was all about experimentation for the pleasure of it. Soon, he found himself being asked by his seniors if he would do photography for them.
After he passed out, a meeting with the legendary Gautam Rajadhyaksha spurred him into commercial photography. A spate of assignments followed, but he soon felt discontent. “I would look at a lot of foreign magazines and tell myself that I could do so much more.” Shantanu landed in New York for some short courses on photography. He ended up spending a year there, attending talks, going for exhibitions, interacting and learning from some of the greatest legends there. When he got back to India, Shantanu’s commercial work took on distinctly personal hues. He began using techniques like blurs in advertising campaigns which was unheard of during those times. Later, even with advertising films, Shantanu brought in a sense of composition and lighting that was quite different from what was being practised. Over the years, Shantanu has worked on campaigns, editorial assignments and advertising films for some of the biggest companies and magazines in India.
For a photographer,the important people are the ones he photographs. They are what make him.
A Vast Palette to Experiment With
From tungsten lamps and flexible mirrors, to black and white film processing chemistries like Rodinal, Shantanu likes to experiment. Despite achieving success, he was never formulaic. “I am fascinated by reflective and textured surfaces and keep looking out for them, wherever I am,” he says. Shantanu believes that there is a process to photography. “I have always had a technical bent of mind so I found it easy to grasp concepts and technologies easily,” he says. “What is essential is a sense of discipline. Just as with any art, photography too has a science behind it which needs to be understood. All that equipment and technology is secondary.”
Speaking on digital technology, Shantanu believes that it has opened new doors to creativity. “Cameras and lights are important to do a certain kind of job. But it is only the medium between the photographer and the image… nothing more. Beautiful images, the quality of which is rarely seen today, have been shot using tungsten lights decades ago,” he points out.
New Beginnings and Moving Beyond
Shantanu is currently the Chair Professor at Symbiosis School of Photography, Pune, where he has designed a three-year BFA degree course in photography. Admissions opened this March. Shantanu has always sought to move beyond. “I have all these ideas and thoughts for creating something unique. I am not doing it for the sake of being different. One should be able to contribute something more than what is already there. It must escalate into a new area. I have personally followed this all my life. I believe that it is important, in these times, that students and photographers learn this, imbibe it and practise it,” he says.
To see more of Shantanu’s work, log on to www.shantanusheorey.com
This article originally appeared in the 2012 issue of Better Photography.