Ian grew up in Colaba. He was educated in Mumbai and graduated with a B.Com degree. He went to London in 1979 and studied photography at the Polytechnic of Central London, UK and worked at Colorama Processing labs too. Spent 3 months in Chicago assisting various photographers. In 1984, Ian returned to Mumbai and begun his career as an Advertising & Industrial Photographer and have successfully completed 30 years in the profession. He specializes in Still Life, Industrial, Jewellery, Food, Industrial and Product Photography.
Why are you a photographer?
As a teenager I began to love photography. My Dad is a serious amateur photographer. I got interested in photography and on a holiday, one day, he let me use the camera. My parents then realised that I had some talent and encouraged me to pursue photography as a career. They then sent me to London to study photography .
Do you remember any decisive moment when you felt “I want to be a photographer”?
As I mentioned, my talent for photography was obvious from a young age. My parents took us on a holiday to the UK and US in 1976. I shot a lot of images on the trip. My Dad, who was Co-founder of Chaitra Advertising, was able to use one of the images of the Statue of Liberty that I had shot, in an advertisement. It was then that I decided that I would make a career out of photography .
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I learnt the basics of photography from Prof Pillai at the Indo American Society and this training has helped me a great deal in my pursuit of photography as a career.
Since my Dad was from the Advertising fraternity, the late Wilas Bhende and Late Mitter Bedi were family friends. My dad worked closely with them. I observed their work. Mitter Bedi was kind enough to permit me to attend one of his Industrial shoots where I learnt a lot. Later in life when I had decided to come back to India and start my career as a photographer, it was Wilas Bhende, who had the agency for certain photographic equipment, met me in Cologne and Zurich and helped me purchase exactly the equipment that I required and at a discount.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in photography?
Early in my career, Andrea who was an accomplished Art Director, who was well versed in the advertising and photography, was a major influence in my initial years of my career.
I was lucky enough to get good challenging campaigns from my clients. Those clients too were a major influence in my career.
How has photography changed over the course of the last couple of decades? Is execution/art direction more important than it used to be?
It has changed tremendously over the last decades. On the positive side, technology has improved a great deal and this has given us the opportunity to produce technically better images. The advent of digital has also added a new dimension as we can see the results immediately without having to wait hours for the film to be processed. This has reduced the stressful part of photography.
On the negative side, the advent of Photoshop and other such software has changed the way photography is executed. Because of this most Photographers have stopped thinking. Where an image can be accomplished in one shot, multiple shots are taken and then composed in the software. Photographers are less meticulous while shooting as they think they can always fall back on the software to finish the images.
As mentioned above, the technology has improved photography but any software cannot replace the aesthetics, composition, exposure and mood of the image.
What do you think of the current state of Print Advertising photography in India? Is it at par with the work done worldwide?
Print Advertising photography has evolved considerably in the past 2 decades. It is now of a very high standard but still not anywhere close to world standards. Before we can be on par with world standards, clients need to understand the cost and value of good photography. That seems to be lacking. In India, most clients consider Photography as an expense and not an investment. Large budgets are allocated for TVCs but when it comes to Photography they have miniscule budgets. This not only stifles the creativity of the AD. It also limits the extent to how far the envelope can be pushed in Photography. Abroad a lot of sets are used in photography. Huge dummies are made of products so that lighting can be enhanced. If clients cooperate with bigger budgets, we can be on par with work done worldwide.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired from beauty that lies around me, whether it’s nature or just people. I draw inspiration from life in general I guess. Having said that, there are some good ADs and Designers who come up with challenging ideas that test my skills in photography. These challenges help me sharpen me and keep me abreast with times.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit photography?
Of course, a couple of times. In the good old days, when photographs were shot on film, photographers got the due respect because the acumen and skill could be displayed in the output. Now with the advent of digital photography that respect has got diluted. The current generation thinks that the best way to become a good photographer lies in owning the best DSLR. Once they acquire and own one, they think they are professionals. But as we know, photography is not about the camera; it’s about composition, creativity, hard work and above all perseverance.
On the other hand, clients are also under tremendous pressure and therefore so consumed in getting work done at the most cost effective price (read cheap), that it matters little whether a photographer is a wannabe, has a few years experience or as in my case, is a veteran who has 30+ years of experience. Clients are willing to spend huge sums on their infrastructure, employees, showrooms, etc., but when it comes to designing and photography, they don’t invest as much as required as that is not their priority.
Any current work in Indian Advertising that you find exciting? Especially Print?
A few TVCs like Airtel and Vodafone are excellent. As for print, I can’t really recall any Ad or campaign that is exciting. Possibly, the recent Mumbai Mirror campaign with images shot by Prashant Godbole, was exciting.
What’s your dream project?
Shooting a Cookbook with various cuisines of the world. I did one for Femina almost 20 years ago. Now with new technology and good food stylists, I could do wonders and create some fascinating images.
Who would you want to spend a dinner with?
Raghu Rai and Sachin Tendulkar (I am crazy about cricket)
What’s on your iPod?
Never owned one but if I did, it would have good music, especially Jazz.
Mac or PC?
Mac without a doubt
What’s your Twitter Handle?