Kalpesh Lathigra was born in London, England in 1971 and educated at the London College of Printing with a Postgraduate Diploma in Photojournalism. After leaving the course in 1994, he was awarded The Independent Newspaper Photographer Traineeship. Kalpesh worked for The Independent as a staff photographer for one year before freelancing for the national newspapers in the UK for 6 years covering news and features. In 2000 , he gave up working for newspapers and made the decision to work on long term projects and magazine and commercial assignments. In the same year he was awarded a 1st Arts prize in the World Press Photo. In 2003, he embarked on a long term project documenting the lives of Widows in India, receiving The W.Eugene Smith Fellowship and Churchill Fellowship. In 2005, Kalpesh started a new approach to his photographic practice merging fine art and documentary practice for his projects looking at the Lakota Sioux, Native American tribe on Pine Ridge, South Dakota, USA. Transmission ( HIV in India) and Anglo- Afghan War .Kalpesh continues to work for the leading international magazines on assignments alongside personal projects.
Why are you a Photographer?
Theres something quite magical about taking photographs. Photography in many ways is a solitary activity and that suits my temperament. It allows me to tell stories about the people and countries I visit and challenges me intellectually and creatively.
Any decisive moment when you decided to become a photography?
Yes I was in Selfridges ( a Department store in London) , I looked at a photography book “Henri Cartier Bresson in India”, obviously I didn’t know anything about Bresson at that stage but it led me to search his work, one thing led to another, I was studying Law at the time, and eventually dropped out of the course to pursue photography.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
My father instilled a love of literature in me , whether it was the daily newspaper to plays and novels, so I was introduced to Shakespeare, Dickins, Tagore etc I still read alot and just reread Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in photography?
Thats quite difficult , I love the work of Mitch Epstein, Clare Richardson, William Egglestone, Stefan Ruiz and Alec Soth to name a few.
But in terms of influential personality that has to be Nadav Kander, I attended a workshop with him Spain last year, His approach,dignity and focus in his all his work is self evident but what stood out more than anything else is his
humility and generosity of spirit. He has been hugely influential in helping me in all levels of my photographic practice this year / 2009 .
How has photography changed over the course of the last couple of decades? Is execution/art direction more important than it used to be?
Well I think obviously we have had a digital revolution but more importantly I think that photography’s broad church means that many photographers are no longer bound by the old fashioned ways where fashion photographers only shot fashion or photojournalists only shoot news or stories etc etc, today you can find a fashion photographer shooting a serious story bringing their vision to the story or vice versa. There are more outlets for work to be shown. I think also digital has forced many photographers to question their craft , I now shoot on a 5×4 film camera and a digital, I very much feel that whilst digital is easy , the photographer has to have vision and authorship in their work. That comes from turning back to the craft of picture taking and slowing yourself down so that you can move faster in the development of your photographs.
In terms of execution and art direction, I dont think it is more or less important, good creatives work with each other and respect the vision, it comes down to a collabrative process…..!! in terms of personal photography projects I think the formation of ideas where it is no longer found photography but set pieces ie Gregory Crewdson are interesting in their own right, as well the ideas of documentary photographers are finding new ways to tell stories which challenge the viewer without cliches. I think if you look at Alec Soth ‘s Fashion Magazine , he collabrated with stylist Camila Nickerson, you can see two creatives who work and bring themselves to the body of work.
What do you think of the current state of Print Advertising photography in India? Is it at par with the work done worldwide?
Yes I am very much in touch with work in India, I have a love affair with India very much love and hate..!! and I am Gujerati by origin via Junagudh, Zanziber and Kenya …..! yes I am a NRI….!!!
The likes of Bharat Sikka, Anay Mann, Anita Khemka are challenging the stereotypes of photography we have seen of India. In terms of commerical work someone like Tejal Patni shoots amazing campaigns which are original.
So in many ways India photography is healthy , in terms of magazines and ad agencies there are so many new opportunities in India. Yes the work is on par being done worldwide, but we live in the age of globalization so I feel that
you will find photographers from wherever working all over the world. There is more dialogue in photography and that is opening up new ideas for photographers.
Any current work in Indian Advertising that you find exciting? Especially Print?
Bharat Sikka -: Space in Between
Anay Mann : Neetika
Anita Kehmka : Self Portraits
Tejal Patni – Land Rover Campaign
There is a certain sense of stylization in your work. Its almost like a signature. Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration is by so many things, books , paintings, poetry and life. If you sit in a gallery and look at Mark Rothko’s or Jackson Pollock’s painting, read Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance……or listen to Miles Davis
all of these experiences will influence you, so when you are there with your camera you have so much to draw upon.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit photography?
I am only getting started….!!!! also looking at filmmaking..!!!
Any current projects of yours?
” Lily – A study of Narcissism and Celebrity” ( see attached picture)
Whats your dream project?
I do have one but am a little superstious of putting the idea out there..!!
Who would you want to spend a dinner with?
Friends , Family ……….Rothko……..Mandela…….Muhammed Ali ( The Greatest) ………and Shakespeare….!!! and Miles Davis…….!!
Whats on your iPod?
Miles Davis – A kind of Blue
Abhiman _ old school indian songs that I grew up with, my folks used to play the album every weekend ….that film with Amitabh
Coldplay, Jeff Buckley ….lots of others
But if you want one album it has to be Miles Davis – A Kind of Blue….
Mac or PC..??
Do you even have to ask…!!!!! MAC…!!!!