Framing Fashion - Shreyans Dungarwal

The experimental, fashion, and beauty photography of Shreyans Dungarwal is a feast for the eyes, bursting with detail and hues that pop. His method is highly filmic, designing and building elaborate sets to create pictures of extraordinary detail and narrative. His work explores the characters’ emotional states by playing with performance and symbolism in order to produce deeply evocative moods. 

One thing I have noticed is that you already have an idea of what you want before you meet your subject. What ideas are they?
No, not all the time. My ideas and concept depend on the face. Sometimes you get a certain idea of someone when you read about them or see them on screen and then you want to bring that out in them at the shoot. My latest concept, ‘Altered Carbon,’ for example, I met this model at a friend’s party and noticed his perfect jawline. I instantly got the idea of shooting with him differently, so I went up to him and we discussed the concept.

Then there are times when I do have a concept. For instance, I always wanted to work on suicide or mental awareness and I did a photo series with a friend recently. ‘Suicide’ seeks to highlight the misunderstanding of mental illness in by showing the various stages of anxiety and depression. This series captures portraits of depression, resilience, and hope and is not intended to focus on the negatives of mental illness, but encourages the audience to find beauty in themselves and in their struggles.

Your love for shooting in films is evident in your recent work. What made you start in the first place? Do you ever worry about not getting the shot due to bad development, poor exposure, etc.?
Shooting medium format film gives me a sense of discipline that I otherwise lacked, and I knew right away that this was the perfect tool for me. Besides, I find the entire process far more interesting. Knowing that I have a very limited number of exposures to make really forces me to study the scene and compose carefully. Although it slows me down, I enjoy it since there’s a lot more to explore with the film. Even after many years of experience, there’ the chance that you just don’t quite know how something will come out and that’s the thrill.

What are your thoughts on doing work for free?
Many think professional photography is just as easy as picking up a camera, shooting a few pictures and that’s it. This is a distorted perception, and it is happening because many don’t know what goes into doing photography as a profession. There is a creative part that goes into it that consumes energy. There is also the investment the professional photographers have to make in their studios, gear, professional trips, electronic equipment, bills, and everything else.

Please elaborate…
So in the past two years, I have noticed, both in Mumbai and in Hyderabad, that photographers don’t have unity among ourselves. They’re a wedding photographer, but they also want to do food or fashion photography. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying different genres of photography, finding your niche, and experimenting. In fact, I encourage it! But as you do it, begin honing in one genre, stick to that, develop it, and evolve when you feel like you’ve outgrown it.

However, there are some photographers who are rather busy stealing each other’s work. What they don’t understand is that it was never about poaching client or have that “if you can do this, I can do it better” notion. Photography was never about this. There is a style of work what every other photographer has. There’s a reason why big designers want to take different photographer for different campaigns, they want to hire you because of your distinctive style of work. So if they want pictures like Tarun Khiwal or colston, they will hire them.

A lot of my clients started collaborating with other amateur photographers only because they will do it for free. And after the pictures get printed on magazines, newspapers, and hoardings, they are worried about the quality. You shouldn’t under-price yourself just to steal clients from other established photographers.

You were able to successfully transform your passion into a career, something most people just dream of doing. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing photography as a full-time job?
Never work for free. Filing yourself into the “I’ll work for free” category is not good publicity. It’s bad networking and ruins your own perception of value. I mean each time an amateur takes an unpaid job thinking they’re jump-starting their career, they’re destroying any hope of job security. If we all started saying no to unpaid gigs, we’d all be asked a lot less. When you agree to shoot or produce photographs for nothing, you lock yourself out of your own price range.

What equipments do you carry?
Right now I’m carrying my film camera Hasselblad 500cm
ilford and kodak films. In digital, I use Sony a7riii a7riii
85mm 24-70 70-200. I also take profoto B10 and B1 lights.