Riddhi Parekh is not your usual photographer. She believes in power of expression through photography. Through her memorable still shots, Riddhi beautifully highlights the bewildering and thought-provoking questions that underpin Indian society. Through visual communication she highlights India’s psychological mindset and true identity. At her core, she is a life-long learner and believes in the practice of continuous evolution to achieve the best version of oneself.
1. Photography is still viewed as a male dominant field. Making a mark in it must have been a challenge. What did your journey entail, from Riddhi to Riddhi Parekh: Photographer. Artist. Visionary.
Riddhi Parekh: Yes, photography is a male dominant industry but things are definitely changing and one does see more female photographers making their mark in the industry. But I wasn’t raised like that, I was very lucky to have parents who understood me and treated me as an individual rather than a girl child. The only challenge one can normally face is- trying to master one’s craft. I wanted to study abroad but we were not in the position to afford it. So finding different mediums to learn and achieve the same level of education was what took it’s time and course. I still learn something new everyday in order to keep this up and running. As a freelance photographer, male or female, more than your gender; your perspective, aesthetics and your business sense is what will take you forward. Having said that I am sure we have a long way to go to pave our path in this industry and there are definitely few biases regarding what kind genre of photography is more suitable for a girl- for example Automobile photography will not come easily to a girl photographer.
2. The train series is a brilliant piece of art. It received a lot of attention. Positive and negative. What kind of backlash did you face in terms of representing the supposed ‘classes’ in one frame? What would you say is the root cause of people viewing these pictures as ‘poverty porn’ or ‘class inappropriation?’
Riddhi Parekh: That’s a tough and sensitive one. You are right I did get my fair bit of backlash for this series. Lot of people were not comfortable seeing a fairly white girl with a bunch of brown “underprivileged men”. My question to those people is- Why are they assuming that those people are poor and taken advantage of? Why do they think I didn’t take their consent before taking those photos? Why do they think that girl is not Indian? Why is it so uncomfortable to see a girl standing strongly amongst those men? How is this poverty porn? Did any of the photos depict those men were beneath or lower than the girl? Isn’t fair skin shaming not racism? Would people be more comfortable if the girl was brown or the men were also white? I don’t have answers, I only have more questions.
3. Shoots must be stressful but fun! What’s a fond memory you’d like to share from behind the scenes?
Riddhi Parekh: Oh yes, shoots are always fun. I completely enjoy how consumed I am when I am shooting and how alive and in the moment I am. There are tons of fun memories but the train series is definitely one unique one. Getting the model ready in a moving train was not an easy task. We had to put eyeliner between two stations and curled her hair standing near the washroom area with a mobile plug. But in the end, it was totally worth it.
Another fun assignment I take up every year is with RTX. It’s a road trip residency where you travel and collaborate with multiple artists local and international. So far I have traveled to Sri Lanka, Odisha, and Gujarat with them, and every trip I have created something personal and magical. This year I created floating Instruments portraits.
4. You’ve come a long way. You’ve tried many professions and finally found what gives you joy but what’s next is Riddhi’s journey?
Riddhi Parekh: Oh tons, I am always excited to try new things. I recently co-directed my first digital ad for coca-cola India. Direction is definitely something I am dabbling in. But photography is my first passion and I want to create more personal work that I can be proud of and is unique yet inspiring.
5. What’s a message or mantra you’d want to give to the youth of this country?
Riddhi Parekh: There is a lot I can say but one that is my personal Mantra is “Never stop being a student- Evolve everyday”.
Learning anything never goes to waste and knowing your craft is the best bet to succeeding. But if you want to be a working artist know for a fact that you have to be good at not just your craft but also other aspects of your business. Marketing, finances, client servicing, pricing, understanding the market trends- embracing it or breaking them. All of this is as important if not more than the talent you have. Also just Do it and keep clicking.