Sunday, August 24, 2014

My art should inspire the real me which is expressive and emotional, says Nikos Narkissos

In our effort to interview a photographer every fortnight, we at Films & TV World interviewed photographer Piyush Sharma nee Nikos Narkissos whose work pushes the boundaries of profession to create images that are emotional, edgy, original, and most of all capture uniquely social concepts with the moving times. Ignoring what other fellow photographers are doing, he clicks what inspires him to innovate, think and create his own unique personal style instead. And with this he aims to build a style and brand that will be essentially his brand mark. Here's a tete-a-tete with this amazing photographer..

Films & TV World: You are Piyush Sharma. Why did you pick Nikos Narkissos as your name for photography?
Nikos Narkissos: I took up the name Nikos Narkissos as a model and not as a photographer. Those days, I was working with European photographers and painters as a model. All of them used to pronounce Piyush differently. It was then that my agent Late Juan Javeir Bandera suggested me a name change. I wanted something very different and from Indo European Language - I agreed to choose between Greek and Sanskrit. So this Greek name was coined, post which I continued with the same. This name is also my tribute to my agent and mentor Juan Javier, as he gave it to me.

What first drew you to photography and how did you discover it?
In school, we had a subject on photography. Those days we did not have digital cameras, but certainly we had photography. My faculty was Trupti Tonde. It was an elective, so I had opted for different subject, but we used to have lots of interaction with friends who were studying photography and my faculty. Later, I also became a model and kept facing camera. In college when I went study Fashion Design and Technology, Fashion Photography was a compulsory subject. We also had a workshop from renowned photography guru, Girish Mistry. It was a culmination of all these that I ventured into photography. I would say it was formally introduced to me, rather than me discovering it. And it wasn’t that one fine morning I woke up and held the camera…

I still recollect the first time I faced camera, was for German Photographer, who spotted me in my aunt’s wedding. I was wearing a Thwab (Traditional Arab Dress for men), I was 6 years old. He clicked many pics of mine; one of it still lies in my aunts house in Varanasi. So, that was my first experience with professional fashion photography, you can say.

How did you find your calling in fashion photography?
I assisted few photographers. In 2007 I decided to shoot my own graduation collection, asking two of my photographer friends. So technically designer Nikos Narkissos, gave photographer Nikos Narkissos his first break. Since then I never stopped clicking. 

Any difficulties you encountered when you embarked on this profession?
Photography is an expensive vocation. So yes camera and equipment cost you a bomb. That is still one big problem. In beginning other than that I had no problem as such.
What do you think are some clichés in fashion photography you steer away from yourself?
See I am a trained fashion designer and photographer. I did not get into as a hobby. I believe in developing own concepts, have qualms in shooting Kitsch and Camp. Trends in photography keep changing - like in 2007 photoshop was extensively used. But such photo-shopped images are out of fashion now. However, many new photographers over edit pics and change backgrounds these days. I prefer staying away from doing so as many times such photos appear as a creative failure and end up looking preposterous kitsch. 

How important is content versus form for you? Does one play a stronger role than the other?
See I am a methodical person. And right since my college days to today, I begin with a concept. Until I am not sure of the concept I don’t take a step ahead. Then with models I prefer doing their test shoots and then go for final ones. As a photographer I click a concept not a model; though model are an essential part of the concepts.

There are so many possible narratives for each of your photographs. How important is it that your models share the same narrative?
It is very important for models to share my thoughts and believe in my concepts. Else without that they can’t express or emote. I have been a model myself, so I understand how important it is for the model to be aware of the narratives if you want the right clicks.

Do you give your models purely physical instructions, or do you let them be lost in their own mood?
A photographer is like a director. So he has to have a clear vision in his mind of what he is looking for. His instructions have to be précise and that will help the model to deliver what is expected.

How much of your shoots are instinctual versus planned?
Time is important and I am finicky. An organized thing is what I prefer. Things have to go as per schedule; wasting time is also wasting money. I am mostly much planned when I shoot – be it with clothes or make up and how much time each one should have. Also, I don’t like models turning late for trials or final shoot. As I am a Mumbaikar, I value time the most.

Do photographs naturally inspire or have more potential to inspire?
A photograph is like a painting - once clicked it every spectator tends to interpret or understand it in his own way or as they please. Thoughts of people have no limitations. A photographer must know he has delivered his baby and should be ready to let the baby face the world.

Do you ever work with an idea - very ordinary, yet very familiar, and very nondescript?
Well that is when I am covering fashion events. Otherwise I feel being creative is not about being laid back. Photography is not a fine art - it is commercial art.
Why are your concepts at times strange and even mysterious?
I like my concepts to be quirky. I hate doing conventional stuff. I do it as it is more commercially viable. But personally I like to work on concepts that are thought provoking and creatively challenging. I did shoots inspired from concept of Child Abuse, torture of prisoners in Abu Garib Jail, Urban Graffiti, Indian Boudoir etc. 

I also believe that life is to love and not to kill. Humanity cannot strive on blood bath and wars are a result of hunger for power and thus cannot be constructive. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that Israeli airstrikes and shelling have taken a “devastating toll on Gaza’s youngest and most vulnerable.” It is said that at least 429 children had been killed and 2,744 severely injured. This piece of news disturbed me a lot. And I felt I need to voice my opinion as an artist on this bloodbath in my own way. This led me to develop this concept "Crusade for Peace" as my ode to the innumerable deaths in Gaza. 

After finishing it, the advent of Ebola virus shocked the world. And again a new concept was ready to be shot. In short, I feel art should be expressive.

What locations draw you most?
It depends on the concepts. But ancient architecture inspires me the most. I love textures. I have done max. shoots in Lal Bagh in Bangalore where nature is in opulence. In terms of location I guess, I’ m impulsive. 
These days it’s a fad to click nudes? What goes into clicking a good aesthetic nude?
Well I have clicked a couple of male and female nudes. It went with the concepts and the expressions. None of the nudes I have clicked had any sexual overtones or concepts as matter of fact. Also that Abu Garib Jail required the models to go naked was one reason I worked on those. I guess there is nothing wrong with erotic nudes, but I have not done any of those ones till now.

What is the difference between nudity and vulgarity?
There is thin line between the two. Neither is wrong as there are audiences for both - you just need to choose whom you want to cater. I prefer neither, instead I prefer expressiveness - whatever be it - and expressions can be conventionally beautiful. The purpose also defines between the both. If it was random it is porn. But these days, even porn is also, very much planned.

Who are your favorite fashion photographers and how did they influence you?
In India I have been close to Gautam Rajyadaksha. He was a guide and was an amazing personality. Of course Girish Sir too. I am also influenced by the works of Mario Testino, Bruce Weber, Terry Richardson, Steven Meisel, Mario Sorrenti and Inez & Vinoodh. My favorite is Juergen Teller. I did a project on him while in college when I was studying fashion photography.

What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
Emotions! I think from heart and have always done things that my heart was ok with. Brain is rational but I am an artist and my art should inspire the real me which is expressive and emotional. That is what people should take from work.

What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue fashion photography?
Don’t get swept up in what “the industry” is doing or what other fellow photographers are doing. It may sound cliché, but stay true to what inspires you and innovate, think and create your own unique personal style instead. Also keep connected to the technical advances and what your competition is doing, but at times it is best to just ignore everyone and everything and do what drives you. Aim to build a style and brand that will outlive any trend.
Much as we enjoyed interviewing Nikos, we do hope you all will enjoy this interview and the quirky themes that he has been working on. Whether you're an amateur or a seasoned pro, we also hope this interview will inspire you to stamp your own imprint on the landscape of great photography and become the best and most innovative photographer you possibly can be. Remember your thoughts and comments will be appreciated.

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