Photographer Interview: Manjari Sharma

Photographer Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma contacted me about her latest work “The Shower Series”, a project that Manjari says “began with me and a fascination of this light, color, texture in my own space…” I’ve selected a few of my favorite shots from the series below. 

There was a spiritual aspect (with the use of water and natural light) to them that immediately struck me and I love how this series raises questions in my head about their context.

Follow Manjari’s whereabouts on her personal blog and connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn. 

D&B: Where are you from?

I’m from Mumbai, India – born and raised.

D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started – any “formal” training?
I shoot portraiture and have two Bachelor degrees in Photography. One from Mumbai, India from S.V.T college, Juhu campus (S.N.D.T University) and one from Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio.

D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
I use a Nikon D2x, I also sometimes shoot with a Mamiya C330.

The Shower Series by Manjari Sharma
D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
I take a lot of inspiration from Brian Oglesbee and Greg Miller’s work. Greg Miller I have had the chance to learn a lot from this year. I am thankful for his generosity and wisdom immensely. In school I worked closely with Bharat Mirchandani, who was my photography professor in Mumbai.

D&B: Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a woman and/or photographer of color? (this question is optional)

Being a woman is sometimes culturally challenging in India. It’s lot better now than it was in 2001. When I moved out of India, it was certainly a male dominated field and women were a minority and hence naturally had a smaller voice in the field. I got the chance to learn a lot from Mumbai-based photographer, Himanshu Seth who still continues to be an inspiration.

There was an obvious boys club back then and it’s still quite a male-dominated scene back at home. Now however, women have a stronger voice and the internet has allowed for a lot more opportunities and for exposure than there were in the past. Sometimes I was scrutinized on why being a woman who is strong in the language arts should I pursue such an unrewarding profession such as photography. All I can say is that I was fortunate to be born to extremely positive and supportive parents. 
When the world perhaps doubted me, my parents actually gave wind to my desire, helping me explore this love for image making in possibly a lesser judgmental environment. The West brought it’s own challenges but being away from home nurtured my love for photo.

The Shower Series by Manjari Sharma

D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer.
In my first year at college in Mumbai I wasn’t thinking of photo as a career really, I honestly remember goofing around a lot, but at the end of the year I was given an award for having made the strongest photography work in my class. I distinctly remember saying to myself that this is a wake up call to actually take what I do seriously. I wondered what my results would be like if I actually worked hard. 

I went on to win a few more competitions and was awarded an Outstanding Achievement award upon graduation. I freelanced with the Times of India for a bit, and then got a job as a photojournalist with a photography magazine called Better Photography – similar to PDN but in the South Asian market. 

It was a great experience that pushed me to follow my passion to the US where I did my second bachelors. At CCAD I learnt with more of a commercial/fine art bend. After graduation I worked with a publishing house for a year, where I shot a huge variety of subject matter. I finally chose to focus on portraiture and went freelance. 

I returned to India to reconnect with my roots and then made my most recent move two years ago to NYC. I shot and photo assisted through this journey meeting friends and mentors along the way that encouraged me to follow my voice chase the dream harder.  

D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
I hope to continue to satisfy my curiosity as an artist by using the medium of photography. I hope one day to be internationally known and recognized for my style of work and the passion I stir up, so as to draw and attract intriguing projects from different parts of the world to me. 

D&B: What’s your dream photography project?
I have two dream projects! 

1) To be funded to do a focused project: environmental portraiture based on untold stories about women and their struggles in India. 
2) To be invited to make pictures for stories told on NPR’s “This American Life“.

D&B: What’s the biggest (life) lesson you’ve learned through photography?
Be patient, the pictures are waiting to be made just as much as you want to create them. Every thing has a time and will happen no faster than it’s meant to. Have faith, stay strong and work hard. 

Read previous interviews with:  
George Pitts (NYC)
Neelakshi Vidyalankara (London, UK)
María Fernanda Hubeaut (Argentina)
Elia Alba (NYC)
Jaime Permuth (Guatemala)
William Vazquez (NYC/Puerto Rico)

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