4 Homegrown Photoseries That Intersect Fashion & Cultural Identity

Here are 5 homegrown photoseries that use fashion as a lens to dissect cultural heritage.
Here are 5 homegrown photoseries that use fashion as a lens to dissect cultural heritage.L: Gorkey Patwal R: Divya Balakrishnan

Fashion has been interlinked with photography since the beginning of the art form. People have always dressed up for photoshoots in different contexts since then. Whether it was for family pictures at the local photo studios with kitschy landscape backgrounds that middle class families would save up for or the highly anticipated editorial shoots from the biggest fashion houses, we've been using clothing as a means of storytelling in various way that define our current zeitgeist.

In the last 20 years, nostalgia has been a constant source of inspiration for creatives. Everytime we move forward aesthetically, there's an urge to look back. In the current landscape, where global fashion trends are highly accessible through digital mediums, this phenomenon manifests as a desire to look into our own textile traditions through regional handicrafts and personal narratives. To understand this better, here are 5 homegrown photoseries that use fashion as a lens to dissect cultural heritage.

Making Of Kalamkari By Gorkey Patwal

Through this captivating photoseries, Gorkey's lens captures a story of heritage, resilience, and creativity.
Through this captivating photoseries, Gorkey's lens captures a story of heritage, resilience, and creativity.Gorkey Patwal

Gorkey Patwal takes us to Srikalahasti, Andhra Pradesh where artisans practice Kalamkari, a heritage textile tradition boasting a history of over 3,000 years. Gorkey’s lens captures the entire printing process, from the skilled hands carving designs onto wooden blocks to the natural dyes imprinting pure cotton fabrics. We witness the indigenous techniques behind Kalamkari - from treating cloth with a cow dung and water solution, to the application of a myrobalan and buffalo milk concoction that acts as both a fixative and a base for the coming colors. Each fabric undergoes multiple rounds of printing, with artisans applying layers of red, black, blue, yellow, and green. The Patachitra, a traditional form of scroll painting, inspires the motifs, often depicting deities and mythological scenes. Commissioned by homegrown brand Archana Jaju, the series culminates in a breathtaking documentation of an ancient textile tradition that is widely celebrated both in and outside of India.

Check it out here.

Women In Fashion By Naveli Choyal

Stills from Naveli Choyal's photoseries.
'women in fashion'Naveli Choyal

We travel to Ajmer, Rajasthan with Naveli Choyal's photo project that delves into the fascinating world of handcrafted jewellery, a cornerstone of Rajasthani culture. Her focus isn't just on the intricate designs but on the stories they tell. Each piece, from delicate anklets to ornate nose rings, carries deep symbolism; reflecting a woman's caste, community, marital status, and even religious beliefs. Naveli's photographs showcase the artistry involved in crafting these adornments, using materials like gold, silver, ivory, brass, and colourful threads. We see not just the jewellery itself but how it exists in the daily lives of Rajasthani women. From young girls adorned with colorful bangles to married women wearing specific pieces that signify their new life stage, the photographer's work unveils the cultural narratives embedded within these traditional ornaments.

Check it out here.

My Mother's Carpet By Simone Gandhi

My Mother's Carpet
My Mother's CarpetSimone Gandhi

Simone’s series transcends the realm of fashion photography, transforming into a deeply personal exploration of heritage. Faced with a creative time crunch, Simone turned to her mother's treasures for inspiration. Richly patterned carpets, steeped in family history, became the foundation for the shoot. Combining these with her collaborator Nahid's elegant saris, she created a visual feast that resonates on multiple levels. The series isn't just about the exhibition of exquisite fabrics; it's about the emotional connection between them and the history they hold. The photographs capture a sense of timeless elegance amidst the chaos of a windy shoot. More importantly, the photographer’s use of these personal artifacts imbues the series with a profound sense of cultural identity. The carpets and saris become more than just props; they are tangible threads that connect the photographer to her past, her mother, and her heritage.

Check it out here.

Character Study By Divya Balakrishnan

Photo of a man wearing a suit jacket, tie and a kasavu veshti with doc martens, and a skirt made from Bharatanatyam costume pleats styled over denim, styled by divya balakrishnan and photographed by sahil behal
Divya Balakrishnan

This series emerges as an explosion of self-expression and cultural exploration. Inspired by her time at London's Central Saint Martins College, her series challenges conventional notions of fashion, creating a visual language that celebrates the multifaceted nature of Indian identity. We see traditional garments like lungis and veshtis juxtaposed with modern elements like Doc Martens boots. A model dons a deconstructed Bharatanyam skirt, its pleats stitched into a playful mini, while another sports a sheer co-ord set paired with a classic kasavu veshti. These bold juxtapositions are further accentuated by details like haldi-stained nails, a nod to the "curried" Indian stereotype, and bindis adorning headphones. Divya collaborated with a talented team, including photographer Sahil Behal and makeup artist Pratiksha Nair, to create a cohesive visual narrative. Divya's ‘Character Study’ is a call to embrace heritage in a contemporary world through creativity.

Check it out here.