‘Memory maker’ on the significance of still photography in the modern ‘social media’ world
In the olden days people were wary of being photographed since they believed that a photographer could capture one’s soul through the camera.
Cut to the modern world, and people are ever ready to pose at the snap of a finger, but even as you peer into the abyss of images strewn around social media, you’d be hard pressed to find many pictures with a soul.
How relevant is still photography in a world inundated with ‘picture perfect’ Instagram snaps that belie the shadows and darkness that lie beneath the surface.
“We can’t fight the rapid evolution of technology,” confesses Sheena Sippy who boasts over 25 years of experience as a portrait photographer.
“It does serve the purpose of democratization of art and access to an otherwise expensive medium. Smartphones have their limitations but in the hands of smart photographers can make interesting content. Renowned photographers have shot magazine covers and campaigns with their phones. In the end, it is more the eye than the tool that determines interesting photography. But of course, better tools allow you to capture a better version of that moment.”
Daughter of Padma Shri filmmaker Ramesh Sippy, Sheena has spent years honing her skills and will be in Dubai from May 5-15 to offer her expertise for those looking to capture memories for eternity.
The ‘memory maker’ tells us why old fashioned photographs are still relevant in a world that is trying to hold on to precious memories, of ourselves and our loved ones.
How do you react to the common perception that photography is a lost art in today’s world where everybody imagines themselves to be a great photographer armed with the latest mobile phone?
This is such a complex question with no easy answers… the evolution of technology is inevitable and important. We all benefit from the access to affordable tech. I admit though, that I find it exhausting to see a vastness of ordinary images and the extent of mundane vanity being shared indiscriminately! However, I do believe that there is a distinction to be made between capturing a memory for our own records and that of a professional capturing moments for posterity. Ultimately the spirit and the eye of an artist will be the differentiator. A better tool allows you to capture a better version of that moment.
You belong to an illustrious family of filmmakers. As such do you believe it was natural for you to gravitate towards this field of still photography? Do you recollect that one moment from your childhood that set the path for you as a photographer?
Yes, I grew up in a family of people passionate about cinema. Hindi Cinema was considered more taboo than triumph in those days. But I remember being aware that it was not your usual 9 to 5 world. It was a make-believe world where hundreds of people had to come together for hours, days and weeks to make a few seconds come alive on screen. A world in which hundreds of anonymous musicians played together in orchestrated glory for the background scores that the audience took for granted. I was fascinated by this world. My maternal grandfather was a passionate photographer. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I am convinced that I must have inherited some of his enthusiasm and was further drawn to photography when I received a camera as a birthday gift at 9 or 10 years old. I then became the self-appointed family photographer and that was the beginning of my journey… No matter what else I do, photography will continue to be a significant part of my being.
Your Insta identifies you as a ‘Memory maker’. What’s your personal best memory so far and how have you managed to capture it for eternity?
Without a doubt I would say having captured the childhood of both my son, Zahan, and my daughter, Shaira, is something I will always treasure and I hope that they do too. Material possessions are replaceable, most of them at any rate… And the mind can be fragile… So many of my own memories are actually moments recalled from photographs of my childhood.
Many people bemoan they are not photogenic; they are never happy with any of their pictures. What, according to you, makes a good subject matter for photography?
Whether we admit it or not, we all harbor a certain vanity. We are all conscious of our reflections and we filter and curate the images we share of ourselves. Society and social media have defined parameters of beauty over the years that are far from standard… and far from realistic. But in the end, we are all unique and should embrace our features and flaws alike to create honest portraits of ourselves. In cinema the man who has done this with great aplomb is Pedro Almodovar. Real life is a canvas of all shapes, sizes, colors, and features.
Photographers are expected to capture the very essence of a person; how people imagine themselves to be rather than how they actually are. How do you face this challenge?
There is a beautiful quote by Annie Leibovitz that sums it up for me… “To see people as they are, as they imagine themselves, as they wish to be. To be witness, the friend, the judge, the accomplishment. To record their moment.” For me, it’s a fine balance, a conversation and exploration between the artist and the muse.
Based on your experience what’s the trick to getting a good photograph?
Million Dollar Question! Timing? Luck? Lighting? mood? Angle? Composition? Storytelling? So many things go into getting a good photograph…
You’ve photographed celebs from Naomi Campbell to Amitabh Bachchan and many others. Who is the one celebrity you are itching to photograph?
There are two celebrity couples that I am in awe of and would love to photograph with their families: George and Amal Clooney and Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Both to me represent beauty and brains, with a dash of good humour!
What can clients expect from your Dubai photography sessions?
I hope to share a slightly more candid approach to family portraits. I hope that the kind of portraits I make remain timeless treasures to be handed down generation after generation. To contextualize the value, I have a friend who never fails to remind me that if she ever had to flee her home, the only thing she would take would be the photographs I shot of her young boys. But the biggest compliments and endorsements I have received are from the now grown up children I photographed who tell me that my photographs are their most favourite!
Sheen Sippy will be in Dubai from May 5-15 as part of her Making Memories photography session. From couples to babies and families and pets, everyone who is on the lookout to capture indelible memories can book a session. Mail on email@example.com or WhatsApp on 00919820233393 to book a slot, which includes 120 minutes session with 21 edited photos for Dh4500.