Arjun Kamath

Born 1987, India
Lives in: Bengaluru, India
Describe your art in 3 words: Vivid, aesthetically-rich, thought-provoking

My mind, a shining guillotine

"At large, my photographic works revolves around fascinating faces and characters. To put it simply, I love photographing people. My projects range from documentaries to fashion portraiture and advertising campaigns to tasteful weddings. But at the core, I enjoy telling stories and portraying the unique flavor each person brings to the world. At times, these stories are simple and endearing, taken during my travels, on fashion assignments while I collaborate with artists of the Indian film industry, or during wedding projects. At other times, they are complex and drive a social message. My photo stories called ‘Avani’, ‘Color of Our Skin’, and ‘The Anxiety Series’ are a testament, exploring grim realities of gender discrimination, racism, and mental illnesses through pictures and prose."

What themes does your work involve?
At large, my photographic works revolves around fascinating faces and characters. To put it simply, I love photographing people. My projects range from documentaries to fashion portraiture and advertising campaigns to tasteful weddings. But at the core, I enjoy telling stories and portraying the unique vibrance each person brings to the world. At times, these stories are simple and endearing, taken during my travels, on fashion assignments while I collaborate with artists of the Indian film industry, or during wedding projects. At other times, they are complex and drive a social message. My photo stories called ‘Avani’, ‘Color of Our Skin’, and ‘The Anxiety Series’ are a testament, exploring grim realities of women subjugation, racism, and mental illnesses through pictures and prose.
Describe your creative process.
It begins as a vivid thought which I translate into a final photograph. I start by listing ideas on paper, after which I research and read to ensure my approach is genuine. I also take the time to understand what about that story is important to me. Then comes the pre-production stage. I etch out the theme and story, which are accompanied by the mood board and storyboard. Then, it is all about blending all elements to craft a picturesque mis-en-scene. For fashion portraiture, it’s the make-up, wardrobe, and the overall setting and colours in my images. For photo stories, I have to build intricate worlds through characters, colours, sets, and props. Finally, after multiple inspections and revisits, when I still find my work aesthetically appealing, that’s when I know it is finished..
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
As an artist, this beautiful world that we live in, full of vibrant colours and stories, is my greatest inspiration. My work is also profoundly influenced by my roots and my connection with them. I like telling stories close to home because relating to them gives me the biggest playground to create. A third factor that plays a part in impacting my work is any kind of imbalance in society. Because then, I wish to talk about it in a way that touches people and passes on a message of hope, love, and empathy. To know that I have created something, that will hopefully become a part of history and be remembered is a humbling and elating thought, and it helps me to keep going at the end of the day.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
I honestly don’t think art can be so simply defined or segmented. Any genuine artist creates from the bottom of their heart and soul, so putting it into any bracket is not ideal for me. As long as artists are creating with their heart and soul, and staying true to the form, it is likely that the art they make will transcend all barriers, and somewhere in the process, become timeless. Even if the work of art ends up impacting a small bunch of consumers, it has done the magic it was made for. And for me, that is the bottom line– if your work inspires, moves, or changes even just a single person in a small way, it is a great piece of art.
What is the role of the artist today?
I believe that the artist’s role today is to recognise that people are consuming more art now than ever before, thanks to the power of the internet. More importantly, as responsible citizens, artists need to be mindful of what they are putting out into the world. Your art should be a relevant and breathing piece, born out of awareness. And when I talk about art in itself, I think every artwork should be a building block, thereby strengthening the world of art in its unique way. There is no stringent rule about what function it should have, but I encourage that your art evokes emotion. Even if you’re making art about something that’s dark and dreary, in the end, it should be a conversation starter or something that is able to stimulate feelings and help awaken one’s emotions from slumber.
The little boy from Hampi
The societal gambit: marriage over happiness
Holding on...
Congruence

 


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist