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Shailan Parker: Light at the Centre

A versatile photographer based in New Delhi, Shailan Parker has over 30 years’ experience across a broad spectrum of photography disciplines. He is a partner with PhotoDesign whose clients include leading corporate organisations such as ITC Hotels, Nestle India, the Thapar Group, NAFED, etc. Trained in Visual Communication at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Shailan brings to photography a keen understanding of design concepts, graphics and digital technology. As an educator and mentor, he has contributed extensively as a guest faculty with various prestigious design institutes, including NID, NIFT, and IICD. He also conducts immersive photo workshops and treks for students of all ages and professions.

1. When did you decide and what prompted you to become an artist? Please give a brief account of your challenges and struggles in your journey as an artist. Any role models?

SP: Growing up, I was always scribbling something or the other. My parents would appreciate whatever I would create. This formative experience of having the support of my parents towards my creative interests was an important factor in my journey as an artist. It confirms my belief that not supporting creativity in children can have a detrimental effect on their holistic growth of a child.

My art teacher in school encouraged me to take drawing exams and apply to art colleges in my home state of Maharashtra. My classmate’s brother who had seen some of my drawings asked me for some help in creating a portfolio to apply to a new design college in Ahmedabad. He got admission and the next year returned with an application form for me, insisting this was where I was meant to be. Knowing my interest in photography, he told me that his institution, NID, was the only place to really learn photography. My years at NID were critical in my understanding and appreciation of art and design.

Setting up a photography practice after completing the NID course was a challenge, both in terms of creating my own niche and developing a client base.

2. What art project(s) are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?

SP: I’m currently exploring a variety of photographic techniques, but I’ve not yet settled on what my next big artistic project or series will be.

Untitled 01, 2016

Untitled 05a, 2016

Untitled 20, 2016

Untitled 25, 2016

Untitled 29, 2016

Untitled 30, 2016

Untitled 37, 2016

Untitled 39, 2016

3. Contemporary art has become very diverse and multidisciplinary in the last few decades. Do you welcome this trend? Is this trend part of your art practice?

SP: I don’t believe this is the case. Contemporary art has not ‘become’ diverse and multidisciplinary; it is by its very nature diverse. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Moreover, photography has also always been a multidisciplinary field. Before the advent of digital photography, after a picture had been taken one had to develop the picture in a dark room, and then get a printer to recreate accurately the tonality of the negative onto paper. Development and printing were each an art on their own. Today the printer has been replaced with technology, while the development process has become digital. As the printer is no longer in use, one could make the argument that photography as an art has, in fact, become less diverse and less multidisciplinary. However, I do see an increase in diversity among artists themselves.

4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?

SP: Art is defined by the Oxford dictionary as an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. As a professional photographer, the expression is usually for the client rather than for oneself. It becomes self-expression when one shoots in one’s own time without the client’s input. Both processes, however, can produce something that can be considered art. Whether or not art has a social impact depends on how it is used. Very rarely will an artist by himself make a social impact just by creating art. It takes the will and vision of individuals and organisations to use art to promote social change.

5. Where do you create your art (workplace / studio)? What is your process?

SP: Light is at the centre of my artistic process; it is both a tool I use and the source of my inspiration. Orchestrating the lights in a studio to breathe life into a composition is the essence of my artistic expression.

6. To what extent will the world of art change in the post-Covid period – both in terms of what is created as also the business of art?

SP: As the adage goes, art imitates life. In a world plagued by Covid, pun intended, it is only natural that it finds its way into representations in the world of art. Aside from being directly represented, the impact that the pandemic has had on every facet of life will also be represented in art. However, this does mean that the nature of art itself will change.

The pandemic has affected the economy of the whole world, so it is not surprising that the business of art is affected as well.

7. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice . Does it get reflected

in your art?

SP: I like to believe I have a bit of a green thumb. I enjoy planting and nurturing plants. I also firmly believe in sustainable living and being in balance with nature. I hope to, one day sustain myself purely on the fruits and vegetables grown on my own land. I think this connection with nature is reflected in some of my work, especially in the interaction of light with plants, leaves, buds, flowers and fruits.


The artamour questionnaire is a regular series of interviews with visual artists across disciplines, who share their views about art, their practice and their worldview on a common questionnaire template. Like, comment, share and subscribe to stay updated.

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