Creative Director: Heidi Volpe
Photo Editor: Ankita Chandra
Photographer: Bikramjit Bose
Stylist: Ardhana Baruah
Heidi: How did you direct the women of the Commonwealth Games in order to capture their power, grace and strength? What was the conversation on set like?
I had the distinct advantage that they were all athletes of the highest standards, in peak physical form. So the power, the grace, the strength, all of it was already a given. I just had to find a way to bring it out at that given moment in time.
It helped that they were not used to being photographed, so there were no preconceived notions about how to pose or be in front of a camera. It helped that I spoke the same local language as some of them did, so that helped ease the situation and break the ice. And then, I asked them to imagine to recreate or re enact, what they would do when they’re actually competing. That was, I suppose, the only challenge – to get them into that mindset – to get their ‘game-faces’ on, as it were. Even though I was shooting against a seamless black cloth backdrop, I wanted their faces to reflect that certain intensity and single-minded focus that only athletes are capable of.
The simplicity of the styling, the props is lovely and felt like portrait photography in its purest form. Did you also have simple production?
I photographed this series of portraits across different cities, over a period of a few weeks. So the first priority was to keep the whole setup not only simple and travel friendly, but consistent, so I could essentially set it up and recreate the same lighting situation anywhere. Some of it was shot in a daylight studio with the backdrop placed next to a window, and sometimes the setup was done out in the open and a light tent created around it to cheat window light.
I often feel when resources are low creatively is high, does or did that that surface for you?
It is definitely true – you’re forced to think on your feet when resources are low or limited. And sometimes, that is when you come up with the best of ideas. Having said that, I don’t think that this shoot necessarily needed a lot of resources in the first place. I always imagined it to be as pared down as it turned out.
Where were these portraits shot and how long was each session?
They were shot across different parts of the country – some in a studio, one in a hotel lawn, one by a poolside, one on a terrace….and they all lasted anywhere between 20 mins to an hour, at the most.