When Mahesh Shantaram returned to Bangalore after studying photography at Paris’ Speos Institute in 2006, he took to wedding photography to start monetizing his photography practice.
Shantaram, who quit his job as a research analyst in Washington, DC to engage with photography, believed wedding photography in India needed some “ventilation” and found scope for innovation. In his pictures, the bride and groom don’t smile coyly for the camera. Instead, Shantaram captures fleeting moments; the anticipation, the quiet wink, that half-smile before the garlands are exchanged.
Now 33, he travels widely for wedding assignments and his work has featured in various group exhibitions and magazines. In June, he was featured in Marie Claire, India, as one of the “10 photographers who can make any woman look special”.
Shantaram developed his independent art practice alongside, making images before and after the weddings themselves. One such ongoing series, called Matrimania, displays excellent use of light and composition and makes him one of the two Indian finalists in the professional category of the prestigious Sony World Photo Awards (WPA), the nominations for which were announced on 1 February.
Matrimania is not about people though. The photo series is a parallel take on the great Indian wedding, which he believes doesn’t exist. “Anything goes...I photograph so many cosmopolitan weddings that mix different cultural idioms,” he says, “the only commonality is the theatrics and the chaos of the entire operation.” .
Shantaram’s photographs betray his amusement with newfangled wedding decor, from fairy-tale-themed weddings to the juxtaposition of a cutting-edge LCD screen against a kitschy “throne” for the newly-wed couple. There is a graphical element to the empty chairs, the strewn flower petals and stray props, such as a pedestal fan, in his images. The landscapes and details that the images capture interest him as a method of social documentary. While one aspect of the series is the larger-than-life logistics that Indian weddings involve, Shantaram focuses on the mundane; the leftovers when the exotic has been consumed or left to dry.
These images are part of the Matrimania series by Shantaram, a Sony World Photography Awards 2011 finalist. The winner will be announced on 27 April in a ceremony at Odeon Leicester Square, London.