The eye behind the lens

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Photography and the world of fashion go hand in hand, sustaining each other to continue growing and expanding. Of course, any good fashion industry is as good as its photographers and Sri Lanka has been gifted with a number of exceptionally talented professionals among whom exists Arantha Sirimanne; a veteran in the industry with over 16 years of experience. Arantha has expanded his horizons beyond Sri Lanka, taking his skills as a fashion photographer to India as well.

Ceylon Today had the opportunity to speak with Arantha to learn more about the industry and what it takes to be part of this extremely competitive and fast-evolving field.

Taking on new paths

“Every skill that I now have in my use is self-learned,” Arantha revealed.

“The thing is, photographers usually don’t know which area they’re going to specialise in when they are starting out,” he opined. “Because for the most part, photographers start their journey almost always as hobbyists.”

This was the same with Arantha’s own journey. An IT professional by skill and education, Arantha was also a hobbyist photographer. “I never knew that I was going to become a fashion photographer,” he recounted, sharing memories of taking pictures at parties and gatherings, going out with friends into the wild to take pictures, street photography and more.

“We used to do everything,” he commented. “We simply photographed whatever we could,” he said with a chuckle.

Thanks to the flexible nature of his job, Arantha and a friend decided to start taking pictures as a side gig, to earn some additional income, making use of their skill, covering simply events, parties and gatherings. “That’s how we got into photography,” he shared.

Recognising his skill at taking pictures of human subjects, Arantha decided to focus on what he was best at, honing his craft in taking portraits and gradually leaning toward the fashion industry. “However, being someone from an IT background, I never really had prior ideas about fashion photography or the industry in itself.”

“Fortunately, I was able to make friends in the fashion industry who helped me learn about the industry as a whole which was the start of me making the shift to fashion photography.”

“There are so many areas and fields in photography that a person can pursue. It just takes time to find what you are passionate about and want to take up.”

What it takes

We wanted to know what Arantha believes are the qualities of a good fashion photographer. “In my eyes, the most crucial thing a good fashion photographer always has is in-depth knowledge of the fashion industry. The rest is photography,” Arantha shared.

“Even if you know everything about photography and are pro-level, you still wouldn’t be a good fashion photographer. You need to have a good understanding of the industry and be up to date with all that’s going on. A person with even basic photography skills can easily climb up the ranks to become a competitive fashion photographer if they have an understanding of the industry,” he opined.

“If you’re good at what you do, anybody can be a good wedding photographer, but for fashion photography, the main thing to know about is fashion.”

Setting up the studio

One of Arantha’s biggest accomplishments is the establishment of his studio. “That was a big step forward in my career, because when I first opened up my studio, there was no other fashion-oriented studio in Sri Lanka. It was a time when no one believed in fashion photography in Sri Lanka and were going after wedding photography,” he shared.

“However, I was able to take a step forward during that time, and it happened to be during the time that the fast fashion concept and the industry as a whole were growing considerably,” Arantha said.

It was also the time when many fashion-focused e-commerce platforms started appearing in the country and seeing how big fashion photography was in the international field, Arantha saw the potential and opportunity to establish himself in the fashion niche.

“It was a very basic studio that I started, but now we’ve expanded considerably and are doing well. As for the future, I have some big plans on where I want to take the studio, and I’m really looking forward to when that fully develops.”

Masterclass

Another impressive project that Arantha has been working on is his Masterclass; a mentoring programme through which a hand-picked number of photographers will have the opportunity to hone their skills in fashion photography under the tutelage of Arantha himself.

“There are plenty of photography courses being conducted by photographers already in Sri Lanka, but this masterclass concept is very different and I want to target this photographers who want to get into the fashion photography field. I want to give them individual attention and coach them with practical skills, to teach them every aspect of what it takes to be a fashion photographer, and I’m confident it would be a great experience for them.”

For Sri Lanka

Arantha is a firm believer that Sri Lanka has massive potential to be developed as a fashion photography destination. “Sri Lanka has so many nice locations, but we aren’t promoting these locations enough,” he commented.

If Sri Lanka were to have the right infrastructure in place, Arantha is confident that the country can become a world-class photographer’s destination, bringing in photographers from around the world to take pictures, bringing in more income into the country as well as creating a wider industry for photographers and creators as a whole.

“That is another plan that we should definitely give attention to if the Tourism Board can take note,” he added.

“For example, Bali markets itself well, but what you see in the pictures isn’t what you find when you go over there. I’ve been there. Nevertheless, in Sri Lanka, we have way better locations, but we aren’t marketing and promoting them properly.”

Arantha has big plans to promote Sri Lanka as a photographer’s destination, however, most of them had to be put on hold with the current economic crisis. Yet, even now, Arantha is hopeful, looking forward to taking action when the opportunity presents itself.

Passion taking him forward

Although a veteran in the trade, it’s clear that Arantha is still hungry, and his passion, as well as drive for fashion photography, remains a blazing inferno, being stifled by current circumstances, but ready to catch alight once more. He encourages everyone with the desire and hunger, to also take their passion for photography forward, in ways they can and seek new ways to take Sri Lanka forward.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage