Born in to a family of eminent painters, it was only normal for Riddhibrata Burman to be influenced by art. But unlike his parents, Burman realized quite early in life that his strength lies behind the camera, and not in front of an easel.
To support his passion, he moved to California to study photography at the Brooks Institute of Photography. Having had an interest in fashion photography since the beginning, he maintains that his vision is not all commercial. Riddhibrata’s visual signature is arty, with each photograph echoing the mood of modernist movements and sculptures. He admits that fashion is constantly influenced by art movements, such as expressionism. His own experiments with form and shape, can be viewed in the same vein. Presently, his assignments include various editorial and commercial clients. He shuttles among New York, Los Angeles and Mumbai .
How did you get into the celebrity/fashion portraiture ? Ideally what defines a celebrity – or rather, what makes someone a star in your eyes?
The start was in New York. After graduating from Brooks, I joined Briese Lighting. They would send me to work on the sets of various fashion/celebrity photographers, such as Steven Klien, Mark Seliger, etc. In fact, as a child I had read about them and seen their work in print. But, being able to interact with them and having the opportunity to pick their heads was just something else. They had one standard approach to photography in general, be it any genre – it was always about a fantastic moment. With time, all photographers develop a certain language, that is what makes the photographer unique. In short, it is just how you read that moment and marry it to your language. However, your subjects have to have something special. That is precisely when you actually photograph them. In fact, you have got to experience this intense chemistry. Almost like you and that person, are on an island all by yourself and there is nothing around you, just the two of you creating beautiful moments. If a person can deliver that to my camera that is a celebrity who earns full points.
As a celebrity photographer, how do you develop trust with the highly image conscious subjects?
Like I said before,it is like creating a zone of your own with the person you are photographing. Now of course, building trust takes time, but I think most of us are prone to vibrations, so if you are really lost and do not know how to handle your subject, light etc. you get easily caught. But on the contrary, if your are confident and have done your homework, it is a piece of cake. I believe in capturing the essence and individuality of the celebrity, that almost defines him or her. I see them as real people, and never try to characterize them. I am guessing here that they enjoy being treated that way as well.
There is so much raw energy and sensuality in your images. How much of it is dependent on the person you’re shooting and why?
A lot of it depends on the person, probably all of it is dependent on the person. The subject has to sacrifice that energy, and that is not something everyone can do. The chemistry I keep talking about, happens only with a few, and they are the ones I keep working with.
Beautiful women form the core of your subject matter. Is it easy to capture their beauty , while making the subject and your photography merge?
Depends upon how you are going to read her beauty. If I am really infatuated by my subject, and I have very intense feelings for her, then I try and translate that through my lens. But again the language is different for me. It is more about romance and softness…almost cinematic. It is like following someone very special to you with a camera, photographing her through out the day, and cherishing the moments when she looked absolutely breathtaking. Wong Kar Wai and Fellini are my greatest mentors. I love their vision and try to capture a similar mood in still.
What interests you about photographing personalities? Secondly, how would you describe your style and approach?
The uniqueness that every single personality comes with is amazing. Exploring what makes them different in the core is like a journey. I do not really have description of my style, but I would love to be voyeur and disappear in front of my subject, and just capture beautiful images of them.
Obviously you’ve photographed a lot of leading artistes and celebrities. In your opinion, who qualifies as your most favorite and the most reluctant artiste to be photographed and why?
I have my favorites, especially the ones who have amazing characters and an aura surrounding them. It all comes through the lens. Photographing is truly capturing
a part of your soul. Now artists do not shy away from being photographed, just that certain circumstances that make things difficult at times. We do what we do to have a good time, otherwise we would have been bankers. But we are often restricted by certain parameters our clients expect us to follow, and 90 percent of the time they are quite ridiculous. But, there are certain boundaries in commercial photography today, and we are forced to make compromises, even though we may be a little reluctant about it.