Tejal Patni

 

Sakshi Parikh time travels into the futuristic world of Tejal Patni’s exceptionally stimulating and complex imagery.

From Splash 2011. The background illustration and the cutouts for this series were done in different layers to add to depth to the set. This calendar was heavily influenced by the famous cinema directors, Tim Burton and Federico Fellini. Photograph/Tejal Patni

From Splash 2011. The background illustration and the cutouts for this series were done in different layers to add depth to the set. This calendar was heavily influenced by the famous cinema directors, Tim Burton and Federico Fellini. Photograph/Tejal Patni

During the second year of college, Tejal Patni took his friends to a railway station and photographed them as models, baked in warm sodium vapour light. The photographs, film pushed to its extreme by three stops, were dark and moody, and outrageously different. Tejal, who has been based out of Dubai since several years, is one of the most sought after Indian fashion photographers. His aesthetic is strongly distinctive, but can probably be traced back to those early images under the railway lamps. “I somehow developed my understanding of light by shooting at night. My awareness at that time wasn’t much, which is why my response was entirely instinctive. I loved how a street lamp or a dingy railway light would translate to these bizarre, atmospheric images.” Much of his work today is unlike the organic nature of his early influences, but he continues to build worlds that are bizarrely imaginative and intricate.

Poverty from Splash 2016. This edition of the calendar is the only one in which he used Photoshop to recreate certain elements within the photographs. Photograph/Tejal Patni

Poverty from Splash 2016. This edition of the calendar is the only one in which he used Photoshop to recreate certain elements within the photographs. Photograph/Tejal Patni

His aesthetic is strongly distinctive, but can probably be traced back to those early images under the railway lamps. “I somehow developed my understanding of light by shooting at night. My awareness at that time wasn’t much, which is why my response was entirely instinctive. I loved how a street lamp or a dingy railway light would translate to these bizarre, atmospheric images.” Much of his work today is unlike the organic nature of his early influences, but he continues to build worlds that are bizarrely imaginative and intricate.

Love Lace-May from Splash 2015. The sheer lace drapes, and the lace-covered facade, are reminders of the Mughal era. Photograph/Tejal Patni

Love Lace-May from Splash 2015. The sheer lace drapes, and the lace-covered facade, are reminders of the Mughal era. Photograph/Tejal Patni

Aside from an education in art, Tejal speaks of his father, who is a photographer and an illustrator, as a powerful influence. He also credits shifting his base from Mumbai to Dubai, a few years into his career, as a defining decision. “Moving cities may have been a risk, but a lot of my work is about taking chances. I was in a different city, with a fresh mind, and my priorities shifted from merely thinking about ‘succeeding’ to actually creating.”

The Craft of Allure
Drawing inspiration from both cinema and surrealism, it is fascinating how he eventually implements ideas while working with some of the world’s leading brands. The eerie nature of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow influenced the graphic novelesque look of his pathbreaking 2011 calendar for Splash (the largest fashion retailer in the Middle East). The calendars have seen him combine storytelling and a love for pop art. With a bold use of colour and patterns, his pictures have a sense of extravagance, and yet, are surprisingly simple, and display Tejal’s extremely high level of meticulousness. This collaboration also garnered a great amount of international acclaim in a very short while.

From the series Shoes. The facelessness of these images adds to the sense of mystery and fascination, allowing viewers to interpret and make their own stories. Photograph/Tejal Patni

From the series Shoes. The facelessness of these images adds to the sense of mystery and fascination, allowing viewers to interpret and make their own stories. Photograph/Tejal Patni

“Every campaign begins with my team and I preparing a mood board. I collect and paste photos and samples of every single element that will be a part of the final photograph, from the choices of model, to the hair and make-up, to the fabric of the clothes, to the materials that are lending the set its distinct look,” he says. “I am obsessive like that.”

For Marie Claire. This image combines both genres mastered by Tejal—monochrome and strikingly graphic. Photograph/Tejal Patni

For Marie Claire. This image combines both genres mastered by Tejal—monochrome and strikingly graphic. Photograph/Tejal Patni

Adding a Personal Touch
Renowned art director, Prashant Godbole, who has partnered with Tejal for the Stephen Brothers campaign, says, “He has always been true to his roots. His images have this arresting quality, which stems from his bold style.” The campaign, unlike most of his work, was shot on location in Prague. The images seem journalistic, rather than created worlds. “The look required was a departure from what he usually shoots, but the reason why Tejal did wonders to the campaign is his sense of space”, adds Godbole.

From the series Blind. Tejal, along with his stylist, created this costume out of venetian blinds with strings. Unlike his other vibrant images, this intricate set of pictures has a minimalistic style. Photograph/Tejal Patni

From the series Blind. Tejal, along with his stylist, created this costume out of venetian blinds with strings. Unlike his other vibrant images, this intricate set of pictures has a minimalistic style. Photograph/Tejal Patni

Navigating a journey of over two and a half decades, with campaigns that are versatile, but eventually form one voice, is like moving through one of his incredibly layered photographs. What draws me most to Tejal Patni’s work is that despite the fact that his photographs are built on the foundations of excess, they still leave the viewer craving for more.

Floral Female from Splash Calendar 2014. This photograph was used an opening image in the Dream On video to mark 25 years of Adobe Photoshop. Photograph / Tejal Patni

Floral Female from Splash Calendar 2014. This photograph was used an opening image in the Dream On video to mark 25 years of Adobe Photoshop. Photograph / Tejal Patni

Tejal Patni ‘s experimentative and graphic approach towards fashion photography has made him one of the prominent imagemakers from India. He is famous for creating scenes, which are filmic and elaborate in nature. He is heavily influenced by Gregory Crewdson’s cinematic work, and his stint at the London Film Academy.

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