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June - Tarun Khiwal.

The list of clients that Tarun Khiwal has includes many international corporations – Reebok, Nestle, Nokia Panasonic, Honda, Samsung – to name just a few. In the calendar, though, we have chosen an image that is a representation of Tarun’s homeland, seemingly a long way from the hustle and pressure of the western world.

Photographers become photographers for a wide range of reasons. In the case of Tarun Khival it was a camera that freed him of his shyness when he was young. It became a passport to another world that he was not familiar with. This new world was to stay with him and nag at him until he gave in to it.

Sapana Kumar / Russel sage 

Engineer becomes photographer

Tarun Khiwal, grew up near Delhi in India, and trained to become an engineer, which was more or less expected of him from his family background. After a while though, thoughts about the camera he had received as a boy and the new world he had discovered through it returned and began to grow. Unable to let it be, he made the decision to give up his career, together with all the security and status it might have brought him, to become a full-time photographer. And so, self taught he set off in 1989 to carve out a new career. It blossomed and he now reaps in assignments and awards doing the thing he loves best, photographing. 
The list of clients includes Reebok, Nestle, Nokia, Panasonic, Gillette, American Express and Honda as well as magazines such as Elle and Cosmopolitan. Awards include the Kingfisher Fashion Photographer of the Year 2004 and the MTV Style Lycra Fashion Photographer of the Year 2004.  Tarun cites Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts as early sources of visual inspiration from one side of the world while there are references to the indigenous designs, patterns and cultural references from the other side of the world too.

Fleur Xavier / Ella singh and Mitchelle Innes / Manish Arora

 He says though that he has moved on from those earlier influences and has developed his own style that is a mix, finding himself in the process of unlearning. For example in a series of fashion shots, the set is a box constructed of fabrics and is loosely based around the theatrical backgrounds he saw at the theatre when he was young. So instead of Lord Krishna we now see a model wearing the latest creations by an Indian designer called Manish Arora. The references drift freely from the West to the East and back again. “I am a people’s photographer,” he says “ There is nothing more beautiful, interesting and intriguing than human beings.”

Digital in the future

Up to now, a Hasselblad 503CW and 501CM with 50, 80, and 180 mm lenses have been doing all the work. But, as is so common nowadays, Tarun is of course taking on the digital world too. In fact, despite his preference of simple, mechanical functions photographically, he also harbours a fascination for other kinds of electronic gadgetry. This interest has now attracted him to digital photography so instead of seeing it as an obstacle to tackle, he is looking forward to it as an engaging challenge.

Keeping his feet on the ground is a characteristic that Tarun offers as a recipe for progress. He began by remaining open and willing to learn from his mentors and colleagues. He spent some time as assistant to the renowned photographer Hardev Singh, for example, whom Tarun refers to as his guru. The learning process wasn’t straightforward all the time and he is philosophical about the hardships he ran up against on his way up, and instead prefers to see them as stepping-stones to reach his present position.

Krishna / Ashish soni

The Dalai Lama and Madonna

Alongside his commercial assignments, Tarun has plans about being able to get on with much more personal work. And here again, we see references and interests from both sides of the globe. There are two particular projects he has set his mind on, namely portraying the Dalai Lama and Madonna. He wants to photograph the Dalai Lama as a result of the admiration he has for him as a compassionate leader and guiding light for peace. He wants to photograph Madonna because she keeps reinventing herself and is also an icon, radiating energy. But there will certainly be no art directors, stylists or make-up artists on these shoots. Tarun thrives on surprise as an integral and treasured element his personal work.
His life is hectic and he acknowledges the support that make it all possible from his family, consisting of his wife, son, parents and his dog Dumbbell. Look out for the photographer’s name beside the next pictures you see of the Dalai Lama or Madonna. Perhaps Tarun Khiwal will have found some time out of his busy schedule to fulfil his dream.
Please visit Tarun Khiwal´s website.