Photographer: Matryoshka Wadhwani @matryoshka_photo Makeup Artist: Krishna K @ksquared_mua Hair Stylist: Carol Au @kakarolmakeup_hairstyling Wardrobe Stylist/Model: Aanchal Wadhwani @therealaanchal @STAGE Management (@wearestagemodel) Model: Jamie @jamie_the_standard_poodle
To begin, can you please give us a little intro as to what motivated you to become a photographer?
I actually started out in the fashion field as a designer. I studied two degrees, both in different areas of fashion.
While in my first degree in fashion design, I was experimenting with other areas of the field such as modelling, styling, jewelry design, retouching and photography. I launched my own jewelry brand called “Matryoshka” at 16 but over the first year, I fell in love with the boundless canvas that photography gave me, and spent my free time working on my technique and creativity in photography. A year later, I rebranded my business from jewelry to photography and it's been that way ever since!
We admire the exquisite level of detail in all your works. Does your creative process start from a certain image in your mind, or do you seek inspiration as you progress?
Thank you so much for your kind words towards my work! I am inspired by what's around me - for example lighting, makeup or hair visuals, illustrations or graphics, movies, old photographs, iconic people, textures and other artists!
I actually dreamed up one of my photography ideas a night before the shoot and completely shifted the entire project after scribbling a storyboard in the middle of the night!
What are the technical challenges of studio photography and how did you overcome them?
When I started out in photography, I was a fashion design student and so I didn't have the privilege to learn professionally nor did I have the funds to buy my own equipment to practice. I spent a lot of my earnings renting a small studio space by the hour. It had only 2 lights but through trial and error, the help of a friend to experiment with and tutorial videos, I learnt the fundamentals of studio lighting - which for me was the biggest difficulty.
Over time, I was able to get my own studio space and fill it with lighting equipment. I had the resources to practice in my off time and slowly developed my own lighting style for my work. It's taken me 10 years, but I still feel like I'm evolving with each shoot!
You are a creative mind with an exceptional eye for detail, are you able to talk us through your process when creating your art?
I spend a lot of time on pre-production as much as I spend on the shoot day and post-production. I begin with a concept and gather references to create a mood board for the overall style. I then share this mood board with the team I want on board - model(s), makeup artist, hair stylist and wardobe stylist.
Once all is sorted and we have a shoot date planned, I work on the set and props, practice lighting for the shoot if it's something I'm unfamiliar with, and work out all the little details so that everything runs smoothly the day of. I prepare makeup and hair references, wardrobe references and posing references for my team to be on the same page as me. It's a team work! After the shoot is over, all that's left for me to do is work on retouching!
How has photography influenced you as a person and what do you love most about being a photographer?
I love that everyday is a new challenge and that my office can be anywhere! I could be in my studio one day, on the streets another or in a fancy hotel the week after. Photography has allowed me to look at the world differently. I look at details more closely and notice little quirks about the city that many people overlook!
What do you look for in a creative team? What key skills are you looking for to ensure you are picking the best artists to work with?
There are many professional and talented individuals out there, but a team is more than just being able to do your work well. For me it's equally important that we get along personally and creatively.
As much as I prepare references for my team to follow, I am not professional in their field and I don't like my team to mimick what I send them. I like their input and creativity as well. For example, if I send my makeup artist a reference photo for a look, and she simply did what I shared without any thought, it may not fit the models features who we have on the shoot day, it may not work well with the lighting or it may look like a shoot you've seen 100 times before.
It's taken me years to find a team I work best with. We respect each other and have similar creative approaches and interests. We give and take and can create something unique and beautiful together.
What would be your tips/advice to models and photographers looking to expand their portfolio?
Most photographers assume that gear is a big factor on image quality. And while to some extent that may be true, what truly makes or breaks an image is your creativity. Read magazines, follow your favorite artists on social media and if you're new to lighting, try and mimick the lighting from photos you love!
Try to connect with makeup artists, hair stylists, wardobe stylists and models around you! There are new talents trying to enter the field just like you, so you can grow together! As for models, as a model and actress myself, something I've practiced over the years is to spend 10 minutes looking in the mirror and throwing poses at myself with a concept in mind. It has helped me understand my angles better and what poses work for me and what doesn't. It has also given me the confidence to try new things since nobody is watching!
What is your dream in terms of your career?
I am a very entrepreneurial person and like to act on ideas I feel improves my industry. I recently partnered with a veteran local model to start a model and talent management focusing on diversity and inclusivity here in Hong Kong - STAGE Management. We each faced our own struggles within the field which inspired us towards the venture. For me, growing up as a minority has been tough and even more so when I started modeling & acting. At castings, I was asked to lie about my ethnicity or work on my accent.
For my partner, she experienced hardships as a professional model, where casting directors or agencies refused to pay after a job, where the working environment was unpleasant and unsafe. We wanted to bridge the gap in the industry by building an agency that celebrates all cultures, skin tones, hair textures, body art and more, all while being an honest agency that looks after our talents best interests.
My dream would be to have our agency grow to be one of Hong Kongs leadinh talent managements!
In your opinion, is it fair to alter reality by adjusting images in post-production? And what do you think it delivers in the final image?
This is a great question! In my opinion, it really depends on how much alteration is done to an image.
If it involves reshaping someone to a completely different size, skin tone or anything that really blurs from what they look like in reality, that is a problem because it would affect the way they see themselves in real life. And even more so if they are a celebrity with a fan base.
Whereas adjustments on skin texture, removing a pimple, blemish, faults in makeup, stray hairs, dust and minor adjustments would improve the image and help make it stand out.
When it comes to commercial images, it is very important to work on details, color, lighting, cleaning up the product and making it pop if there is also a model in the shot. It's essential because the photo is meant to drive sales - but of course not over editing or it would be false advertising!
What projects are you working on next, and what are your goals for the future?
I am currently working on a few projects both in photography and videography. I've also got a few modelling opportunities scheduled for the month!
My goals as a photographer and actress is to slowly gather opportunities around Asia, but probably once the current economic situation improves for the world.
Where can we see more of your works and get connected with you?
For photography, my website is matryoshka.ws
For acting, follow me on Instagram @therealaanchal
For our talent management, our website is wearestage.com