Paul David Martin wanted to be a fashion designer but ended up being a photographer… and that turned out pretty well too!
What took you from the corporate world to glamour photography?
I wanted to become a fashion designer but had to start working early to help my family financially. I started working part time as a customer service executive at Dell in Hyderabad, and before I knew it nine years had passed. The company gave me a lump sum as a reward for my performance. I wanted to gift myself something and bought a basic DSLR Canon 1100D, for around Rs. 28,000. My first click was with Rohit Khandelwal, Mr. World 2016 – he was a trainee in Dell and we clicked a few shots which turned out to be amazing. When I edited and posted some pictures on my social media, there was a huge and positive response. That kind of motivated me and it helped me realize that this could be my gateway into the glamour world – something I had always had a keen eye for. I realized I should take photography seriously, and started doing more test shoots for close to a year. I then applied for a loan and bought a Canon MarkIII 5D – my first shoot was again with Rohit, who I considered lucky. And there was no looking back.
During this time, my best friend shifted to Mumbai and I would visit him every few months to do test shoots with some known models. I would message them on Facebook, and luckily a lot of them responded positively. Clicking them helped me create a buzz in the Mumbai market. During this period, Dell was not doing so well, and they came up with a voluntary retirement scheme – they offered me another lump sum and I felt that it was the Almighty’s will. I knew in order to move to Mumbai, I needed to have some money in the bank! It’s been almost five years that I moved to the city of dreams, and every day is a learning experience that helps me improvise, personally, professionally, emotionally and mentally. I learnt to face the competitive market and how to overcome any challenges. As a fashion and celebrity photographer I shoot portfolios, look books, commercial shoots and editorials.
How do you prepare for a photo shoot?
I have done both planned and random shoots. If I like a model’s face, I do some random portraits – I love clicking strong and intense looks. However, most of my shoots are well planned. Once a shoot is confirmed, I start with styling the talent. My team and I brainstorm on the looks that will suit the talent. I have a team of stylists now but for most of my test shoots, I styled the talent myself. Basis the styling, I plan the location that goes well with the look. I prefer an early morning call time.
What does it take to work with celebrities?
Working with celebrities is always a learning experience. Some are tough while others are easy and understanding. Shooting with Vicky Kaushal and Jim Sarbh was so much fun. Most of the celebrities have been very patient with me. I remember, in the initial days, Karan Tacker knew I was good with outdoor light and during a campaign shoot, he told the client that we should do more shots outdoors!
Some celebrities are really tough. Once, the editorial team of a magazine didn’t communicate the details of the shoot to the celeb’s manager, and the manager refused to let me click the celeb. After many requests, I was given five minutes to shoot in a room without any proper light. If the manager had allowed us just five minutes to shoot outdoors, I am sure I would have pulled up some nice pictures. I really felt bad. That experience taught me so much. I decided that all communication would henceforth be made through email.
Which have been some of your memorable projects?
My first paid portfolio job, even though it hardly paid anything much! Then when I shot for a celebrity in Hyderabad and my photographs were used on hoardings at major junctions. I felt so happy and proud to see my work! My first cover shot was for a local magazine called Tulip in Hyderabad. I was nervous but knew this was an important thing to crack.
Before I moved to Mumbai I had the opportunity to click a model for a hair styling magazine called Estetica. I recall being late for the shoot by 30 minutes and the way I got scolded by the person who coordinated the shoot. That helped me learn that time is precious and time is money in Mumbai, and that it is not difficult to find a replacement here.
Other memorable shoots have been for renowned designers like Rohit Bal, Varun Bahl, Sumeet Varma, Rohit Gandhi & Rahul Khanna, Vaishali Jain, Aslam Khan, Shantanu Goenka, Varoin Marwah, Shravan Ramaswamy, etc. Every designer had his/her style and approach and all of it was a learning. Being the official photographer for Mr. India 20l7 was also something I enjoyed.
What challenges have you encountered in your career?
There have been lots of ups and downs. There were times a shoot got cancelled at the last minute when all the preparations were made – or when people made promises that I would be doing a particular shoot and gave it to someone else. All this is part of the game, however, and these experiences have made me strong and more professional.
What does it take to be a successful fashion photographer?
Anyone with a camera thinks they can be a fashion photographer, but it’s just not the clicks that work – it’s the angle, the way we project the subject, the way we show the intensity of the shot. Today a lot of people click well but most of them lack post production skills. What actually matters is how we present a photograph at the end of the day – that’s what the world looks at. Presentation is crucial. Know the lighting, understand the areas of strength of the model/celeb, know the colors, and know your backdrops – all these matter. Photography is more competitive now, but it’s not just about contacts and numbers – skill sets, art and creativity are also important.
What inspires you?
I draw my inspiration from a lot of sources. I get inspired by my mother’s patience and understanding and my father’s organizing skills. A lot of fashion photographers are so inspiring – their vision, editing, style, angles. All artists are unique and each one has something valuable that we could learn from.
I want to be one of the top celebrity photographers in India and the international market, shooting for magazines like Vogue, GQ, Bazaar, etc. I will work hard to get there and be an inspiration to aspiring photographers. I also want to get into direction one day.
This article was originally published in POOL 102.
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