hotography helps to convey stories and imagery through a camera…

…that captures a composition of ambience and transience for posterity. Before the mid-20th century a visual style that became iconic was the emergence of the film noir genre. The film format was alluring as a category of art by illustrating usage of high contrast between light and dark elements. At the same time photographers, took note of the techniques used in film noir to also convey arresting images of individuals when black and white film was prevalent and use of lighting was the strongest visual for experimentation.

The era of film noir photographs was characterized aesthetically by using low key tone, rich tonal range, theatrical lighting and the appearance of being candid when an individual posed. The use of lighting becomes critically important during the process of characterization in film noir studio portraiture: a range of backlighting, front lighting, top lighting or under lighting which can influence the overall effect as to how a person may be conveyed to the viewer. Studio photography in India for a period of time also adopted the technique of film noir portraits. The genre was particularly popular among cinema stars.

However, film noir photographic portraits became a remnant of the past, as did the entire analogue era of portrait photography and photographic studios throughout India. The omnipresent cellphone camera culture quickly conquered a besotted public, and with it creative Indian studio photographers lost all sense of purpose.

Ajay Shanker is a third-generation photographer in a line that goes back to the Delhi Photo Company his grandfather established in 1937. His passion is to revive the art of photographic portraits inspired by film noir.

Portraits: Photography Inspired By Film Noir