TPP Q+A: Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma has had a great year. A breakout star with her highly lauded and publicized Shower Series, she’s been shooting commercially, working on a new project, and is now having a solo show at Kopeikin Gallery.

It doesn’t hurt that Sharma is just plain fun to be around. I asked her some questions about her recent whirlwind ride, and she happily obliged me. Enjoy!

Tell me a bit about your Water work (that combines two series) on show at Kopeikin. What has drawn you to water as a subject, and how did these two projects take shape?

The Water Series, which is a project with the large open waterscapes that took shape in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil was made on an inspired evening when I was looking onto a private beach from the 17th floor.

The Shower Series was unknowingly a social study of sorts. A study of what water and intimacy can bring one to become. I’ve always been interested in the human mind and coming from the city I do, (Mumbai) there’s always one more person to talk to, one more question ask and one more thing to learn.

So while the two projects had water in common, they felt quite unrelated to me and happened at different times of the year. At first the whole “Water” themed year felt quite coincidental.

In retrospect however the one place in the world where where I feel reflective and sincerely alone with my thoughts is in the shower. Also as someone who cannot swim, looking at other people’s relationship to a large, ominous and overwhelming body of water is in a way an expression of my own awe. What I’m saying is, with both these projects I learned more than ever that, your most successful images will ultimately be really honest self portraits. That statement gets truer for me every time I make an image I’m happy with.

You’ve had quite a breakout year! Many folks struggle to promote themselves, even when they have strong projects– how have you worked to spread the word about your work?

Honestly I put the projects out there in the world with no expectations. I think sharing your work with the right sources though is just as important as making the work. I do think I have arrived at a formula that works with my personality. When I’m making the work it’s best for me to stay focused on creating the images, getting lost in your concept and just shooting. When I surface from shooting I concentrate on stepping away from it, getting critiques, respected opinions and editing. Once I feel ready to share it I contact the channels I feel would be the best fit/ platform for the work. I think that has worked well for me for the last couple of projects since thinking about promoting it clutters your thought process often, it’s best to exclusively create and not think about anything else but what you what to shoot.

The last year though, has been a gracious one. I know that and am very thankful for it. Apart from working hard which there is no excuse for, I attribute that to luck and well wishers too. Having a fantastic family and a supportive better half doesn’t hurt either, but there’s miles to go before I sleep.

What is the new work you are starting now? Can you share a favorite image or two?

I am shooting a project in India I would rather keep a secret at this point but I also just completed a new series I have shared on my website called Anastasia.

The project in a nutshell is about the queer friendship between glamor and solitude.

How did you get started as an artist– did you go the MFA route, or follow your own path? What would be some advice you’d give to someone just starting out?

I have a double bachelors, one in visual communications and a BFA in photo. But I really don’t think there is a method to the best approach madness. My advice would be shoot, shoot shoot! Nothing can teach us more than our own images.

Do you also shoot commercial and editorial work? Can you share some tears?

I do. I have an upcoming shoot for Vogue in India here in a couple of days that I am quite excited about. Also here are a few recent tears.

Railroad Earth album cover:

I just got commissioned by a label in New York to create album art for the band Railroad Earth. Railroad Earth has some sweet tunes & the musicians were a complete riot to work with. The production for this shoot came together last minute and was nothing short of complete camaraderie. All I can say is the Hasselblad H4d40, three assistants, a fog machine, a few lights and 10 people in the Delaware gave rise to this image. A shout out to Jonathan Chang my client in nyc and Brian Ross in LA for for being so hands on with everything.

Penguin Books cover:

I recently photographed for Penguin Books young readers division. They had a great story about a courageous girl who grows up in the projects fighting a rough upbringing and overcomes challenges in spite of what life has handed her. We used a brilliant location that fed our layout needs after a painful scout!

Thanks, Manjari! See more of Manjari’s work, here. And check out the Kopeikin show!

January 8 – February 12, 2011
Kopeikin Gallery

Closing reception, February 12th.

Kopeikin Gallery
2766 La Cienega Blvd (just north of Washington)
Los Angeles, California 90034
Our hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 – 5:00