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Lights and shadows

Determination against odds is what fashions Tarun Khiwal. SANJAY AUSTA frames the latest pin-up guy of Indian photography.

IN FOCUS: Ace photographer Tarun Khiwal in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena.

FOR ACE lens man Tarun Khiwal life has just begun at 39. After being selected as one of the 12 photographers for the Hasselblad Masters Calendar for the year 2005, he is on a roll. He says he can take it easy now and spend more time with his family.

"Life has started afresh for me. I can afford to be selective about my work and spend time with my family," he says. But the singular honour of being the Hasselbad photographer means Tarun would have to zip across the globe for any Hasselblad assignment for the year.

He is just back from Cape Town after a six-day shoot for a Four Square campaign and within a few weeks would head for Singapore and later to Dubai. So much for rest and relaxation!

Tarun doesn't seem to mind anything as long as it has something to do with a camera. He is still savouring his Hasselblad selection that has catapulted him into the same league as the legendary Nigel Parry, Mary Elen Mark, Albert Watson - all previous Hasselblad photographers. The selection is tough and the judges take a long time in deciding the 12 photographers from across the world. The photographer can represent any category ranging from fashion to nature. The only condition is that one must be a Hasselblad user.

So what made the judges select Tarun Khiwal?

Just lucky

"I think I am lucky," says Tarun, a bit bewildered at being chosen over his mentors like Prabhuddha Dasgupta and Atul Khasbekar - under whom he trained for many years before starting out on his own. "It is very easy to copy a great photograph. But the challenge is to create something that reveals the photographer's sensibility," he says.

For the Hasselblad judges it was the India-ness in Tarun's photographs that gave him an edge over other photographers. "They said my work has `India-ness', which is very international at the same time." The "India-ness", Tarun reckons is inherent in him, for he doesn't make any special effort to infuse his photographs with it. "When I was growing up I used to visit places like Mathura and Vrindavan. Perhaps these places had an impact on me," he adds.

Tarun believes photography is for those who have the talent. "Photography is an art. It has to be in one's blood," he says. From his school days on, when he experimented with his father's Pentak-1000 camera, Tarun knew photography runs in his veins.

In 1989 he left a steady job as a mechanical engineer to plunge headlong into photography. "People were surprised. When my father went to the market they would point to him and say, `He is the man whose son left engineering to become a photographer,'" he reminisces.

His father was disappointed, but his son's determination was so infectious that he sold his tiny flat to buy him a Nikon-90x, an expensive and coveted camera those days. There was no looking back, and Tarun soon made a mark in the world of fashion photography. He, however, likes to be known more as a people's photographer. "I am interested in all sorts of people anywhere," he says.

Interestingly, this doyen of fashion photography confesses to not knowing anything about fashion.

"Frankly, I have no idea about fashion. For example, I don't know why certain stripes should change after six months," he says. Tarun says his aim when clicking the glamorous models is simply to create something fresh. This freshness won him both MTV-Style Lycra Photographer and Kingfisher Fashion Photographer of the Year Award in 2004.

The Hasselblad selection this year came as a perfect icing on the cake.

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