To the camera born

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Pushing the envelope comes easy for Manoj Masand (31) – whether it’s using dido lights (which picked up an Oscar for light innovation) or highlighting a small area of Venetta Cuicine’s ready kitchen and reducing the intensity of light or employing a technology used in Batman (Power 64 with a dimmer pack to control illumination) to provide a natural light effect on rows of Peter England shirts covering a road, lensman Masand revels in know-how.

Photography is a play of light and shadows. And how you control them requires ingenuity. Which is why his outfit’s named Lariat Productions, and lariat is the whip used by cowboys to control horses.

Right now, it’s digital photography that’s ruling Masand’s focal length. “It’s high-end digital photography where you can also control a lot of things during and after the shoot,” says Masand, who assisted master lenswo-an Ritu Nanda. “She was looking for an assistant when she shifted from Ahmedabad to Bangalore. I showed her my pictures. She liked them and I was assisting her on campaigns for Lakme and Folio.”

That was while in college. After his bachelor’s in commerce, Masand worked for over a year for adfilmmaker Radhakrishnan. After assisting him on campaigns for BPL, Titan, HMT and Louis Philippe, he realised why Radhakrishnan was considered a genius. “His understanding of light and depth is incredible.”

And that led him to join his uncles in Mumbai for a year’s stint in adfilmmaking. He worked on Kissan jam and some soap ads before joining Contract Advertising in Bangalore as an in-house photographer. “After a year, I quit and started out on my own, working on small campaigns and saving money to buy equipment.”

In 1997, Lariat was born. And slowly and surely, Masand found himself working print campaigns for Wipro, Kingfisher, McDonalds, Krishniah Chetty & Sons, Ganjam and Navrathan Jewellers and Venetta Cuicine, among others. On the side, he also made corporate films for ffolio, Mantri Housing and Fabritex. “Given a choice, I would prefer adfilms to prints because there are more challenges, like editing and music,” says Masand. And what kept him clicking for over a decade? “Being different in approach.”

Photography aside, psycho thrillers fascinate him, especially the ones directed by Alfred Hitchcock. “He has an unconventional start and the way he establishes suspense is incredible (people in the room and the camera cuts to a painting to convey the character of the person talking),” says Masand, who grooves to rave and techno. “I play tennis twice a week at the Indian Gymkhana in Cox Town and badminton thrice a week at the Bowring Institute on St Mark’s Road.”

Ironically, Masand started out as an assistant to a chartered accountant and later as a sub broker to a stock broker. “That was while I was still in college,” says Masand. “I also used to model and one day I borrowed a friend’s Nikon and started taking pictures. The results were good and I stuck to photography.”

(Published in City Reporter, 2003)

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