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Framed
April 04, 2017

Mark Bennington Captures The Candid Side Of Bollywood

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

The actor-turned-photographer talks to us about his experience behind the camera

How did you develop an interest in photography?
“I used to be an actor before I got into photography. Somewhere down the line, I realised I was succumbing to the ennui of acting and drew up a list of alternative career options. Photography was one of them. On a whim, I picked up a camera and before I knew it, I was making a living out of it. I then went back to college and studied photojournalism to hone my skills.”

On capturing people…
“I like to believe that I’m good with people. I kickstarted my career shooting headshots for actors mainly because I had been a part of the industry and knew many of them. There were a couple of advertising gigs where I shot still life but that got boring and tedious. So, I went back to strictly capturing people and their emotions and discovered it was my true calling.”

How did you get introduced to Bollywood?
“My mentor suggested the idea since I was well-acquainted with the industry. I happened to meet producer Guneet Monga through a serendipitous route when I traveled to India and she told me that she didn’t know too many stars but she knew many actors. I guess the whole affair just took off from there.”

Tell us about your new book Living The Dream: The Life of the ‘Bollywood’ Actor
“Through this book, I wanted to capture the reality of Bollywood. The audience is of the opinion that actors lead perpetually uber-glamourous lives, a myth that I have tried to debunk by humanising the industry. In this compilation, you will see actors in their element — a pensive moment before a shot, a burst of laughter with the spot boys or a hurried pre-show touch up.”

How did Ranveer Singh make it to the cover of your book?
“I was supposed to meet Ranveer Singh in his dressing room at YRF studios just before his performance at an awards show. I was waiting on him when he suddenly barged out of the door and ran down the hall. I remember being crestfallen as it dawned on me that I’d missed my shot. I chased him only to find the actor shimmying up the back of a staircase. There was utter pandemonium and there I was on the other side of the barrier, right in front of Ranveer. He was getting last-minute touches on his makeup and I got three shots of him. One of them ended up being the cover.”

Your Bollywood muses are…
“Irrfan Khan is an absolute delight to photograph because he’s always in thought. Tillotama Shome is just incredibly beautiful. You can never really go wrong with a shot of Kareena Kapoor Khan. I also enjoy clicking actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah because of the character they lend to my work.”

What makes a good image?
“Great light and terrific composition. When you’re clicking a living being, you don’t just click them, you capture their aura in that particular moment. You may take a number of photographs with all sorts of frames, but there’s always going to be one that stands out. A photographer worth his salt is always on the lookout for that image.”

List some photographers who influence you…
“I’m an ardent admirer of Christopher Anderson’s work. In terms of inventiveness and pure composition, there’s nobody better than Alex Webb. David Alan Harvey is a master of colour while being great with emotional content. I really like Mary Ellen Mark’s book called Falkland Road which captures prostitutes in Mumbai. I also love Phillip Toledano for his novel concepts.”

What was the thought behind America 2.0?
“The United States presidential elections have seen a lot of bigotry over the past two years and I wanted to do something about it. I believe the simplest of messages can trigger the most powerful outcomes so I set about photographing Muslim youth in their element, including their headscarves. I wanted to capture the exuberance of these young people instead of reducing them to mere labels.”

What is your advice to aspiring photographers?
“Study. Immerse yourself in great imagery. Get a number of photography books and look at them all day long.”

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