“It’s the butterflies that keep me going.”
Raised in Muscat, 30-year-old photographer Anushka Menon left home at the young age of 15, shortly after her father passed away, with just enough money to buy a ticket and pay for a year’s education abroad. After studying art design and communication in Melbourne, she pursued her diploma in photography, which brought her to India. In 2005, she began her career as one of India’s youngest female photographers to have worked in the beauty and fashion industry, leading to an enviable portfolio. Now she is also branching out abroad.
“When I developed my first roll of film, I was hooked. It was a magical experience. I had no idea that I would end up in India and had no idea that there were hardly any women photographers at the time.” The Rolex Watches (2012/13) campaign with brand ambassador Anoushka Shankar, winning accolades and awards, and just this year being signed with One League Creative Management in Cape Town, South Africa, are things she considers milestones professionally. She also teaches and conducts workshops.
Initially she had to face raised eyebrows at being a woman in a male-dominated profession. Top photographers in Delhi turned her down as their assistant. “It took time and patience to build a name and to get myself noticed behind the camera. I struggled to learn the game, I had no one to help me, and I’ve built myself up on my own merit.” The stress and exhaustion led to some trouble with her health and subsequent weight loss, which changed when she could finally get an assistant.
“Every shoot is a challenge and some shoots are more exciting than others. Fulfilling clients’ expectations is intrinsically linked to being able to adapt, transform and bring an idea to life.” She enjoys interacting with talented people and creating beautiful imagery, travelling the world, experiencing fashion and beauty at its best and learning on the job.
Never missing her early morning yoga session, she takes the day head on by getting to her shoots, figuring out briefs and planning the rest of the day. The evening is spent unwinding with her dogs and an occasional glass of wine, while she works on shortlisting the images from the shoot. And to hold it all together, she believes in clear communication and direction and being respectful to her coworkers. Married to Tapan Raj (one half of the band Midival Punditz), she enjoys trying new things like acro yoga, aerial silks, working on music, DJing, and does charity work with dogs.
Anushka, who’s been a part of Verve’s Best Dressed List, used to be very rock chic in her dressing style, but is now more “experimental street style with mature overtones”. Dressing up for an occasion means “wearing heels and make-up”, while she believes “less is more.” Her favourite piece of jewellery is a ring her mother gave her when she got married. “Being successful is about being happy, doing what I love and giving back to those around me.” The go-getter sees herself travelling the world and working on bigger campaigns and extending herself creatively. “I’d like to leave a mark — even if it’s a tiny one.”
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