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February 04, 2016

Rohan Shrestha: Under the Cherry Blossoms

Text by Wyanet Vaz

Rohan Shrestha takes you on an inspiring journey to Japan with his first solo exhibition

Japan becomes a magical world when you speak to regular Verve contributor, Rohan Shrestha. His first solo show with the Diesel+Art Initiative is called Hanami. This big moment comes at an ideal time in his life, as he happily overdoses on Japan and thanks fate for the ‘accidental holiday’. Rohan Shrestha talks to us about his exhibition with landscape and fashion photography, and takes Verve on a Japanese walk.

The accidental trip…
“I was in Guam on a diving trip, and heading to Chuuk lagoon, when a typhoon hit. We were stuck in Guam, so instead, I went to Japan for a few days. And as I spent time in the country, I kept extending my trip, to just about when my visa was close to expiring.”

The experience…
“The Japanese are so open about their creativity, like the whole world is running on Japanese designs today. Japan was closed off as a country for thousands of years, and that is why they are self-sustained. Due to the lack of interaction with other cultures, they are shy and very reserved. So they express themselves through art, and I think that it is absolutely fantastic.”

The idea behind photographing cherry blossoms…
“I first wanted to be a landscape photographer. The first picture I ever took in my life was of Central Park in New York. But people don’t really see landscape photography as being very viable. And it’s not like I don’t enjoy fashion or advertising, I love that; but I always go back to landscape, because that is where I belong. Also, cherry blossoms remind me of the beautiful Haiku (which I am also going to be using in my show) – ‘Under the cherry blossom, nobody is a stranger’.”

An encounter with Hanami…
“Hanami means a walk through the cherry blossoms. It is a very prominent word in Japanese, because in April (which is the cherry blossom season) all of Japan is practically on holiday and Hanami is everywhere.”

Experiments with photography…
“Two years ago, I started a platform on Instagram called NomadWithin. It was not built on Rohan Shrestha, because I wanted to see the kind of response I would get if I wasn’t a celebrity photographer. The following that I have is very different – they are people who appreciate photography because there are hardly any celebrities in those pictures. It’s just landscapes and the way I shoot them.”

All about infrared…
“My dad was talking to me about working with infrared many years ago. I finally took it up as a project and realised that since I was going to Japan during the cherry blossom season, everything would be in the shade of pink and red. So, it happened to be the perfect time to experiment with that camera.

The camera…
“It’s my dad’s camera and it’s 16 years old. It is one of the first cameras to go fully digital but I had to remove the infrared blockers. Also the thing is that I don’t photoshop these pictures, which makes a huge difference, and is unlike the usual sort of work I do.”

The Diesel project…
“Because I also mixed fashion in the Japan images, Diesel picked this project. So after I came back from my first trip, I did a shoot with a model here. I projected the images of Japan’s cherry blossoms onto her. That is going to be in one of the gallery rooms.”

The most striking memory…
“Kyoto. It is a photographer’s dream. Any photographer who goes to Kyoto will come back a happy man. You can’t take a bad picture there.”

Hideouts in Japan…
“Shinjuku Gyoen, which is a park meant for cherry blossoms in Tokyo. There is this place called Koyasan, with forty monasteries, which I would recommend to anybody who is looking to de-stress.”

Favourite eateries…
“Kurosawa, a Japanese filmmaker, started a restaurant chain in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and the Shabu Shabu meals there are fantastic. There is Kappo Sakamoto in Kyoto which has one of the greatest Kaiseki meals you’ll ever eat.”

Souvenirs from Japan…
“The shopping in Tokyo is crazy. I picked up bottles of Sake, scented candles, potpourri, and a lot of things for my home. But I primarily shopped for clothes, Onituska shoes, and came back with a whole new wardrobe!”

Most unique experience…
“Everything happens on time. I was taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto which was scheduled to leave at 2:21,  and reach Kyoto at 4:08. And we actually reached at sharp 4:08. Everything in Japan is very meticulously planned, including their designs, shop windows and even placement of products.”

Travel essentials…
“If you’re a vegetarian, you must carry packaged food because it is not a vegetarian-friendly place. Also, carry a Google translator.”

To Japan, with love…
“I feel if Japan didn’t happen, I would not have had my first solo exhibition today. In our industry, it is very easy to typecast a photographer. It basically puts everybody in a box because that is the only way this job is commercially viable. I feel like I am still discovering myself… I have just turned thirty, and I do not want to get typecast. And by doing this I am actually putting myself out there, showing work that reflects ‘me’. And Japan has done all of this for me.”

A postcard from Japan would have…
“My own picture!”

Hanami by Rohan Shrestha will be showing at the Diesel Juhu store from 7th to 21st February 2016. 

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