#MyIndia An artist’s homecoming
Photographer Nayantara Parikh has made a career out of telling stories. She has worked with some of the brightest minds in film, fashion and music, from Spike Lee to Cynthia Nixon. She has travelled the world, shooting documentaries for the New York Times and working with designers such as Zac Posen. Now, after eight years in New York, the New Delhi native has returned to India, fuelled by the kinetic energy and diversity of her homeland, to work on her greatest story yet: her own.
“If you grow up with something, you don’t often realise how beautiful it is”
Parikh left India in 2006, enrolling in New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. In 2014, she returned as an accomplished filmmaker and photographer, eager to feed off New Delhi’s eclectic creative culture and reconnect with the country’s abundant beauty.
“If you grow up with something, you don’t often realise how beautiful it is,” she explains. “The years I spent away gave me this perspective on India and just how much it has to offer.”
“I came back at the perfect time, because there’s this raw energy”
Since returning, Parikh has channelled her creative strength into a variety of projects revolving around one subject above all else. “I always imagined coming back here to work with women—specifically Indian women,” she says. “I came back at the perfect time, because there’s this raw energy, this thing that’s happening here that was not happening in New York, or anywhere else.”
Parikh has tapped into that force in a variety of ways. In a series called Blue House, Parikh pays tribute to the work of feminist icon Frida Kahlo through portraits of her sister in their childhood home. But there is a twist. She has infused each image with clever nods to Indian culture: vibrantly patterned sarees, vivid blue and yellow walls as backdrops, a Hanuman langur, pink lotus flowers.
From the way a gold necklace shimmers in the shadow of a jasmine flower to red clay walls and creeping vines integrated into shots, Parikh’s composition betrays a cinematographer’s eye—a keen understanding of light, shadow and setting that gives her photography narrative power. Images that may seem full of melancholy soon reveal a sense of feminine power and Indian identity. That gradual movement lets audiences grapple with the ways her art can be reflected in their own lives.
“Because my background is in cinematography, a lot of my work is informed by the stories that you can tell in a single frame,” she says. “There is so much story in every frame you can capture here.”